You are on your way home from dinner with friends, when you see flashing blue lights in your rearview mirror. You have had a few drinks. What should you do? What are your rights?

Find a safe place to pull over

Remember that as soon as a police officer decides to pull you over, their observations will go in a police report. Use your turn signal and carefully pull over to the side of the road at the nearest safe spot to do so. Look for a lighted location where other people can see you. Suggest to your passengers that they remain quiet and only answer the officer if they are questioned about their identity.

Don’t make any sudden movements

When you have brought your vehicle to a complete stop, stay in your car, and place both your hands on the steering wheel where the police officer can see them. Do not look for paperwork, turn around to watch the officer approach, or crouch in your seat.

Be polite

Treating an officer respectfully will work much more in your favor than being rude or hostile. Give a courteous greeting when you open the window to speak to the officer. Remember, your statements and actions may be recorded, so speaking or acting inappropriately can hurt you.

Limit your statements

You are under no obligation to provide any information beyond that on your driver’s license, vehicle registration, or proof of insurance. If you are asked if you have been drinking, you can simply tell the officer that you are claiming your Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate yourself. Under no circumstances should you admit to drinking or describe how many drinks you’ve had. By admitting to drinking (no matter how little or how long ago) you have testified against yourself and provided the officer with reason to further investigate.

Refuse any field sobriety tests

If you are asked to step out of the vehicle, you must do so. If you believe it would be helpful to your defense, ask the officer if their car has a video camera. If so, ask that it be turned on so that later you may prove that you did not have slurred speech or unsteady movements. If you are asked to perform any roadside tests, politely decline. You are under no legal obligation to perform a field sobriety test. Field sobriety tests allow officers to collect evidence against you and provide reason to require a chemical test (breath, blood or urine) to determine your blood alcohol level.

Refuse a hand-held breathalyzer.

Roadside breathalyzers are notoriously unreliable. After refusing field sobriety tests and a roadside breathalyzer test, the police officer will have to determine whether they have probable cause to arrest you for DUI.

Sign your ticket (if necessary)

If you are not arrested but issued a ticket (generally for the initial reason you were pulled over, i.e. broken tail light or failure to maintain lane,) you must sign. This is not an admission of guilt but rather an agreement to appear in court.

Disclaimer: This post is not to be taken as legal advice or intended to condone driving under the influence, but rather to inform you of your Constitutional rights when pulled over.

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