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Your Rights When You Are Pulled Over for a DUI

Law Offices of Andrew C. Janecki May 31, 2023

Cop Car Stopping VehicleIf you’ve ever been arrested for a DUI, you know how helpless you can feel. As an officer secures handcuffs around your wrists, you feel your rights—something you may have taken for granted—slipping away. However, that’s not entirely true. If you’ve ever wondered what your rights are when being pulled over for a DUI, I will help you understand those rights, from your first contact with an officer, all through the end of a trial if necessary. As a criminal defense attorney, I’ll help you understand topics like field sobriety tests, portable and preliminary breath tests, chemical tests, when to answer the officer’s questions, and more. 

Your Rights After a DUI 

The first thing a police officer will do when pulling you over for any reason (but especially a DUI) is to start asking you questions. When this happens, it’s important to remain polite and respectful to the officer. If you’ve been pulled over and believe you may be intoxicated, it’s important to understand that you have a right to remain silent. The only information that you MUST give includes the following

  1. Name 

  1. License 

  1. Registration 

  1. Insurance information 

Police officers are trained to make you incriminate yourself. If you run across a situation when answering the officer’s questions about whether you’ve had a drink or how much you’ve had to drink, simply say, “I have been advised not to answer any questions.” They may pressure you, and they may even arrest you. But this is much less of a problem than an actual DUI is. 

One important aspect to note here, though: do not lie. If you do lie and the officer realizes what you’re doing, they can use it against you in court.  

Obtain a Copy of the Police Report 

If you’ve been charged with a DUI, you can (and should) request a copy of the police report for your arrest. Sometimes officers can follow incorrect procedures when gathering evidence or asking you questions. If this happens, a criminal defense attorney may be able to use this information to petition a judge to dismiss your case. 

Unlawful Search and Seizure 

A police officer may not search your car without probable cause. For example, they must either smell alcohol in your car or have seen you attempt to hide something (or throw something out of your car) when they arrive. 

Field Sobriety Tests 

Field sobriety tests are one of the most infamous ways for police officers to gather evidence against suspected drunk drivers. A field sobriety test realistically has no indication of how drunk a driver is. Instead, it’s a subjective tool that police officers can use. You may end up with a suspended license from refusing this test, but that’s better than a DUI. 

Preliminary Breath Tests 

Nearly every police officer in America has a handheld portable (also known as preliminary) breath test machine, or breathalyzer, in their vehicle. While these devices are handy for officers gathering evidence, they are also extremely unreliable. Like refusing a field sobriety test, refusing a breathalyzer test will usually result in a license suspension. But that’s a much better outcome than getting a DUI. 

Note that while you can refuse a preliminary breath test, you cannot refuse a chemical test. These are usually blood or urine tests taken at a police station, and you must acquiesce to these. 

Your Right to Contact an Attorney 

If you’ve been charged with a DUI, consider retaining a criminal defense attorney to help you with your case. An attorney can help you navigate the legal morass of DUIs—a criminal offense in California. They can gather evidence, communicate with prosecutors, file court documents correctly and on-time, and represent you in court. A criminal defense attorney can help reduce the significant stress involved in DUI cases. 

Enlist the Help of a Santa Cruz Criminal Defense Attorney Today 

If you’re searching for a reliable, approachable, and tenacious attorney who will fight tirelessly for you, call me today. I’ve spent over 20 years helping clients in places like Santa Cruz, Palo Alto, San Jose, San Francisco, and Berkeley resist charges against them. I strive to help men, women, youths, and their parents experiencing some of the most stressful situations in their lives. If you need representation, don’t hesitate. Call today to schedule your consultation.