You’re driving home after having had a couple of drinks when you see the red and blue lights flashing in your rearview mirror. Your stomach drops, and a mild sense of panic takes over. What happens now?
Understanding your rights in a DWI stop can leave you better equipped to deal with a stressful situation. Even if the traffic stop ultimately leads to an arrest for suspicion of drunk driving, you still have rights, and there are still ways to defend against criminal charges. You should always discuss your situation with a skilled professional to learn more about your available options.
The officer must have a reason to stop your vehicle
A police officer cannot pull you over without having a reason. There must be probable cause to make a traffic stop. Perhaps the officer thought you were swerving and may suspect that you are driving drunk.
The stop doesn’t even have to be for suspicion of drunk driving. A broken taillight or a failure to signal a turn can provide enough probable cause for the police to pull you over. If an officer doesn’t have probable cause, any evidence related to the stop, including evidence that you may have been under the influence, will likely be inadmissible in court.
You do not have to perform field sobriety tests
If the officer suspects you of driving while intoxicated, you will be asked to perform some field sobriety tests. You do not have to agree to perform these tests. You will not face additional penalties for refusing to take a field sobriety test.
You do not have to take a chemical test, though refusal may come with a cost
If you refuse a field sobriety test, it’s likely you will still be arrested for suspicion of drunk driving. After you’re arrested, the police will want to perform a chemical test, usually a breath test. You have the right to refuse a Breathalyzer test. However, if you refuse, you will run afoul of the implied consent laws which carry additional penalties, including the loss of your driver’s license.
Above all, remain calm and respectful
A police officer has never let anyone go because they were belligerent or argumentative. You’re not going to be the first to pull off such a feat. Remain respectful and answer any questions without volunteering any more information than is necessary. Keep calm and remember your rights.