While driving under the influence of alcohol is extremely dangerous to yourself, passengers in your car, and innocent bystanders, and you should avoid it at all costs, there may still come a time when you find yourself stopped by a police officer after you've had too much to drink. If you are stopped, it's important to take immediate action to protect your legal rights.
Exercise Your Right to Remain Silent
You have a constitutional right to not answer any questions posed by the police officer. Your only obligation is to provide your driver's license, registration, and proof of insurance.
Many drivers who are stopped on suspicion of DUI try to talk their way out of it by claiming they "only had two drinks." Police officers hear some variation of this story all of the time, and it does not help.
If you admit to drinking any amount of alcohol or that you are driving home for a bar or other establishment that serves alcohol, you are only giving the police officer additional backing to their suspicion that you are intoxicated and providing further legal justification for a sobriety test.
Know the Costs of Refusing a Roadside Sobriety Test
You agree to submit to sobriety testing as a condition of receiving your driver's license. Refusing to take a sobriety test is grounds for immediate license suspension and a heavy fine.
However, refusing a sobriety test is considered a civil infraction much like a speeding ticket or being found to have breached a contract in small claims court. Refusing a sobriety test does not result in a criminal conviction or jail time.
While it may sound like refusing a sobriety test is always the way to go, your refusal can be used as evidence of guilt if DUI charges are brought. Your Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination does not apply to sobriety tests.
There are two circumstances where refusing a sobriety test might make sense. First, if you have been drinking heavily, refusing the test may prevent the state from bringing enhanced charges for an extreme blood alcohol level. Second, if you have only had a few drinks and have no obvious signs of intoxication that would show on a video, a jury may find the police officer's testimony that you were intoxicated not enough evidence to support a criminal conviction.
To further protect your rights, consider contacting a DUI lawyer like those at Winstein, Kavensky & Cunningham, LLC. as soon as you are allowed.