You've been pulled over for a suspected DUI.... now what?
Updated: Jul 3, 2019
You need to know your rights and what you need to do if your pulled over and suspected of operating your vehicle while under the influence.
Getting pulled over is never fun, and almost always a daunting experience. It helps to be prepared and informed of your rights and constraints when pulled over by a police officer. You want to remain calm and aware, as to not exacerbate the situation or give the police officer a reason to be suspicious.
If you should find yourself in a situation where you have been pulled over, first things first, remain in the car. Officers are far more likely to become defensive if you jump out of the car without permission. The officer does not know if you are armed and dangerous, or if you are going to flee the scene, so its best just to remain in the car until further instruction. The last thing you want to do is to inflame the situation.
However just because you have been pulled over, it does not mean you are without your rights. Under the Constitution you have a 5th amendment right to be silent and protect yourself from self-incrimination. You do not have to tell the officer how many drinks you may have had nor, do you have any legal obligation to answer any interrogative questions. Being silent is sometimes the best option at a time such as this, especially if you really have been drinking. By exercising that right to silence you are preventing the officer from later testifying to any of your statements that may have been perceived as slurred or disorganized. This is a useful tool because sometimes when in that type of situation, the nervousness of the situation can create momentary confusion and stumbling of words which could suggest intoxication.
Next, the officer will likely ask for license and registration which you are required to give. In Kentucky, driving is considered a privilege and by possessing a license and operating a vehicle in the state you must submit such information when asked for it by a law enforcement officer. If the officer believes that you have been drinking, he may ask you step out of the car to conduct a field sobriety test or a breathalyzer test. It is your right to refuse the Field Sobriety Test, which is a preliminary test officers can administer to determine alcohol concentration. (Ky. Rev.Stat. Ann 281A.230). These tests take a measure of your coordination or balance, which of course sometimes isn’t the most accurate way of determining intoxication. You are allowed to refuse consent in taking such tests without that refusal being used against you in litigation at a later time. My recommendation is to politely decline to participate in these tests. If pressured by the officer remain firm that you are refusing the field sobriety tests. If necessary, cite the 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination. Or just say its “its my right to refuse”. Remember though, be polite. The law enforcement officer is just doing their job and sworn duty; likely they will be relying on their training and reading your verbal and physical cues.
A breathalyzer test however, may not be refused, without automatic suspension of a license. As a motor vehicle operator in the state of Kentucky you are deemed to give consent to blood, breath, urine testing for alcohol determination. (Ky.Rev.Stat.Ann. 281A.220). Refusal of giving a breathalyzer permits the officer to take you into custody, which sometimes may be the best option. It is at that time you request to speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney about the best way to go forward.