DID YOU KNOW YOU MAY BE VOLUNTARILY GIVING
DAMAGING EVIDENCE TO POLICE OFFICERS ?
The police officer in the car behind you has indicated that you should pull over to the side of the road. You do so. The officer asks you a series of questions. Wanting to be polite, you answer each and every one of them. In response, the officer states you are now being investigated for drunk driving. Surprise! It may have been something you said, and not the way you were driving that has now given the officer all the legal grounds necessary to suspect that you have been driving under the influence (DUI).
Wanting to appear cooperative and unworried, you agree to the police officer's next request -that you exit the car and demonstrate sobriety by performing some physical tests. Surprise again! You have now voluntarily provided additional damaging evidence for the police officer to learn about you and to pass along to the prosecuting attorney to use against you.
YOU DON'T HAVE TO ANSWER A POLICE OFFICER'S QUESTIONS OR TAKE DUI ("ROADSIDES") ROADSIDE SOBRIETY TESTS
Most people don't know they don't have to answer a police officer's questions or agree to take DUI physical performance tests. The things people say and do around police officers enables prosecutors to enhance the strength of their cases. We all have constitutional rights and if we give them up in an attempt to appear friendly or agreeable, we do so at our own peril. Drivers can protect their legal rights by knowing what they can refuse to do and what they are obligated to comply with. The moment a police officer signals a car to pull over, he or she begins making observations about everything the driver says and does. A driver's first words or actions can become detrimental evidence in the hands of a prosecutor. Motorists can reduce their risk of getting into trouble for DUI by knowing the following information:
IT IS NOT ILLEGAL TO DRINK AND DRIVE
Contrary to popular belief, it is NOT illegal to drink and drive! If drinking, do so in moderation and only while eating or immediately afterward. Full meals afford more protection than snacks. Avoid taking the types of over-the-counter and prescription medications that interact with alcohol or can induce impairment. Don't drive after taking a prescription medication for the first time. Be aware that prescription medications can cause unlawful impairment. Motorists can be prosecuted for being under the influence of lawfully prescribed medications, even if not using any alcohol or illegal drugs.
WHAT TO DO IF THE POLICE STOP YOUR CAR
Don't exit the car unless ordered to do so. Unnecessary standing and walking gives the officer more opportunities to observe and critically analyze your appearance. It could also jeopardize your safety, as officers become alarmed when persons make unanticipated movements.
You may decline to answer questions concerning what and when you had been eating and drinking and where you are coming from. This information can be of assistance to the prosecutor. You may lawfully decline to perform roadside physical tests (walk the line, touch the finger to the nose, balance with one legged raised, etc.). If you believe you will perform well when taking physical tests, you may agree to do so only if being videotaped either by a dashboard mounted video camera or once arriving at a police station equipped with DUI video equipment. However, law enforcement agencies are not obligated to provide or make use of videotaping equipment.
If your case proceeds to trial and you have declined to perform physical tests, some judges will not permit jurors to be told that you were offered and declined to take physical tests. Other judges will advise jurors that you exercised your lawful right to decline taking these tests.
Even if you feel confident that you can perform well on physical tests, be mindful that the stress of being under close watch of law enforcement can impair test taking skills. Also, law enforcement officers will assess your test taking performance very critically.
WHAT TO DO AT THE POLICE STATION
You may refuse to perform physical tests, as was previously described. Florida requires you to submit to breath, blood and urine tests upon demand. Refusing to do so will lead to a prolonged drivers license suspension.
INFORMATION YOU SHOULD TELL THE OFFICER
Inform the arresting officer if you suffer from diseases, handicaps, diabetes, asthma, a limp, painful bruises, lingering injuries or other conditions. Injuries and illnesses can make people appear impaired when they had not been drinking to excess or even if they had not been drinking or had not been using illegal drugs or lawful medications.
IT'S NO SECRET... SHOW RESPECT AT ALL TIMES
Treat all police officers and other law enforcement personnel politely and respectfully. When prosecutors consider making plea bargains and when judges make sentencing decisions, they will consider your arrest-related conduct.
HOW POLICE MISTAKES CAN WORK IN YOUR FAVOR
A challenge to the automatic drivers license suspension arising out of a DUI arrest must be filed within 10 days of an arrest or notice of suspension. Consult an attorney immediately. Police mistakes can lead to: 1) the exclusion of evidence; 2) reduced charges; or, 3) case dismissals. Health conditions (diagnosed and undiagnosed) and medications can sometimes cause police officers and alcohol test technicians to mistakenly believe you were drinking to excess. Police-administered alcohol tests can yield wrong results. Breath test machines are not always properly maintained and machine operators sometimes violate rules designed to prevent inflated readings. Improperly drawn blood can become contaminated before it is tested. When urine is stored improperly, chemical analysis test finding can be in error.
Although DUI cases should be taken very seriously, DUI cases are not always hopeless. There are several ways to beat a DUI case, or at least keep the adverse consequences to a minimum.