Your Fifth Amendment Rights During a DUI Stop

  • September 4, 2017

    Bring stopped by police is often a confusing experience, but when you have been stopped for suspicion of driving under the influence (DUI), it’s even more stressful and even scary. Unfortunately, most people don’t realize that police officers are required to follow a specific protocol before they can arrest a person if they suspect they may be under the influence. In Los Angeles, California, as well as throughout the United States, police must follow certain protocol, or they do not have legal grounds to make an arrest for a DUI. In addition, if you say certain things, even if you think you are doing nothing wrong and are simply cooperating with the officer, can lead you in hot water because it can give the officer reasonable cause.

    It’s important to understand the process of the situation and the obstacles police officers might ignore when you are stopped for suspicion of a DUI. There are some times when you don’t have to talk or answer certain questions because it can lead an officer to arrest you, even when there is no actual cause for them to do so. Your right not to speak relates to the Fifth Amendment and your right not to incriminate yourself.

    Requirement of Probable Cause

    First and foremost, if a police officer pulls a person over, they must have probable cause to do so. Probable cause comes into play when a person has committed a traffic violation or has committed some other type of violation while driving. That gives police officers the authority to pull them over. Violations can include speeding, running a red light or stop sign, erratically weaving in and out of lanes or even having a taillight burned out. In a scenario involving the latter situation, the police officer would have good reason to pull a driver over if they believe that person is in need of assistance. They can pull the individual over to the side of the road and inquire if they need assistance or if there is anything wrong, which also gives the officer probable cause.

    Requirement of Reasonable Suspicion

    If a police officer believes he or she has a legitimate reason to pull a driver over, they may ask that person to take a breath test if they have reasonable suspicion that the individual may be intoxicated. It doesn’t matter if the officer thinks the driver may be intoxicated from alcohol or drugs; if there is a reasonable suspicion, they can legally pull the individual over.

    Signs that a police officer may have reasonable suspicion when they pull someone over include red, bloodshot eyes, slurred speech, being unsteady on one’s feet, incoherence and the smell of alcohol on the person.

    Another, more common way a police officer can have reasonable suspicion that a person may be under the influence is that the individual makes certain admissions. When an officer stops a driver, they will typically ask the individual if they have been drinking or if they have consumed any alcohol that night. Most people who are stopped and pulled over by police want to be as cooperative as possible, so they will also most likely admit to having consumed alcohol. That is considered an admission, also known as reasonable suspicion, and gives the officer a reason to ask you to submit to a breath test or field sobriety test.

    It’s important to know what a person cannot be charged with a DUI and found guilty if police officers fail to follow the proper protocol while they are gathering evidence. If the officer didn’t follow the proper procedures and you have DUI charges against you, there is a possibility that those charges may be reduced or even dismissed altogether. If you admit to having been drinking, it definitely helps the police officer’s case. You should never lie to an officer, but keep in mind that the Fifth Amendment is in place to protect you. You do not have to speak and admit anything that can be considered self-incriminating. You can even tell the police officer that you don’t wish to answer.

    If you are pulled over by a police officer in Los Angeles under suspicion of DUI, you must know your rights. You should also hire an experienced criminal defense attorney to represent your best interests. Your lawyer can help you prepare for the case against you and fight for your rights.

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