Your Rights When You Are Pulled Over for a DUI
Sept. 22, 2023
Being pulled over for suspicion of drunk driving can be a stressful and nerve-wracking experience. Drivers who are unaware of their rights believe they are automatically going to be charged with a DUI/DWI. However, you need to keep in mind that you have certain rights when stopped by the police for suspected drunk driving.
Attorney Anthony Bretz can ensure that your rights are protected and that you are treated fairly as your case moves through the criminal justice system. His law firm – Bretz Legal, LLC – serves drivers facing DUI/DWI charges in St. Louis, Missouri, and throughout the counties of St. Louis, Franklin, St. Charles, and Jefferson.
The Right to Not Incriminate Yourself
When stopped by law enforcement, it is important that you comply with the standard protocol during traffic stops. You are legally required to show proof of insurance, your driver’s license, and vehicle registration. However, the moment the officer starts asking questions (e.g., “Have you been drinking?”), you can invoke your right to remain silent to protect yourself against self-incrimination. When the officer asks personal or intrusive questions, politely refuse to answer them if you do not wish to say something that could potentially incriminate you.
The Right to Be Free From Unlawful Searches and Seizures
Under the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, law enforcement cannot perform unreasonable and unlawful searches and seizures. In order to be considered lawful, a search must occur after the police obtain a search warrant or the search is supported by probable cause (e.g., the police officer smelled alcohol in the vehicle or saw the driver hiding something). If any evidence is found in your vehicle as a result of performing an unlawful search and seizure, your attorney can help you dismiss the evidence under the exclusionary rule.
The Right to Obtain a Copy of the Police Report
The police report can be a crucial piece of evidence in your DUI/DWI case. The report usually contains the police officer’s observations during the traffic stop as well as the results of your field sobriety test, breath test, blood test, and other tests. You have the right to access the police report and obtain a copy of it by contacting the appropriate police department that handled your case. Once you have the report, your attorney can review it to look for potential violations of your rights during the traffic stop (e.g., the police did not have probable cause to search your vehicle or stop you in the first place).
The Right to Refuse to Take Field Sobriety Tests
Under Missouri law, drivers can refuse to take a field sobriety test when stopped on suspicion of DUI/DWI. While the refusal is likely to result in the driver’s arrest, that driver will not face any administrative penalties for the refusal alone (e.g., automatic suspension of the driver’s license). The same cannot be said about chemical tests performed at the police station. Under Missouri’s implied consent law, your driver’s license will be revoked for one year for refusing to take a chemical test such as a blood, breath, or urine test, after an arrest for DUI.
Many people think they can pass field sobriety tests if they did not drink or had a few drinks. However, the problem with these tests is that they are very subjective and not always indicative of the person’s impairment. For example, a person who does not have good balance may not be able to stand on one leg or walk along a straight line. As a result, failing the test can lead to DUI/DWI charges even if they were not drinking.
The Right to Refuse the Preliminary or Portable Breath Test
Motorists often do not realize that they can refuse the preliminary or portable breath test, also known as PBT, when asked to perform one during the DUI/DWI stop. However, do not confuse preliminary breath tests with breath tests performed at the police station. As mentioned earlier, refusing to take a breath test after a DUI/DWI arrest can result in revocation of your driver’s license for one year and other administrative penalties.
The main problem with portable breath tests is that they are not 100% accurate and reliable. There are a number of factors that could cause a false positive result. These factors include but are not limited to using mouthwash or eating spicy foods prior to the test and taking certain cough and cold medications.
The Right to Legal Counsel
One of the most important rights when arrested or being charged with DUI/DWI is the right to have an attorney. Under the law, you are presumed to be innocent until proven guilty and, contrary to popular belief, seeking legal counsel does not indicate an admission of guilt. When facing DUI/DWI charges, it is imperative that you assert your right to legal counsel to ensure that you have the best chance of reaching the most favorable outcome in your case. Your attorney will evaluate the facts of your case and help you build a strong defense tailored to your unique circumstances.
Strong & Dependable Legal Representation
Attorney Anthony Bretz has devoted his career to defending individuals accused of various criminal offenses, including DUI/DWI, in St. Louis, Missouri, and other parts of the state. If you do not fully understand your rights or think your rights may have been violated, do not hesitate to contact Bretz Legal, LLC. Reach out today to request a case evaluation and discuss your specific case.