If the police pull you over because they believe you are driving under the influence (DUI), you may feel like you need to ask to talk to your attorney. In the U.S., though, most states do not have a law that says you may talk to a lawyer just because you have been pulled over to be questioned by the police. Technically, you are not in police custody at the time you are pulled over on reasonable suspicion of driving under the influence. At that time, you are simply being questioned by the police.
Although you probably can’t speak with your lawyer based only on being pulled over and questioned, you still have rights. You are not required to incriminate yourself in order to reply to questions posed by the police. If you are arrested, you will be able to meet with your attorney, who can advise you and help you respond to police questioning.
On the other hand, your participation in the field sobriety tests, such as balancing on one leg and walking in a straight line, is not really voluntary. If you refuse, the police will likely ask you to take a test to determine your level of intoxication or your Blood Alcohol Content (BAC). Police may also use other cues to assume intoxication, such as the dilation of your pupils.
The breathalyzer test, or blood or urine test to determine level of intoxication may be voluntary, but, typically, you may still be arrested and charged with drunk driving for refusal to allow the test. In some cases, forced BAC tests may be done, especially if the driver under suspicion is injured and refuses a test. Most drivers are considered to have given “implied consent” to the variety of tests described above as a condition of holding a driver’s license. Refusing tests may result in automatic license suspension.
Overall, it is in your best interests to be as polite as possible, but remember that the officer is looking for evidence to use against you.
What Constitutes a Reasonable Suspicion?
It is important to be aware of what raises reasonable cause for the police to pull you over on suspicion of driving under the influence. They may pull you over, question you and administer tests to determine intoxication if they see you doing the following:
- Driving erratically;
- Driving excessively slowly;
- Hitting objects with your car;
- Stopping for no reason;
- Lane drifting; and/or
- Failure to signal.
This is not a conclusive list. Police may pull you over for any reasonable suspicion of intoxicated driving. They may also pull you over for other issues with your car, such as having a taillight out.
This information is important because if a police officer pulls you over without reasonable suspicion, it may get your DUI case thrown out.
Once police have reasonable suspicion, they may pull you over and question you and administer tests, and at this point they must have probable cause to arrest. The standard of probable cause differs from reasonable suspicion, in that it means the police find at this point that it is likely that you have committed the crime of driving under the influence.
What If I am Stopped at a Checkpoint? Is this Legal?
This varies widely from state to state, not only in whether it is allowed, but in how frequently it is allowed. However, there are only twelve states who do not allow checkpoints at all. They are: Alaska, Idaho, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Oregon, Rhode Island, Texas, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
In states where they are legal, police officers are still free to single you out, question you and administer you sobriety tests. Rules for when you can ask for an attorney still apply. Police cannot, however, pull people over randomly, whether for a traffic stop, reasonable suspicion, or DUI checkpoint.
At the Time of Arrest: Ask for a Lawyer
If the officer does have reasonable suspicion that you were driving under the influence, you will be arrested and transported to the police station or a hospital for a blood, breath, or urine test. Upon arrest, the police must read you your Miranda rights, reminding you that you do not have to say anything that may be used against you.
It is important that you remember to ask to speak with your attorney at this point. Depending on what state you live in, you may be able to meet with a lawyer immediately (in Arizona, for example), or you may have to wait until after you take (or refuse to take) these chemical tests.
The legality of your being pulled over and other details of your detainment will vary widely according to the state you live in. Bringing an experienced DUI/DWI lawyer in as soon as possible can help protect your rights and prepare a successful defense.
Driving under the influence is an extremely serious charge that can have an impact not only upon your criminal record, but upon your future ability to operate a vehicle, your future employment prospects. It can also result in jail time. It is best to work with an attorney when charged with DUI.