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Before, During & After Being Pulled Over
BEFORE, DURING & AFTER BEING PULLED OVER
The police officer in the car behind you has indicated that you should pull over to the side of the road. You do so. The officer asks you a series of questions. Wanting to be polite, you answer each and every one of them. In response, the officer states you are now being investigated for drunk driving. Surprise! It may have been something you said, and not the way you were driving that has now given the officer all the legal grounds necessary to suspect that you have been driving under the influence (DUI).
Wanting to appear cooperative and unworried, you agree to the police officer's next request - that you exit the car and demonstrate sobriety by performing some physical tests. Surprise again! You have now voluntarily provided additional damaging evidence for the police officer to learn about you and to pass along to the prosecuting attorney to use against you.
Most people don't know they don't have to answer a police officer's questions or agree to take DUI physical performance tests. The things people say and do around police officers enables prosecutors to enhance the strength of their cases. We all have constitutional rights and if we give them up in an attempt to appear friendly or agreeable, we do so at our own peril. Drivers can protect their legal rights by knowing what they can refuse to do and what they are obligated to comply with. The moment a police officer signals a car to pull over, he or she begins making observations about everything the driver says and does. A driver's first words or actions can become detrimental evidence in the hands of a prosecutor. Motorists can reduce their risk of getting into trouble for DUI by knowing the following information:
PRIOR TO DRIVING
Don't exit the car unless ordered to do so. Unnecessary standing and walking gives the officer more opportunities to observe and critically analyze your appearance. It could also jeopardize your safety, as officers become alarmed when persons make unanticipated movements.
You may decline to answer questions concerning what and when you had been eating and drinking and where you are coming from. This information can be of assistance to the prosecutor. You may lawfully decline to perform physical tests (walk the line, touch the finger to the nose, balance with one legged raised, etc.). If you believe you will perform well when taking physical tests, you may agree to do so only if being videotaped either by a dashboard mounted video camera or once arriving at a police station equipped with DUI video equipment. However, law enforcement agencies are not obligated to provide or make use of videotaping equipment.
If your case proceeds to trial and you have declined to perform physical tests, some judges will not permit jurors to be told that you were offered and declined to take physical tests. Other judges will advise jurors that you exercised your lawful right to decline taking these tests.
Even if you feel confident that you can perform well on physical tests, be mindful that the stress of being under close watch of law enforcement can impair test taking skills. Also, law enforcement officers will assess your test taking performance very critically.
AT THE POLICE STATION
INFORMATION YOU SHOULD TELL THE OFFICER
AT ALL TIMES
AFTER BEING RELEASED