It’s Friday night. It’s been a terribly long week. Thank goodness the weekend is here, time to unwind. Dinner and drinks with friends is the perfect way to decompress, right? After some much needed relaxation and a couple of cocktails, you are ready to face the weekend. As you pull out of the parking lot to head home the last thing on your mind are your constitutional rights. You have no idea that in a few minutes you are going to need to know what your rights are and how to exercise them. Before you even get halfway home, you see the flashing lights behind you, and you get that feeling deep down in the pit of your stomach. As you pull the car over to the shoulder of the road there are a few things that you need to remember.
If you ever find yourself in a situation where you are being investigated for Operating While Intoxicated, stay calm, be polite to the Officer and remember your rights!
Our Constitution gives each and every one of us certain rights. It’s up to us to know what they are and to exercise those rights. It is important to realize that from the second the police officer begins to observe you, they are gathering evidence. The Officer is watching how you drive, they are listening to the way that you speak, and they are sniffing to see if you emit an odor of alcohol. Before an Officer can arrest you, they must have probable cause to think that you are driving your vehicle while you are intoxicated. Don’t help them gather the evidence they need to arrest you.
First: Don’t talk to the police! You have the right to remain silent…. Use it! Of course, you want to be polite to the Officer, and you definitely don’t want to lie to the Officer, because that is considered a crime. However, if the Officer wants to ask you all kinds of questions, you are not obligated to answer them. Tell the Officer your name, provide him with your registration and proof of insurance and then simply say, “I am not trying to be rude, Officer, but my attorney has advised me not to answer any questions without him or her present.”
Second: The Officer may ask you to submit to Field Sobriety Tests. Many people do not realize this, but you are not obligated to perform the tasks that the Officer is requesting of you. The Officer is going to try to get you to participate in Field Sobriety Tests such as the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test, where he or she will ask you to follow an object with your eyes without moving your head. He may ask you to lift one of your feet six inches off the ground and count. He may ask you to walk along a straight line while touching heel to toe and then to turn around and walk back. You should not participate in any of these tasks. If the Officer is requesting that you participate in Field Sobriety Tests, you should politely explain to him that you are refusing to participate in the tasks on the advice of your attorney.
Third: You will probably be asked to submit to a Preliminary Breathalyzer Test (PBT) on the side of the road. Don’t take it. While it is considered a civil infraction not to take the PBT, there is the potential that the officer may not have enough evidence to actually arrest you for Operating While Intoxicated if you refuse to submit to the PBT.
Finally: If you are arrested and they request that you either submit to a blood test or a Breathalyzer test, you are required to submit to that testing. If you don’t, it is considered an implied consent violation and your license will be suspended for one year.
If you remember your rights and make the smart decision to exercise them, there is a much greater chance that an attorney will be able to reduce your charges or even get your case dismissed. Attorneys can’t change the facts, but the less incriminating information you provide to the police, the more likely it is that the case against you won’t be strong enough to prevail.
If you do find yourself in the terrible position of being accused of Operating While Intoxicated or Impaired, contact Samuels Law Office. There are things that we may be able to do for you that will minimize the negative impact a charge like that could have on your life.