Understanding Your Rights During a DUI Traffic Stop

Understanding Your Rights During a DUI Traffic Stop

If you have ever been pulled over for suspected drunk driving in Hawaii, you know that it's not a pleasant experience. To make matters worse, you may not even understand your rights. When a police officer asks you questions like "Have you been drinking tonight?" you may not know how to answer. When they ask you to step out of the vehicle and participate in a series of field sobriety tests, you may not know whether or not you are legally obligated to do so.

This is why it's important to understand your rights before you find yourself in this situation. Most people don't realize that they can exercise certain rights during a police encounter, especially if they are suspected of driving under the influence (DUI), which is one reason why they end up in handcuffs. In the event that you are arrested for drunk driving, the first thing that you should do is contact our firm. We can make sure that your rights are protected.

#1: The Police Must Have a Reason to Stop You

If you are pulled over by a police officer, you should politely ask them why you have been stopped. An officer cannot conduct a traffic stop unless they have probable cause to believe that you have broken a traffic law, that you are driving while intoxicated or that your vehicle has an observable defect (i.e. a broken tail light). The police cannot stop drivers at random in the hope to catch a drunk driver.

If the officer does not offer a legitimate reason for why you have been stopped, your rights have been violated. However, it is important to understand that, although they may suspect you of driving under the influence, this does not have to be the reason why they have pulled you over. If you are stopped because of expired registration tags, for example, the officer could still conduct a DUI investigation.

#2: You Do Not Have to Answer an Officer's Questions

Apart from having to identify who you are, you are not required to answer any other questions from the officer. So if an officer asks you a question like "Where are you coming from?" or "Have you been drinking tonight?" just remember that you are not required to answer. They will ask you these questions as a way to establish probable cause so that they can arrest you for driving under the influence.

The best thing that you can do for yourself in this situation is to politely explain that you would like to remain silent. Although the officer is not required to read you your rights until you have been arrested, remember that you can still refrain from saying anything that could be self-incriminating. You don't need to be hostile or disrespectful, but simply explain that you would like to exercise your rights.

#3: You are Not Required to Take a Field Sobriety Test

If a law enforcement officer suspects that you are intoxicated, they may ask you to step out of the vehicle and participate in a series of field sobriety tests. Among these tests may include the one-leg stand, the walk-and-turn and the horizontal gaze nystagmus—which are intended to test your physical and cognitive functions. These tests are entirely subjective, and have been designed for failure.

It is for this reason that you are not legally required to participate in any of these tests. They are simply a way for police to gather enough probable cause to issue an arrest for DUI. If you state that you do not want to participate, however, the officer may still have grounds to arrest you—after which you will be asked to take a chemical test. You cannot refuse to take a chemical test (i.e. breath or blood test).

#4: You Have the Right to Speak with an Attorney

After being arrested for DUI in Hawaii, you should avoid saying anything until you have requested to speak with a criminal defense attorney. It is your right to seek legal counsel, and this is a right that you should exercise immediately. The police may try to act like they are on your side, or that they have your best interests in mind, but the only thing that they are interested in is getting a confession.

The only person who will have your best interests in mind is your Honolulu criminal lawyer. They can advise you of your rights and ensure that your case is handled properly from the very beginning. The Law Office of Victor Bakke, ALC has won more than 3,000 criminal cases, many of which involved DUI charges, because we know how the legal system operates. This is an advantage that you need.

Were you arrested for DUI? Contact our firm for help!

Whether you or someone you love was arrested for DUI, you should waste no time in contacting a Honolulu DUI attorney at The Law Office of Victor Bakke, ALC. With more than two decades of experience and thousands of case victories under our belts, we are the firm that you want by your side. Drunk driving is not a minor offense. Hiring a lawyer is necessary, so don't wait to give us a call! The sooner we are involved, the better it could be for your case.

Get started today by filling out a no-obligation case evaluation form online.