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For people who have had a few drinks, seeing flashing police lights in their rearview mirror can be a truly frightening experience. When pulled over by the police on a DUI stop, drivers often want to know what they should and should not say to the officer.
It is important to remember that law enforcement officers are not allowed to stop vehicles at whim merely because they believe the driver may be intoxicated. The officer must have reasonable and articulable probable cause that the driver has violated the law in order to justify the vehicle stop. This violation of the law is typically a violation of a traffic law that the officer has observed, such as speeding or failing to stop at a stop sign. It can also be an equipment violation such as a faulty brake light or window obstruction. While officers must have probable cause to stop the vehicle, it is no secret that drivers stopped late at night or during weekends and holidays are more likely to be under the influence. As a result, officers will be on the lookout for any recognizable signs of intoxication when initially approaching and speaking to the driver.
It is important to remember that officers who suspect that a driver is under the influence will be looking for certain indicia of intoxication, including slurred speech and the odor of alcohol on the driver’s breath. As a result, a driver who has consumed alcohol may want to keep any communication to an absolute minimum. A driver can be polite and respond to the officer, however he or she is not required to speak extensively and provide incriminating statements.
An officer will typically ask the driver whether he or she consumed alcohol earlier and, if so, how much alcohol was consumed. While it is never advisable to lie to an officer, admitting to drinking alcohol can be an admission used later on to justify expanding the DUI investigation and ultimately arresting the driver. When asked this question, the driver can politely refuse to answer. Alternatively, the driver may respond with a question and simply ask the officer what was the reason for the vehicle stop and whether or not they are free to leave.
Drivers who have been pulled over should not become aggressive or overly defensive when speaking with the officer. This typically will result in the officer becoming more suspicious and may result in the officer expanding the vehicle stop. In some cases, the officer may request permission to search a driver’s vehicle. It is perfectly acceptable to deny consent to a vehicle search. Officers may also ask drivers if they will perform a series of field sobriety tests or if they will provide a breath sample for analysis on a Preliminary Alcohol Screening (“PAS”) device. Most drivers should remember that they are not required to complete field sobriety tests or to test on a PAS device. An exception would be drivers who are under 21 or who are already on DUI probation, as these drivers are required to provide a breath sample on a PAS device when asked.