Looking in your rear-view mirror and seeing the flashing red lights of a police car signaling you to pull over often causes immediate stress. It may be even more worrisome if you are pulled over due to suspicion of drunk driving. A MI drunk driving conviction can have serious, lifelong consequences. In Michigan, as in other jurisdictions, driving while under the influence of alcohol is a criminal offense. A conviction may result in fines, community service, jail time, installation of an ignition interlock device, or revocation or suspension of your driver’s license. Furthermore, you may lose your job, and your auto insurance rates will likely skyrocket. The best way to effectively defend against a drunk driving charge is to understand and assert your legal rights when you are pulled over by a cop.
Know Your Legal Rights
When you are pulled over by a police officer for suspicion of driving under the influence, the police officer may request that you submit to field sobriety tests as well as a preliminary breath test. Under Michigan law, you are not legally obligated to agree to a field sobriety test. Declining to take a field sobriety test alone will not result in arrest, fines or license revocation. Under the Michigan Implied Consent Law, all Michigan drivers give consent to the preliminary breath test. Despite this implied consent, you may still decline to submit to a breath test. However, if you do decline, the police officer may charge you with a civil infraction that may result in a fine.
Should the police officer decide to arrest you for suspicion of drunk driving or any other offense related to the traffic stop, the officer is required to advise you of your legal right to remain silent. This means that you are not required to and should not say anything potentially incriminating related to the traffic stop, the arrest, and your activities leading to the arrest. If, for example, the police officer asks you what you drank, or if you were at a party or bar, simply respectfully let the police officer know that you are asserting your legal right not to answer those questions.
Remain Calm and Cooperative
Your demeanor may have an impact on how you are ultimately treated by the police officer. Be polite. Follow the instructions of the police officer. If you chose to decline a field sobriety test or a breath test, do so politely and respectfully. Showing impudence, impatience, or anger will not help the situation and is more likely to raise the overall level of anxiety of both you and the police officer. It may also strengthen suspicions that the police officer already has that you are indeed intoxicated.
Contact Experienced Representation
Cases involving drunk driving are very complex. Should you find yourself in the unfortunate situation of being pulled over by a police officer and arrested for drunk driving or any other offense involving operating a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, it is important to not only understand your legal rights and the consequences of asserting them. It is also critical to quickly retain legal representation by someone experienced with drunk driving cases.
This guest post was provided by Paul J. Tafelski, a Michigan attorney experienced in DUI cases.