Pulled Over After a Couple Drinks? Know Your Rights (And be sure to call an Uber next time!)
‘Tis the season for holiday festivities, and that often means attending parties and celebrations with friends and family. While the joy and merriment are undoubtedly contagious, it’s crucial to keep safety in mind, especially if you’ve had a couple drinks. No one plans to get pulled over, but it’s essential to be prepared, just in case. Here are some steps you should take if you find yourself facing the flashing lights of law enforcement instead of the twinkling of holiday lights:
- Always have your driver’s license, registration, and Proof of Insurance in a location where you can easily locate them. Police Officers will take notice if you fumble around looking for these items. In the eyes of the Police Officer, fumbling can be used against you as a sign of impairment.
- Be polite and cooperative. However, please remember, you have absolutely no obligation to provide any information to the police officer except for the items listed above. In fact, it always better to not answer questions about how many drinks you may have had and where you are coming from/going to. (You are free to exercise your right to remain silent.)
- If the police officer requests that you get out of your vehicle to do some Field Sobriety Tests, you may refuse to do so. These tests can include reciting the alphabet backwards, and walking in a straight line. Whether or not it is a good idea to take these tests depends on the situation. If you are not impaired, full cooperation is the quickest way to be sent on your way. However, if you are impaired (or fear you might be), your cooperation can provide incriminating evidence that could be used against you at trial.
- If the Police Office requests that you take a Preliminary Breath Test, commonly referred to as “PBT”, at the initial traffic stop you may refuse to do so. Putting in breath mints, chewing gum, or drinking coffee will not help if you have been drinking. If the PBT indicates that your Blood Alcohol Content “BAC” is above the legal limit (.08 in MN and most other states), you will likely be arrested for Driving While Impaired or Intoxicated. (“DWI”).
- If you are arrested for DWI in Minnesota (this applies to most other states as well, but always be aware of the laws in your specific location), Police Officers have an obligation to inform you of the Implied Consent Advisory. An Implied Consent Advisory will inform you that the law requires you to take the test to determine your BAC, even if you already took the PBT on the side of the road. When the Police Officer informs you to take a breath test at the station, you must do so. It is never in your best interest to refuse to take a test at this point, doing so will most likely result in more serious criminal penalties, longer license revocation, and mandatory ignition interlock. (Which comes at an extra cost to you!)
- Before taking the test, you have a right to consult with an attorney. In fact, Police Officers must supply you with a phone book in order to ease your search to contact an attorney. However, it is always best to have an experienced Criminal Defense team at the ready, like WFJ, through LegalShield or other methods, as a contact in your cell phone to call case of an emergency.
- Regardless of the outcome, use the experience as a lesson. Consider alternative transportation options for future events, such as designated drivers, rideshare services, or public transportation. Planning ahead can prevent similar situations in the future.
While the goal is always to celebrate responsibly, life is unpredictable, and mistakes can happen. But DWI charges are complicated-they can result in serious jail time, fines, loss of license, forfeiture of your vehicle, and a criminal record. You should always seek competent legal advice as soon as possible. If you find yourself in this position, contact Wagner, Falconer & Judd for a consultation.