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For many people who have been stopped by the police on suspicion of driving under the influence, this may be their first experience interacting with law enforcement as part of a criminal investigation. Many people believe that they are required to comply with every request made by law enforcement. This is not always that case and in many situations people end up saying or doing things voluntarily that end up incriminating them. Because of this it is important to know what police requests can and cannot be lawfully refused during a DUI stop and investigation.
The majority of DUI cases begin after an officer pulls a vehicle over by activating his or her flashing lights. When a driver sees that he or she is being pulled over, they are legally required to stop. Failure to pull over can ultimately result in the driver being charged with felony fleeing charges.
Once a driver is pulled over, he or she is legally required to provide a valid driver’s license and proof of insurance to the officer upon request. When an officer suspects that a driver is intoxicated, the officer will ask questions of the driver including whether or not the driver has been drinking. The officer is hoping the driver will admit to drinking alcohol. The officer is also looking for signs of intoxication, such as slurred speech or an odor of alcohol coming from the driver. A driver is not required to answer the officer’s questions. While it is never advisable to lie to the police, drivers can answer questions by saying “I don’t have anything to say regarding that” when asked about drinking.
If the officer suspects that the driver is intoxicated, the driver will be asked to participate in a series of field sobriety tests. These tests are not mandatory and a driver can legally refuse to participate. Many of these tests are difficult to perform while sober and are often used to provide additional evidence of intoxication that can be used later against the driver in court and with the DMV. It is important to note that at this point an officer usually has decided to arrest the driver, so not participating in field sobriety testing will not prevent an arrest.
Officers will also ask drivers to provide a breath sample on their portable Preliminary Alcohol Sensor (“PAS”) device. Like the Breathalyzer used at the police station, the PAS will provide an indication of the driver’s BAC. Most drivers are allowed to lawfully refuse to take a PAS test. However, drivers who are under 21 or those who are already on probation for a DUI offense are required to take a PAS test when requested.
Once a driver has been lawfully arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence, he or she will be asked to take either a breath or blood test. This chemical test is required and failure to take either of the tests can result in an automatic one-year license suspension as well as DUI refusal charges.