Although DUI laws vary slightly by state, there’s one constant: A DUI conviction will be expensive and life-altering. The prospect of losing your license, paying an exorbitant amount of fees and penalties plus court costs and insurance rate hikes can be terrifying, and the prospect of jail time is very real. It may seem like you have no rights if you’re arrested for driving under the influence, and to a certain extent, that’s true. However, you do have rights that neither the police nor the courts can suspend. So what do you do when you’re facing a DUI charge?
You have the right to remain silent.
You do not have to answer any questions put to you by law enforcement. While it’s important to remain respectful in any response you give, you don’t have to state if you’ve had any alcohol that evening or at any time in the past. Although the officer isn’t required to tell you this, everything you say can be used against you in a court of law. Mirandizing an individual only needs to be done when they’re arrested, not during a routine stop, but you’ll most likely not be advised of this.
You have the right to refuse a blood or breath test.
In some states, the refusal to submit to a blood or alcohol test is tantamount to a confession of guilt, so refusing may not help you except it can raise the issue of proof. Since the prosecution will have no concrete proof of your blood alcohol content, your Lexington DUI lawyer may be able to successfully argue that they have no case. In some states, the refusal to submit to a test is an automatic suspension of your driver’s license, so again, refusal may be counterproductive except to assert your right to not give evidence against yourself. Some states can charge you for refusing a test and draw your blood without your consent, which will exacerbate your situation.
You have the right to have an attorney present before you answer any questions.
Although this is often very frustrating for law enforcement, it’s your right to not make statements that can be used against you. If you are taken into custody, you don’t have to be Mirandized. Only when you’re arrested do you have to be read your Miranda rights, and you don’t have to answer any questions without advice of counsel. Police stations and law enforcement can be intimidating, particularly when you’re not used to them and you’re already feeling vulnerable. Remain polite but adamant, and don’t answer questions without an attorney present.
You’re entitled to a copy of the police report.
You have the right to read the police report and the charges against you, and there shouldn’t be any charge for the report.
You have the right to refuse a police search of your vehicle.
Unless there’s an item in plain sight that the officer can confiscate, there must be probable cause for them to search your vehicle. If they stop you for not signaling to turn, for example, they can’t use that as probable cause to search your vehicle. Although most people will agree to a search of their vehicle, it isn’t mandatory and it might provide them with evidence against you. Without probable cause, the police need a search warrant to search your car, unless you consent to the search. Since many officers have recorders and dash cams, if you don’t agree to the search and they search your car anyway, be sure to state that you do not consent to the search.
You have the right to know the consequences of your actions.
If you refuse to take a field sobriety test and the officer doesn’t inform you that your refusal can result in an immediate suspension of your license or another penalty, that might be used in your defense if you are tried for a DUI. They’re not required to inform you of the ramifications of your actions. Consequently, most don’t.
Do you have any other rights when stopped for driving under the influence?
Although DUI laws were supposedly enacted for the public good, they violate the individual’s right against self-incrimination. However, the Supreme Court decided that it was more important to protect the public than to enforce an individual’s right against self-incrimination. When you’re arrested or convicted of driving under the influence, you’ll be presumed guilty until you prove your innocence, another departure from the standard legal protections you normally have.
Should I hire an attorney?
If you’re arrested for DUI, then it’s imperative that you hire an attorney who specializes in DUI’s. Laws regarding DUI’s have changed considerably in recent years and only someone who specializes in the field will be cognizant of all the legalities. The money spent on legal representation will be well spent and may reduce or eliminate your jail time, fines and penalties, and perhaps the conviction.
Final words on driving under the influence
The best defense against a DUI is to plan ahead so that you don’t drive if you’ve been partying. No one plans to go out for the evening and then get arrested, but it happens frequently. More than 10,000 people die annually in crashes related to drunk driving. With the abundance of public transportation such as taxis, Uber, Lyft, and more, it’s easy to get a ride home and much cheaper than getting stopped for impaired or drunk driving. If you choose to drink and drive, be aware of all the consequences, such as:
- Loss of your driving privileges for a minimum of six months
- Substantial increase in your auto insurance
- Public court appearance that includes video of you being drunk
- Installation of an ignition interlock device on your vehicle
- The need for an SR-22 rider on your insurance
- Possible job loss
- You’ll need to attend drunk driving classes
- You’ll need to have alcohol counseling
- You’ll probably have a period of probation
Remember, if you’re arrested for DUI, contact an attorney before you make any statements. However, the most prudent and economical choice is to call for a ride.