Most DUI's start because law enforcement pulls a car over because the driver is showing "signs of impairment." However, Middle Tennessee officers aggressively pursue DUI's leading to many individuals being wrongly accused. Knowing your rights if you are pulled over can make all the difference if you are pulled over and subsequently charged with DUI.
Your Rights if Police Pull You Over
Let's start by discussing what you should do if you are ever pulled over by police officers. It's surprising how many people don't know their rights.
Police can only pull you over if they have probable cause.
Officers aren't allowed to randomly pull you over and search for things like drugs in your car. Police have to have a reason such as a broken tail light, speeding, or reckless driving for example. It should be noted that if you are pulled over and you do get charged with a DUI, their notes from the encounter and testimony can be enough evidence to pursue the charge in court. You don't have to receive a speeding ticket or other infractions. Nor do they always have video of the encounter, though they often do.
Pull over to the side when you can do so safely.
Your safety is important. You have the right even when you are being pulled over to find somewhere safe to stop. When this happens, you need to indicate that you see the officer. Turning on your hazard lights and slowing down are helpful. Don't wait too long until you find somewhere. Officers can get impatient and possibly charge you with evading arrest if they think you are intentionally refusing to pull over.
You do need to stop at checkpoints.
Police departments pre-plan checkpoints with specific strategies to stop either every car or say every fourth car. If you come to a checkpoint and your vehicle is selected, you do have to stop.
What to Do if You Get Pulled Over for a DUI
Now that we've addressed the basics for getting pulled over let's consider the process in the event of a DUI investigation.
Pull over safely and follow the rules.
As previously mentioned, you want to pull over when you are somewhere safe. As soon as your car is parked get your driver’s license, registration, and insurance ready. Shut off your car, keep your hands on the steering wheel and remove anything like sunglasses, hats, or hoods.
Remain courteous and polite.
Negative behavior won't get you far. Don't get an attitude, curse, or disobey orders. Acting out will only make a bad situation worse. If you are charged with DUI, the behavior you exhibit at the time the officer pulls you over can either work for or against you. A courteous attitude will be useful to your defense if you are charged with DUI.
You can invoke the 5th Amendment.
The 5th Amendment gives you the right to remain silent about anything that could be deemed "incriminating." The more you cooperate, the easier the situation will be, but that doesn't mean you have to implicate yourself. The less you say the better, especially when it comes to answering how much alcohol you've consumed. If the officer is asking you questions, you can respectfully decline to answer.
You don't have to answer how much you've consumed.
Law enforcement can only pull you over if they have probable cause. Reckless driving is "probable cause." If you are being pulled over for reckless driving, be helpful, but don't get candid. There is no need to admit to having "one drink." Offering up that information will only allow them to ask more questions. You can politely refuse to answer.
You can refuse to participate in the Field Sobriety Tests.
Submitting to any form of testing is voluntary. The Field Sobriety Tests are designed to assist the police officer determine if you are under the influence of an intoxicating substance. Generally speaking, at the point in time that an officer has requested (or ordered) you to participate in these tests they have already reached an opinion about your sobriety. The officer is asking you to participate in these tests as a means of developing additional evidence that supports their suspicion that you are under the influence. You do not have to agree to participate in these tests. They are entirely voluntary. When asked to participate, you can simply decline.
You can refuse a breathalyzer or blood test.
Submitting to a breath or blood test is voluntary. You have the right to refuse. However, there are consequences for refusing the breath or blood test and the officer must let you know what those consequences are. Specifically, if you are arrested for DUI and refuse to provide a breath or blood sample (the officer is the one who decides which test to administer, you do not get to choose) then you could lose your driver’s license for 1 year or more depending on your prior record.
If you get arrested, the best thing to do is stay calm.
Your behavior, no matter what happens, is crucial. How you act is always noted. Being respectful will help you later. But, being respectful does not mean you have to answer the officer’s questions or participate in the variety of tests he/she asks you to perform.
Contact an Experienced DUI Attorney
You have the right to an attorney. When you are facing DUI charges, you want to work with someone who is experienced and knows the system. The right defense attorney can help you devise a sound strategy. Our DUI attorney John P. Webb has helped hundreds of Middle Tennessee residents build a solid defense. Contact us today to learn more.