Dinner with friends is over, so you get in your car and set your GPS for home. You start your engine, buckle your seatbelt, and head down the road. Suddenly, you see flashing police lights in your rearview mirror. You quickly make your way to a side street and stop your car.
You fear the worst when the officer gets out of their car and starts walking toward you. Why did they pull me over? What questions will they ask? Will they know I had a drink at dinner?
Be Polite, But Don’t Overshare
Traffic stops can be a nerve-wracking experience, especially if you have been drinking. But, regardless of what led them to turn their sirens on, your interaction with the officer who pulled you over can influence the outcome of the stop.
When speaking with law enforcement, always comply when requested to hand over your driver’s license, vehicle registration, and proof of insurance. Even though you may be upset at the prospect of a traffic ticket, observing basic social courtesies such as saying “please” and “thank you” can ease your interaction with the officer.
That said, you have a solid legal ground to stand on if you refuse to answer further questions the officer may ask.
If an officer asks you a question you are uncomfortable answering, you have the right to decline to respond. However, answering an officer’s questions at a traffic stop could lead to accidental self-incrimination. You do not want to say anything that could make the officer suspicious, and in most circumstances, sharing as little as possible is your best course of action.
Law enforcement is responsible for keeping a record of the traffic stop, and if you tell them that you have been drinking, your statement may even lead to DUI charges.
Exercise Your Right to Remain Silent
Even if you may not feel intoxicated after having one or two drinks before getting behind the wheel, you may unknowingly surpass the legal limit of .08% BAC. It is important to remember that you do not need to tell the officer that you have been drinking – even if they ask you directly.
The U.S. Constitution protects you from giving testimony that could incriminate you, and you should exercise this right when pulled over. If the officer asks you if you have been drinking or any other seemingly harmless question, calmly inform the officer that you will exercise your right to remain silent.