It’s always stressful when a police officer pulls you over after you’ve been drinking. While it’s best to avoid getting behind the wheel after drinking, if you are in that situation, what you do and say could be the difference between going home and getting arrested for driving under the influence (DUI).
The first thing to do is pull over calmly and place your hands on the steering wheel, with your window partially rolled down. Be prepared to provide the officer with your driver’s license and your registration. The most important thing to do is to say as little as possible. Don’t immediately ask the officer why he pulled you over, as he’ll tell you soon enough.
It’s likely that the officer will ask you questions, such as “Do you know why I pulled you over?” and “Have you had anything to drink this evening?” Answering these questions is not going to help you, so don’t do it. If the officer already suspects that you’ve been drinking, telling him you haven’t won’t make him change his mind. Telling him you have is an admission that can later work against you in court. Instead, simply explain that you would prefer to exercise your right not to answer any questions. He may try multiple times to try to question you, or make an attempt to convince you that it will turn out better for you if you cooperate. These are all tricks to get you to give up your rights and incriminate yourself.
If the officer asks you to take a field sobriety test, do not do so. Tell him that you do not consent to any field sobriety tests. Just like answer questions, taking a field sobriety test can only work against you. An officer will only ask you to take a field sobriety test if he already suspects that you have been drinking, in which case he is planning to arrest you anyway. He won’t let you go just because you perform well enough on a test. You have nothing to gain, but you can harm your case by providing evidence of impairment.
Now, the officer may ask you to take a breathalyzer. If it’s a voluntary breathalyzer, then you shouldn’t take it. If it’s a mandatory breathalyzer, then you do need to take it or you’ll receive the same penalty as you would have for a DUI. Tell the officer that you don’t consent to any voluntary breathalyzers, but you will consent to a mandatory breathalyzer.
By not answering questions or consenting to anything voluntary, you’re minimizing the amount of evidence that you provide, making it more difficult for the prosecution and easier for your defense attorney if you are arrested and charged with a DUI.
When an officer suspects that you’ve been drinking, they go through the steps of asking questions and conducting field sobriety tests before arresting you because they want to improve the case against you. Otherwise, your defense attorney can later argue that the officer did not have probable cause to arrest you, as there wasn’t sufficient evidence that you had been drinking and driving.
When you’ve been drinking and you get pulled over, your interaction with the police officer is all about damage control to give yourself a better chance at going home or winning your court case. The more you talk to the officer, the more opportunities there are for you to incriminate yourself. Performing field sobriety tests or taking a breathalyzer voluntary both simply provide the officer with evidence that can be logged and used against you. When you don’t provide information or consent to anything, that puts the pressure on the officer to decide if there’s sufficient probable cause to arrest you. Even if he does arrest you, your attorney will be in a better position to defend you.