A traffic stop is one of the most frequent encounters between citizens and police. Usually, law enforcement pulls a vehicle over if they have reason to believe that some offense has occurred. While you may have assumptions about this process, you should understand your rights and responsibilities regarding interactions with the police. Ultimately, when a police officer pulls you over for a traffic offense—especially if it's a serious transgression like driving under the influence—what you do and say may affect legal proceedings that might follow.
If the police pull you over, you might feel anxious, irritated at the delay, or concerned about a possible citation. Whether the traffic stop ends in a moving violation or an arrest for DUI, your choices are critical. In any case, it's important to remain calm and understand your rights.
Do You Have to Answer Questions Asked by Law Enforcement Officers in California?
After the police have pulled you over, you have the right to remain silent. In general, you may not be punished for refusing to answer questions from police officers. In fact, many lawyers advise you not to talk to the police without your lawyer present. Doing so may implicate you in a crime even without you realizing that you said anything wrong. However, there are a few exceptions to the rule:
- You must provide your name to police officers if you're stopped and told to identify yourself.
- The officer may require you to show your vehicle registration, license, and proof of insurance.
You should never make any admissions regarding how you were driving, nor admit that you were speeding or that you committed a traffic violation. If you decide to fight or contest your ticket at a later date, admitting guilt may lessen your chances for a successful outcome.
On that same note, it's advised that you not respond to entrapping questions like “Do you know why I stopped you?”, “Did you know you were weaving?”, “Did you know that you didn't come to a complete stop?”, or “Did you know you violated the law?” You are safeguarded by the Fifth Amendment, and by not answering questions like these, you can protect yourself from a possible conviction.
Do You Have the Right to Refuse Chemical Testing in California?
California's “implied consent” law requires all drivers lawfully arrested for a DUI to submit to chemical testing to determine blood alcohol concentration or the number of drugs in their system. You may refuse a test but could be fined, lose your license, and face jail time if you are convicted of DUI.
Breathalyzer tests may also be used. If you consent, you may be asked to blow into a machine, which analyzes your breath to determine the presence of alcohol and provides a reading known as BAC percentage. If you refuse, you may be arrested, and the officer may administer the necessary breath or blood test at the station.
Do You Have the Right to Refuse Field Sobriety Tests in California?
Yes. A law enforcement officer who suspects someone of drunk driving often seeks to confirm their suspicions using roadside tests, including field sobriety tests or breathalyzer tests.
The field sobriety tests you might encounter include the horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) test, walk-and-turn test, and one-leg stand test. As you're completing the tests, the officer pays close attention to your performance with the idea of placing a pass or fail grade. Although the officer is not likely to mention it, these tests are entirely voluntary.
You Have the Right to a Lawyer. Contact Aron Law Firm Today
For questions about your rights during a DUI stop in California or to discuss your case with one of our California criminal defense lawyers, contact the Aron Law Firm today. Our expert attorneys are dedicated to protecting your rights by investigating your case and crafting a robust defense. With the right legal team on your side, you may be able to avoid the consequences that stem from this offense.
At the Aron Law Firm, we have experience helping clients fight a wide variety of criminal charges. Our seasoned legal team understands the ins and outs of California DUI defense law and stands at your side every step of the way. To speak with a DUI defense attorney, schedule a consultation by calling (805) 618-1768 or completing our online contact form today.