Picture this: A car is pulled over for a traffic violation. The officer approaches the vehicle and speaks to the driver. The officer smells alcohol, asks the driver to step out of the car and the driver is asked about where the driver has been and how much the driver has had to drink. The driver, being compliant, answers all questions. Then, the driver is asked to perform field sobriety tests (heal-to-toe walk, one-leg stand, alphabet, etc.). Then, the officer makes a decision as to whether to arrest the driver for DUI.
It is important to know your rights when you are pulled over. What questions do you need to answer? Do you have to disclose where you’ve been or how much you’ve had to drink. Do you have to perform field sobriety tests?
During a traffic stop, officers are permitted to ask the above questions. It is important to remember the more information you provide the more you may be “building” or “making” a case against yourself. Providing your name and driver’s license is usually not incriminating and the police are permitted to find out who you are during a traffic stop.
You are not required to tell on yourself. Giving too much information may be incriminating (such as where you have been and how much you have had to drink). Doing field sobriety tests may be as well. Of course, an investigating officer may make the decision to make an arrest whether or not you choose to answer questions.
In my experience, there is typically no single factor that is used to make a determination as to whether there is a basis to arrest a driver for DUI. It’s usually an evaluation of the entire interaction with the investigation officer.
It is important to remember that every case is different. It is important to know and understand your rights if you are pulled over. And, of course, the best advice of all is to not drink and drive.
Tommy Santel is a co-founding partner of Parkerson Santel PLLC. Tommy is a former government prosecutor. He is a Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 31 General Civil Mediator. Tommy’s practice areas include criminal defense and civil litigation.
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