When being pulled over by police, many people are under the mistaken belief that they must comply with everything the officer says in order to avoid arrest. While you should always be respectful, the truth is that you have rights of refusal during any type of traffic stop, including DUI stops (though of course the police are not going to let you in on what those rights are).

The lawyers of Confianza Legal have a wealth of experience defending clients from DUI charges, and we want to guide you through how best to conduct yourself when you are pulled over for suspected intoxicated driving. Unfortunately, minorities are often targeted unfairly when it comes to traffic stops. Our advice will allow you to exercise your rights without incriminating yourself. If you want to understand what you can and cannot do when you are pulled over for driving under the influence, read on to know your rights.

What Questions Do I Have To Answer?

When you are pulled over, it is in your best interest to never admit to any wrongdoing. Although you will not be read your Miranda rights during a traffic stop, you nonetheless have the right to remain silent!

The police will ask you for your identification and insurance information, which you will have to provide, but any questions beyond these you should answer with your intent to exercise your 5th Amendment rights. You should especially be careful not to answer–especially in the affirmative!–the question, “Have you had anything to drink tonight?” Even if you only had a single glass of wine with dinner, you never want to compromise yourself by answering that you have had any alcohol at all.

Field Sobriety Tests

You have the right to refuse field sobriety tests (FSTs), and it is generally recommended that you do so, since they are more likely to work against you than in your favor. These tests can be subjective, and you might fail them due to factors outside of your purported drunkenness.

There are various types of field sobriety tests, and each one evaluates you on things like balance, coordination, depth perception, and so on. However, your performance on these tests can be subject to outside factors such as adverse weather conditions, uneven terrain, sickness and disability, age, anxiety, and natural coordination limitations.

FSTs are also open to interpretation by the officer administering the test, who might not feel charitably toward any mistakes or stumbles, even if you make them due to factors like nervousness or lack of ability. The results of field sobriety tests are often challenged in court on the basis of lack of scientific rigor.

If an officer tells you to take a field sobriety test, you are not legally obligated to do so. Officers can still take you in for further chemical testing, but you are well within your right to refuse FSTs at the scene of the arrest without being penalized.

Breathalyzer Tests

Though you have the right to refuse a breathalyzer test, you might shoot yourself in the foot by doing so. If you’ve done some research on this question, you might be confused about whether or not you can refuse a breathalyzer test without penalties. This confusion stems from the fact that there is more than one type of breath test.

The first test, known as a PAS (Preliminary Alcohol Screening) test, is a breath test, but it’s not a chemical breath test. It’s actually a field sobriety test. You can refuse to take this test without worrying about any penalties. However, if you have not been drinking, you might want to comply since a negative result can clear you of wrongdoing and cut the police interaction short. If you have been drinking and elect to take the test, there is actually a wide margin of error with this type of breath test, and therefore your legal team can potentially have the results thrown out in court.

The other type of breath test is a chemical test. Chemical tests can only be administered to you after you have been arrested on suspicion of drunk driving, at which point you are obligated to take the test due to implied consent laws. Essentially, when you get behind the wheel of the car, you have implicitly agreed to consent to chemical testing if you are arrested due to suspicion of intoxicated driving.

To be perfectly clear, you would be well within your rights to refuse to take the mandatory breath test. However, regardless of whether you have driven under the influence or not, your refusal comes with penalties. In this case, you will lose your license for up to a year. Additionally, if you refuse the breath test, you can still be taken for alternative chemical testing, including blood and urine tests, which would regardless reveal whether or not you have been drinking. If you are ultimately convicted of your DUI, you can also face aggravated penalties because you refused the test.

Even if you have been drinking, it may be in your best interest to take the breathalyzer test regardless because lawyers can sometimes challenge the results on the basis that the test can be calibrated incorrectly or fail to take into account factors such as weight.

Blood And Urine Tests

As with the breath test, blood and urine tests are chemical tests, and implied consent laws mean that you will be subject to penalties should you refuse them, the first of which is a suspension of your license. If you are found guilty, you will also spend more time in jail depending on the number of DUI offenses on your record, and you will owe steeper fines.

Vehicle Search

If the police suspect that you have been drinking, they might demand to search your vehicle. If they do not have probable cause or a warrant, you are within your rights to refuse. The Fourth Amendment protects you from illegal searches and seizures, so this is the right that you would be exercising. However, there are some situations in which a search would be legal, including when:

  • You consent to a search
  • There is an open alcohol container in plain sight (i.e. in a cup holder), which would constitute probable cause
  • You are being arrested
  • Your car is impounded
  • You admit that you have something illegal in your vehicle

If any of these scenarios apply to you, the officer has probable cause to search your vehicle.

How To Exercise Your Rights

Be polite but steadfast in your refusal to answer questions or take tests. It does not help your cause to be confrontational. Let officers know calmly but firmly that you are invoking your Fifth Amendment Rights when you refuse to answer questions and your Fourth Amendment rights when you refuse a vehicle search. An officer might try to compel you to speak, but remember that you are breaking no laws by exercising your rights.

Confianza Legal Can Defend You From DUI Charges

If you have been charged with a DUI or have questions about the legality of a traffic stop, the lawyers at Confianza Legal have the experience to walk you through your options. Reach out to schedule a free initial consultation and learn how we can help you defend yourself against harsh penalties and criminal charges.