It is important to understand your rights and what you can and cannot refuse during a DUI stop in Prince William County. Below, a Prince William DUI lawyer discusses some of the important issues that may come up during a DUI stop: vehicle searches and the request to speak to an attorney.
A person’s rights during a DUI stop, the most important rights that they have, are the right to remain silent and the right not to consent to any searches of their person or their vehicle. Not incriminating oneself includes everything from not answering questions for the police to not performing field sobriety tests for the police. Individuals have a right not to do either of those things. After an arrest has happened and the processing has occurred, an individual will then have the right to speak to a lawyer at their first opportunity and if they are in jail, they will have a right to make a phone call within a reasonable period of time.
You do not need to consent to a search of your vehicle during a traffic stop. The Fifth Amendment guarantees everyone the right not to incriminate themselves. Part of the right not to incriminate oneself is the idea that a search never needs to be consented to. Under the Fourth Amendment, police have to get a warrant supported by probable cause (unless some “exigent circumstance” exists in which case they can search without a warrant) in order for them to search a person, a vehicle, a bag, or even a home. Whether a search is legally performed is an issue that is often raised by defense attorneys and can often result in a case being dismissed or the charges being reduced if it is determined the search was not legal.
However, if a person simply consents to the search police do not need probable cause or a search warrant because the person has just agreed that a search can go on. Individuals should be aware of their rights to not consent to a search and should politely, but firmly, tell police that they do not consent to searches.
In general, there’s not an opportunity to talk to a lawyer during a DUI stop and, in most cases, a police officer will not allow you to speak to your lawyer during a DUI stop. This is mostly because there are tests which are going on at that time which the officer is using to determine probable cause. There is also a safety issue in allowing a person to utilize their telephone during a stop.
In most cases, the first opportunity to speak to an attorney will come after the individual has been in front of the magistrate judge and is released on bail or is placed in jail and is given the opportunity to make a phone call. What people should keep in mind during a stop is simply that they don’t have to answer any of the questions the police put to them beyond identifying themselves and producing proper ID and they don’t have to cooperate with any of the tests they administer. Beyond that, most questions for a lawyer can wait until after the process is completed.
There are two big mistakes that people make in the course of DUI stop. The first is that they incriminate themselves by making statements to the police that tend to show that they’re guilty. For example, the police may ask how many drinks you’ve had tonight, where you have been drinking, or other questions which are calculated to determine whether a person may in fact be intoxicated. Individuals should politely, but firmly, state that they are remaining silent except to identify themselves, which the law requires.
Another question that come up during the course of the stop may even be “do you have any alcohol or other drugs in the vehicle?” When a person acknowledges the presence of these items it makes it very likely that they’ll be searched and/or charged with DUI or even with other charges. So again, individuals should be aware that they don’t have to answer those questions.
The second mistake that they make is performing the field sobriety test. Field sobriety tests exist in order to assist the officer in building a case against the driver and establishing probable cause that a DUI has occurred. Whatever evidence the officer observed prior to the stop or whatever they observed about a person can’t be helped. However, what can be helped is not creating new evidence by performing tests.
The police are required to read you the Miranda warning only if they plan to use the statements that you make after you are under arrest against you in court. In a typical DUI case, prior to a person being under arrest, the statements that are made are going to be admissible in court, because Miranda only applies to situations where a person is under arrest (or their freedom limited to a degree associated with arrest, like being placed in a police vehicle and/or in handcuffs) and is being asked questions.
In most cases, by the time a person is arrested in a DUI case, there really is no need for the police to ask any additional questions as they have gathered most or all of the evidence that they believe is necessary to make the charge of DUI.
So, it is in fact typical that there is no Miranda warning given at the time of arrest. This is an issue that only becomes important if after the arrest has occurred, the police question the accused and then want to use the statements made by the accused in court.
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