If you’re like most people, you dread seeing red and blue lights flashing in your rearview mirror. And if you’ve been drinking, you have good reason to be concerned – the penalties for a Washington DUI are harsh. What most people fail to realize, however, is that the things they say and do when they are stopped by the police can greatly enhance or decrease their chances of avoiding criminal DUI penalties. For this reason, it’s essential that you know your rights in a DUI stop.
The Police Cannot Pull You Over for No Reason
In order to legally pull you over, police officers need to observe something about you, your car, or your driving that gives them reasonable suspicion that you have broken the law. They can’t pull you over on a hunch that you might be drunk. Instead, they must observe that your car has a defect such as broken light, or that you are driving erratically.
You Have the Right to Remain Silent
The single most important thing you can do when you get pulled over is avoid talking. You do not have to reply when the officer asks you how many beers you’ve had, or how fast you were going. It’s perfectly legal for you to refuse to talk. But do so politely. And show the officer your driver’s license, registration, and insurance card when they ask – it’s the law.
The traffic stop is not the time or place to argue your case, even if you believe you have been pulled over without a valid reason.
You Have the Right to Refuse Roadside Sobriety Tests
The police need reasonable doubt to believe you are driving drunk in order to arrest you for DUI. They may gain reasonable doubt by observing your demeanor, listening to your statements, and asking you to complete Field Sobriety Tests (FSTs) and Portable Breathalyzer Tests (PBT). You can politely decline to perform either. The police may arrest you, but at least you will not have given them evidence to use against you.
You Have the Right to Refuse a Search of Your Car
The police may need a warrant to search your home or your place of business, but when it comes to vehicles, all they need is probable cause or your consent. In some cases, the police may ask to search your car. Often they will have reasonable cause to believe they will find an open bottle of alcohol in your car, and will simply tell you they are going to search your vehicle. You should always clearly and calmly state that you do not consent to the search.
Do not argue with the police or resist the search. This will only hurt your case. As long as you state for the record that you have not provided your consent, you have given your legal defense team the tools necessary to challenge the legal basis for the search.
You Have the Right to Refuse a Sobriety Test After Your Arrest
If the police arrest you on suspicion of DUI, they will ask you to submit to a breathalyzer, urine, or blood test once you’re in custody. You have the right to refuse this test unless you’ve been in an accident that resulted in a fatality or serious injury. However, your refusal may automatically result in a one-year driver’s license suspension, and your refusal may be used against you in court.
Whether this is better than giving the authorities evidence of your blood alcohol level (BAC) depends on the circumstances of your case and your criminal history. You can and should request to speak with a DUI attorney before submitting to any test to ensure that you make the right decision.
The Police Must Inform You of Your Right to a Lawyer
When the police are detaining you, they must inform you of the following:
- Your right to remain silent
- Your right to a lawyer
- Your right to refuse the post-arrest sobriety test, and the consequences of doing so
- The nature of the charges you are being arrested for
You should be sure to tell your lawyer if the police failed to inform you of these rights during your traffic stop and arrest–such a lapse may provide the basis for defending your case.
Talk to a Seattle DUI Defense Attorney from Emerald City Law Group Today
Facing DUI charges can be terrifying. If you’re convicted, you risk the loss of your driver’s license, large fines, and more. At Emerald City Law Group, we have a proven track record of obtaining good DUI case results for our clients, particularly when there is evidence that the police failed to respect our clients’ rights. If you or a loved one has been charged with DUI, contact us today at 206-973-0407 for your free consultation.View All Blogs