Many of our clients mistakenly believe that a DUI charge is based on their admission of having been drinking. Although their admissions contribute to a huge part of prosecution, a person may still be charged with a DUI, even when they have chosen to remain silent.
When an officer first chooses to have you pull over, he must have a reasonable cause for doing so. A majority of the time it is because the driver has committed a traffic violation. This can be anything from speeding, to and illegal U-turn. Regardless of the offense, it gives the officer grounds to pull you over.
In some situations, the driver may already be pulled over. For example, he may have started driving and felt that he was impaired so he has pulled over. Or there may be car trouble or an accident that has caused the driver to stop on the street or the highway. When a driver is already pulled over, the officer will conduct what is known as a welfare check. The driver does not have to have violated the traffic code, or committed any other offense for the officer to come check up on the driver.
Once the officer has a reasonable cause to pull the driver over the driver must comply and listen to the officer. However, at this point, the officer does not have grounds to ask the driver to submit to a field sobriety test or a blood alcohol test. At this point, he only has grounds to issue the driver a traffic citation for the offense that caused the driver to be pulled over.
Before an officer can request that the driver submit to a blood alcohol test or a field sobriety test, the officer must have reasonable cause to suspect the driver may be impaired. It is important to note that if the driver has previously been convicted of a DUI, then they must submit to a test anytime it is requested by an officer.
For first time offenders however, the officer cannot request a test unless he has reasons to support his suspicion that the driver is impaired. Most often the officer gets his reasonable cause when he asks the driver if he or she have been drinking and the response is yes. This is enough for the officer to suspect impairment and ask that the driver to take some sobriety tests.
Nevertheless, even if the driver responds in the negative, or chooses to refrain from answering, the officer can still get enough cause through his observations. The officer may note that the vehicle or the driver smells like alcohol. He may notice slurred speech and inability to focus on the questions, or red watery eyes. If the officer feels that his observations are enough to sustain a DUI stop, then he may proceed with asking the driver to take a blood alcohol test.
If you chose to exercise your 5th amendment rights, and opt not to admit to having drank anything, there is subjective grounds for the officer’s arrest. There is room for an experienced Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer to prepare a powerful argument that the officer did not have reasonable grounds to pull you over in the first place. If there are no reasonable grounds, the charges against you may be dismissed!