Getting pulled over for a DUI in California is often a scary experience. Even if you only had a couple of drinks, or haven’t been drinking at all, anxiety is common at a DUI stop.
You have rights at a DUI stop, and it is important that you know them. Knowing what to do and not to do, and what to say and not to say, can make a major difference in what happens.
Be nice, but not too nice
Be polite and respectful to the police officers. In addition to anxiety, you may feel annoyed or angry at being stopped, but do not take it out on the officers by having an attitude. That will only make the situation worse.
However, do not be too nice either, particularly by volunteering information. Do not say that you had anything to drink, thinking that by confessing you had “one or two beers,” they will appreciate your honesty and go easier on you.
Anything that you say can be misinterpreted. Additionally, your nervousness might cause you to ramble or stumble over your words, which would likely immediately be taken as signs of intoxication.
Say your name and nothing else
Aside from stating your name, you do not have to answer any questions the officers ask you and you should say nothing.
You should give the officers your driver’s license and vehicle registration if they ask, but nothing else. They do not have permission to search your vehicle without a warrant or probable cause that your vehicle contains evidence of a crime. You should specifically say that you do not consent to a search.
Field sobriety tests
One of the biggest misconceptions people have about DUI stops is that they are required to take field sobriety tests if the police officer asks. This is not true. You are not legally required to take any field sobriety tests.
Field sobriety tests involve doing things like standing on one foot, walking a straight line, following a light with your eyes or reciting the alphabet backwards.
If the officers ask you to take any of these tests, politely say no. They should not ask you why you are declining, but if they do, you can say that the performance on the tests does not mean you are intoxicated. They likely already know this, which is why they should not be asking you.
When can I leave?
Without field sobriety tests or any obvious signs of intoxication, the officers probably have no reason to keep you there. You are free to go unless they are going to place you under arrest.
If the officers keep questioning you or appear to not be ending the stop, ask them if they are detaining you. An answer of no means you are free to leave.
Do not let them intimidate you
The officers may say various things to you to try to get you to volunteer information or agree to tests. They might act like they are giving you this information as free advice because it will make things easier for you.
Do not listen and do not do anything based on their “advice.” It is usually inaccurate, and their statements are often only meant to scare you.
If you are arrested for DUI, say nothing and talk with a criminal defense attorney. One or more of your rights could have been violated at the DUI stop, which could result in a dismissal of your DUI charge.