Here in New York City, police take DUI and DWI very seriously.
They even create checkpoints.
Which means there is a chance you will find yourself in the middle of a DUI traffic stop, even if you aren’t guilty of a DUI. This also means you could be arrested for DUI, even if you are not guilty.
It’s vital to understand how the traffic stop works and what you need to do when it happens.
Understand Police Questions Are Evidence-Gathering Questions
Police need probable cause to arrest you for DUI or to start demanding field sobriety tests. The moment they start asking questions is the moment you have to be careful.
Have you been drinking?
When did you drink?
How much did you drink?
Do you have any physical or medical conditions?
While you should remain polite and calm, if you can’t truthfully answer “no” to “have you been drinking” you should go ahead and start saying, “I exercise my 5th Amendment Rights and decline to answer.”
Note that officers are also looking for physical signs that you’ve been drinking, including the smell of alcohol, whether your speech is slurred, and whether your eyes look red or bloodshot.
Asked To Leave The Car
If you are asked to leave the car you do not have the right to decline.
In the 1977 Supreme Court case
Pennsylvania v. Mimms , the Supreme Court ruled that police officers have the authority to order you out of your vehicle. You cannot withhold consent.
All they need is a “reasonable belief” that you have committed a DUI or traffic violation. They can tell the courts that you were driving erratically or that they smelled alcohol and they’ll have plenty of justification.
You will be asked to take a field sobriety test. This is a set of physical activities that are allegedly easy for someone who is sober.
You will also be asked to submit to a breath test.
In New York you
imply consent to a breath test by driving on the road. You do have the right to refuse a field sobriety test, but refusing can be used against you. The prosecution will use it to establish that you had a “consciousness of guilt.”
The truth is, once you get out of the car there’s a good chance you will be arrested for DUI. It’s better to just take the tests without saying anything and then keep your mouth shut. Your focus should be on avoiding conviction, not on avoiding arrest.
Once you are arrested you will probably be asked to take a blood test as well. Blood tests are also covered by New York’s implied consent law, as are urine tests. If you do not consent the DMV immediately suspends your license, you’ll have mandatory prison time if you get convicted, and the police will likely take your blood anyway.
At this point, just keep asserting your right to remain silent and your right to an attorney. Nothing you say or do is going to keep you out of jail tonight, but doing this can get you out of jail faster, and undermine a conviction.
If you or a loved one is facing DUI charges, reach out to our law office. There are numerous ways we can challenge a DUI and may even be able to help you get your charges dropped or dismissed.
New York DWI Lawyer Answers to the Most Common Questions About Field Sobriety Tests
What Happens Between Arrest and a New York Criminal Trial?
How to Properly Invoke Your Right to Remain Silent, and Why It Matters