When a police officer pulls you over on suspicion of drunk driving, one of the first questions they are going to ask you is "have you been drinking?" They may also ask you to take a field sobriety or Breathalyzer test to obtain evidence that can be later used against you to convict you of drunk driving. What do you do in this situation? Are you legally required to act as a witness against yourself and hand over potentially incriminating evidence?
Fortunately, there are provisions within the Constitution that address what your rights are within these types of situations. The Fifth Amendment clearly dictates thatcitizens have a right not to incriminate themselves. That means that if you are pulled over and asked to test for alcohol, or to answer even the most seemingly innocuous questions, you have right to refuse. It is important to be courteous and polite in your refusal, but be firm as well. Do not be too intimidated to let the officer know that you are aware of your rights and that you will not be answering any questions.
Don't Give Police Evidence Against You
Traffic stops are an excellent way for police officers to find ways to arrest you. Even if you are only pulled over for a minor infraction, like speeding, having a broken tail light, or running a stop sign, all an officer has to do is claim to smell alcohol or marijuana in your vehicle to pressure you into granting them access to your vehicle for a search. (It is important for you to know your Fourth Amendment rights as well, because you are also protected against unnecessary searches and seizures without a warrant.)
The Fifth Amendment protects your right to refuse to answer some of the following questions:
- "Do you know why I pulled you over?"
- "Have you been drinking?"
- "Where are you headed?"
- "Where are you coming from?"
- "Do you have anything illegal in your vehicle?"
- "Is it alright if I check around inside your vehicle?"
Even if you have nothing to hide, it is important not to talk to police. The officer is looking for a reason to cite or arrest you, and the last thing you want to do is unwittingly provide them with information that they can use to achieve that goal. While this may annoy the officer or result in an arrest, remember that as long as you are respectful and do not resist, you cannot get into trouble for being arrested; you can only get in trouble for being convicted of the crime you were arrested for. By refusing to answer questions, you prevent the officer from gathering any evidence that can be used to convict you, and also ensure that you have a chance to get in contact with an attorney.
You Have a Right to Legal Counsel – Get in Touch with Lessem, Newstat & Tooson, LLP Today!
If you are facing DUI charges, it is important to get in touch with a Santa Barbara criminal defense lawyer from Lessem, Newstat & Tooson, LLP as soon as possible. We have over 50 years of experience fighting DUI charges and have achieved excellent results for our clients. To schedule a free consultation where you can learn more about your rights and legal options, please call Lessem, Newstat & Tooson, LLP today at (800) 462-7160.