What you do and say after a police officer pulls you over can mean the difference between sleeping in your own bed that night or spending the night in jail. Besides the unpleasantness of being arrested on DWI charges, you could face losing your driver’s license, a huge fine and even a jail sentence. Naturally, you want to do everything you can to avoid getting arrested.
Carefully protecting your rights during the traffic stop might not keep you out of jail, but a bad performance from you can certainly increase the odds that the officer will arrest you. Here are a few tips to help you avoid mistakes that can lead to a DWI arrest.
The police officer might say something like, “I know you were driving drunk, so you might as well admit it,” or “I can’t help you if you don’t tell me the truth.” But remember, the officer’s job is to gather enough evidence to establish probable cause of DWI so they can arrest you.
Resist the urge to say something like, “I only had two drinks,” which only establishes that you have been drinking. Unless you have no alcohol in your system, if the officer asks how many drinks you had, say something like, “I invoke my right to remain silent,” or “I have nothing to say about that.”
Decline field sobriety tests
You are not required to perform field sobriety tests, and there is no penalty for refusing. Again, no matter what the officer tells you, the purpose of field sobriety tests is to help produce probable cause to arrest you. Field sobriety tests like the walk-and-turn test and balancing on one leg can be difficult whether you are intoxicated or not.
You do not have to submit to a roadside breath test, but there are consequences for declining in New York state. Your license will be automatically suspended for a year and you will be fined $500 for refusing the test, even if you are ultimately not charged with DWI or found guilty. At the same time, submitting to the breathalyzer only helps the officer build a case against you. Whether it is worth it to decline the test depends on the circumstances you are in, such as whether you believe you might blow well above the legal limit.
You can stand up for your rights without being rude. Obnoxious comments or rude gestures will only encourage the officer to arrest you. Be polite but firm when declining to answer a question or undergo a test.
Even if you end up charged with DWI, it does not mean you will automatically get convicted or that your only choice is to plead guilty. There could be errors in police procedure that you can challenge. A successful challenge can get some or all of the evidence thrown out of court.