DUI Tests and Your Rights
June 23, 2022
Driving under the influence (DUI) is a crime charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony. In the United States, those investigated or arrested for crimes, no matter what they are, have certain rights. It is a good idea to know what those rights are, particularly with more ubiquitous crimes such as DUI.
If you have ever been stopped for DUI or had the foresight to learn about your rights so you would know what they are if you ever are stopped, you probably sought answers to several questions, such as: What questions do I have to answer? What tests do I have to take? Can the officer search my car or my person? What are my rights when being pulled over for DUI?
At McCready Law Group, I have been answering these questions for clients in Long Beach, Cypress Hill, and Lakewood, California, for more than 15 years. You never know when you might need to know the answers and have confidence in knowing your rights under the law.
You Have the Right to Not Incriminate Yourself
The law enforcement officer who stops you for DUI will ask you a lot of questions, beginning with, “Do you know why I pulled you over?” Nerves, fright, and whatever other emotions you are experiencing at the time may have you answering everything, but don’t. You have a right under the law to not say anything to incriminate yourself and you should exercise it.
You are required to produce your driver’s license, automobile registration, and proof of insurance upon request. However, do not answer other questions or volunteer any information. Politely advise the officer that you will not answer any questions unless you have your attorney present. Answering the officer’s questions such as where you were, where you’re going, if you have been drinking, and how much have you had to drink is something you should not do and something you do not have to do.
You Have Protections Against Unlawful Search and Seizure
Without a search warrant, law enforcement must have probable cause to conduct a search of your person or your vehicle. Your right against unlawful search and seizure is protected by the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
If you are stopped for DUI, the officer must establish probable cause by having witnessed you hiding something or smelling alcohol or drugs in the vehicle.
There has been some debate about whether a sobriety checkpoint, which does not meet the standard for “probable cause,” violates this right. You should know that federal and California laws have upheld that properly conducted DUI checkpoints are administrative which means they do not violate the Fourth Amendment. “Properly conducted” involves multiple standards regarding who decides to schedule a checkpoint, publication of the event, mathematical selection of vehicles stopped (such as every fifth vehicle), location safety, and length of time allowed to detain a driver to determine whether they are drunk.
You Have the Right to Refuse Field Sobriety Tests
As with your right to not incriminate yourself, you should exercise the right to refuse to participate in field sobriety tests. Such tests include following the officer’s finger to see if your eyes are tracking properly, counting backward, and walking heel-to-toe in a straight line, turning, and walking back. There can be multiple factors involved in poor performance on field sobriety tests, including lights or darkness, uneven surfaces, usual coordination and balance problems, and just nerves. They simply are not reliable indicators of intoxication.
If asked to take a field sobriety test, politely decline. The law does not require you to, and your refusal cannot be used against you as evidence of guilt.
You Have the Right to Refuse the Portable Breathalyzer Test
Note that this right only involves the portable, usually handheld, breathalyzer used by law enforcement at the scene of the stop. This does not include refusing the breathalyzer at the station or chemical tests. Refusal of those tests will result in an automatic suspension of your driver’s license by the California Department of Motor Vehicles, regardless of whether you are charged with or convicted of DUI.
You can ask to take a blood test rather than a breathalyzer test at the station. Blood and urine test results are more accurate than breathalyzer results. However, blood and urine tests will reveal any drugs in your system as well, while the breathalyzer will measure only alcohol.
You Have the Right to Contact an Attorney
You can probably recite the Miranda rights which law enforcement is required to advise you of. You have the right to an attorney and to have your attorney present during questioning. Again, this right is one you should definitely exercise.
An experienced DUI attorney will use attorney-client privilege to first learn from you the events surrounding the stop, the actions and behavior of the officer during the stop, and factors that could affect your blood alcohol content (BAC). Then, your lawyer will be present when you are being questioned, guiding you through what to answer and how to respond honestly but avoiding self-incrimination.
Skilled Legal Guidance
Skilled legal guidance from an experienced criminal defense attorney like me can make a tremendous difference in the DUI process and its outcome. I know how much impact my involvement can bring to your case, which is why I approach each and every client I serve as though you are my only one.
If you have been stopped for DUI in the Long Beach, California, area, call McCready Law Group right now for help.