There are a lot of mistakes people make when they get stopped and an officer initiates a DUI investigation. These mistakes can make your situation much worse and possibly make it much more difficult to defend your case.
The most obvious mistake, is that people tend to say too much. In general, people have an innate desire to talk. But during a DUI investigation, it’s important for people to remember that they have a right to remain silent and that they don’t have to say anything.
In very few cases do people effectively exercise their right to remain silent. People can get convicted for being adversely affected by alcohol and police officers will ask questions to try to get the person to admit that they are. For example an officer may ask, “on a scale of one to 10, how intoxicated do you feel”. People usually respond with a number – one, six or whatever. People should know that they are not required to answer that question.
Another tactic is to ask you how many drinks you’ve had. People will say one or two, or something that they think would put them below the limit. The fact is, you don’t have to say anything and the officer doesn’t expect you to answer it truthfully anyway. These are the types of questions that the police will ask to try and manipulate answers that later go into a police report that could be read back at a trial. A prosecutor will argue that the person admitted that they are a number three on the scale of one to 10, and therefore they were adversely affected by alcohol.
Police are also trying to get you to talk to assess whether or not alcohol has affected your voice. A lot of times, the police report will contain a statement suggesting that the person had slurred speech. That’s something that is very hard to disprove in court, unless there is an audio recording to prove otherwise.
So how are you supposed to handle that? There’s not a perfect answer. For one thing, people think that they will look guilty if they’re not talking or if they simply respond, “I don’t have to answer that”. One suggestion is, if it sounds like the police officer is starting a DUI investigation, and asks something along the lines of, “have you had anything to drink tonight”, you could simply respond with a statement like,”well that sounds like you’re starting to conduct a DUI investigation and I’m not going to participate in that”. You could also say, “I don’t want to answer that” or, “I’d like to talk to a lawyer”.
Any one of those things will probably get a police officer to stop asking you questions. Of course, it may also cause the police officer to arrest you right then and there and take you to the police station. By the time they start asking you those questions they have some reason to think that you might be under the influence.
Next, an officer may start to ask if you would be willing to take some field sobriety tests, suggesting that they just want to see if it’s safe for you to drive. To that you might respond, “well I know I’m safe to drive and I don’t want to take those tests”.
That leads to another common mistake people make during a DUI investigation. A lot of people will agree to take what’s called a field sobriety test, which are certain tests that the police officer will have you take right there next to your car on the side of the road. The reason it’s a mistake to take these tests is because they are sneakier and trickier than you would think. Even a few slip ups can lead to what the officer considers a failed test.
There are two tests that, by law, you are not required to take. One is the walk and turn test, and the other is the one leg balance test. If you refuse to take these, it cannot be used against you in a court of law later on. In other words the prosecutor or officer can’t later testify that he gave you the opportunity to take these tests and you refused.
There is one test however, that they can hold against you and that is the eye test. If you were going to agree to take any of the field sobriety tests, this would be the one to take.
You can learn more about these field sobriety tests here.
Another mistake people make is that they will actually tell the officer, at the time they’re taking the test that they couldn’t pass this test even if they were sober. The officer is going to take that as an admission that you’re not sober, even though that may not be how you intended it.
In fact, any kind of argument with the police officer is a mistake. For example, telling him that he you should let you go because you’re so close to home or for some other reason. If he thinks you’re under the influence of alcohol he’s not going to let you back in your car. So there’s no reason to argue with him or plead with him to just let you walk. If they’ve stopped you and begun a DUI investigation that’s almost always going to end with you in the back of a cop car. Don’t make your situation worse by arguing with the arresting officer.
Still another mistake is not asking for lawyer. Asking for a lawyer will generally get them to stop asking you questions. They will usually give you the opportunity to make a phone call and, if you don’t have a DUI attorney’s number handy, you can call a friend. It is a good idea, even if only to kill a little time, get your bearings, and figure out what you’re going to do. They will usually give you this opportunity before they make you take a breath test, so taking the opportunity to talk on the phone for an extra fifteen or twenty minutes can give your body some extra time to process alcohol.
An extra tip is to keep a DUI attorneys phone number in your phone. If you are ever in that situation you’ll have somebody to call. An attorney might not answer in the middle of the night, but he might. They can then give you some advice before you do something like take a breath test. Even if you haven’t established an attorney client relationship, a lawyer can help you determine whether or not to take a breath test. At that point, that may be all that attorney can help you with, but at the very least, you have someone in your corner, and you’ve gotten the police to stop asking you questions.
One of the biggest mistakes people make is refusing to take the breath test. In almost all cases, it’s not a good idea to refuse to take the breath test because there are additional consequences that can be imposed in addition to DUI.
If you refuse the breath test the license suspension is an automatic one year suspension. On the other hand, if you fail a breath test, it’s only a 90 day suspension for most people. If you were diversion eligible, that one year license suspension would be worse than any other sanction that you would face in the diversion process. So unless you’ve already had a bunch of DUIs in the past, and all you’re trying to do is keep them from getting any more evidence to take to trial, you usually just want to take the breath test.