What should I do if I get stopped by a police officer and he asks if I have been drinking?

If you see those blue flashing lights in your rear-view mirror, the first thing to do is do NOT panic.  The way you compose yourself now and in your subsequent interactions with the police officer will be critical in preventing a DUI charge or defending yourself in court against this charge.  Demonstrating control and comfort in the officer’s presence will help to mitigate their suspicion that you have been drinking.

The officer may ask you if you have been drinking tonight.  In dealing with the police officer, you want to be courteous but admit to nothing.  An officer needs to have reasonable suspicion that a driver is intoxicated before they can pursue a DUI investigation.  By admitting to drinking and driving, you give that officer cause to push for a chemical test of your intoxication level.  You are not obligated to provide the officer with any information other than that which is listed on your driver’s license, and your refusal to provide this information does not constitute cause for the officer to pursue the matter further.

Cause can be established in a number of ways, beginning with his observations of your driving behavior before pulling you over.  Swerving or erratic driving may provide sufficient cause for the officer to request a chemical test.  However, if you were pulled over for a routine reason, such as a broken tail light or speeding, these factors do not constitute cause to pursue suspicions of drunk driving.

If the officer is unable to detect cause warranting a chemical test during his preliminary interactions with you, he may ask you to step out of the car and perform a field sobriety test (FST).  It is within your rights to refuse this test, and you should absolutely do so.  The only reason an officer may ask you to perform an FST is to establish cause to ask you for a chemical test, the results of which are more difficult to refute in court.

Even if you have taken all of these steps, the officer may still push for a chemical test.  Florida has an “implied consent” law, which mandates that all those possessing a Florida driver’s license must consent to a chemical test.  However, if in court it is found that the officer failed to establish reasonable suspicion and cause to request this test, the results may be inadmissible and your case may be thrown out.

Throughout these proceedings, be polite and courteous to the officer, but be aware that you are not legally obligated to comply with all of his requests.  Even if he chooses to arrest you, taking these preliminary steps may bolster your court case refuting the basis of your DUI charge.

Posted in: DUI