For any of us who have been stopped by police for any reason, you may know that you did something wrong, or could be completely unaware of any wrong doing. As the police approach your car, you may be wondering what to say, and if you should say anything at all. When it comes to a DUI arrest, the police won't just be listening for what you say, but how you say it, when looking for signs of impairment. This is why knowing how to respond to roadside questioning can be so important.
Before you say anything, make sure you stay calm, and respond clearly and in a respectful manner. You may think that the police are trying to be intentionally difficult, but you should stay calm, or you could end up making matters worse. The police may not like it when you invoke your constitutional rights to remain silent, but any wrongdoing on their part can be cleared up later, in court.
The other thing to remember is: don't lie. If you are tempted to lie, stay silent. If you have to say something, just say that you do not want to answer any questions without your lawyer. This is your right. You may think that it makes you sound guilty, but saying nothing is much better than saying the wrong thing, or getting caught in a lie. Similar to the old saying, “if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all.”
Have You Been Drinking Tonight?
The police do their best to make it seem like they are just having a casual conversation, rather than accusing you of breaking the law. During the roadside stop, they are working to gather as much information and evidence as possible to justify your arrest for driving under the influence. If the police ask if you've been drinking, they may already have seen something to make them suspect you have consumed alcohol. Part of the reason they ask the question is to see if you are lying.
When the police officer approaches your car, they will be looking inside for any signs of contraband or something suspicious. This could be a bottle of alcohol or drug paraphernalia. If you unroll your window, the police will also notice the odor of alcohol or drugs such as marijuana. If they smell alcohol, they will continue gathering evidence to try and justify an arrest for a DUI.
If asked about drinking, and you have not been drinking, you can simply say “no.” However, if you have been drinking, even one drink with dinner, saying, “yes” may give the officer reason to think that any poor driving you exhibited was due to alcohol, even if it had nothing to do with alcohol. You can say that you don't want to answer that question. It's your right.
Roadside Sobriety Tests
If the police officer thinks that you have been drinking or are impaired by drugs, they will try and get you to perform some field sobriety tests. These are tests intended to show that you are impaired. The police will use these test results to justify your arrest, and will try and use them against you to show that you were impaired. What they may not tell you is that you don't have to do any field sobriety tests.
The standardized field sobriety tests (SFSTs) were developed with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to try and indicate alcohol impairment. According to the NHTSA, when the three tests are taken together, they are about a 90% accurate at indicating alcohol impairment. What about those 10% of people who don't fall within the 90%? That means 1 in 10 people tested with field sobriety tests could be drunk and pass the tests, or they could be completely sober and still fail the test.
In practicality, SFSTs are even less accurate because the police officers don't always do them according to the guidelines. If a police officer gives you the wrong directions, you could “fail” the test even if it isn't your fault. If you don't want to fall prey to these so-called tests, you have the right to refuse all field sobriety testing.
When the police officer is looking at your eyes, and instructs you to follow a pen or their finger, they may be trying to perform the first field sobriety test. This is known as the horizontal gaze nystagmus test, or HGN. The officer is looking for an involuntary movement of the eyes, which purportedly is an indicator of alcohol intoxication. You do not have to submit to this, or any other field sobriety test. You can simply say that you chose not to participate, and if they give you any trouble, just say that you want to speak with your lawyer.
If you are worried that refusing the field sobriety tests will mean that you'll get arrested, most of the time you would be going to jail anyways. When police officers ask you to walk the line, or stand on one leg, they are already at the point that they plan to arrest you for driving under the influence. They just want more evidence of your intoxication to use against you.
Refuse Field Sobriety and Breath Tests
If you or a loved one were arrested for driving under the influence in Atlanta, contact an experienced, local Atlanta DUI lawyer. You may have given a field breath test or submitted to field sobriety testing, but there are still ways to challenge that evidence. The lawyers at Lawson and Berry have successfully represented hundreds of clients facing a DUI in Atlanta, and will put our experience to work for you. Call us today and we will fight the criminal charges against you and make sure you get the justice you deserve.