How many drinks have you had? Today we are going to answer a question about talking to the police after they stop you on suspicion of drunk driving. This question is from Angela in Newark, Delaware.
Question: “I was a passenger when my boyfriend was pulled over. We had been out to dinner and he had two or three drinks, mixed drinks. Rum and coke to be specific. The police officer asked him a bunch of questions, including asking for his license and registration and then he asked him if he knew why he pulled us over, and then the police officer asked; “how many drinks have you had this evening?” My boyfriend admitted to having something to drink but he told the officer that it was just a beer. I told him he should of just shut up and not said anything. I want to know if he can get in trouble for lying to the cops because his alcohol level when they ran the tests was way over what you would have if you only just drank one beer.”
First, thank you for your question. I really appreciate you allowing me to answer your question in a public forum on the Internet because it is a frequently asked DUI question, and others may be looking for an answer.
The direct answer to this question is when you are stopped by the police, you should say as little as possible. Nobody ever got in trouble by keeping their mouth shut. In this scenario, the ship may have sailed on that. Since your boyfriend has now told the police officer that he only had one beer and his blood-alcohol level or BAC came back much higher, he is likely to have an unhappy cop telling the prosecutor that he was dishonest and deserves to be dealt with strictly. Let’s talk about the steps of the officer’s investigation once he pulls you over, and let’s talk about what could be done better.
Once you’ve been pulled over, the officer is going to try to determine if you’re under the influence of alcohol. He begins this process by his personal observations of you. He’s looking for indicators of impairment such as bloodshot eyes, slurred speech, flushed face, confused attitude, etc. But one of the biggest things he’s looking for is the odor of an alcoholic beverage coming from you or your vehicle. Once he detects the odor of alcohol, he’s then most likely going to ask you if you have had anything to drink. If you then admit that you’ve had something to drink, even within the last day or so, that admission gives the officer what he needs to continue investigating you for DUI. If he doesn’t get that answer from you then he will most likely continue asking you that question throughout the course of the stop.
Once you’ve been stopped, you are the subject of a criminal investigation, even if it’s only for a minor traffic violation like speeding. If the officer suspects you of driving under the influence or DUI, he’s then going to try to identify as many indicators of impairment as possible in order to build a DUI case against you. Why would you want to help him do that? You have every right to simply say that you’d like to speak to an attorney before answering any questions beyond mere demographic data such as your name, address, phone number, etc.
So, if you’ve been out with friends and have had a couple of drinks, be prepared to be stopped. Have your license, registration, and proof of insurance readily available within hand’s reach. Drive with your windows down to eliminate or minimize any odor of alcohol. Chew some gum. Speak as little as possible in order to minimize (1) the odor of alcohol, and (2) the chance of you saying something incriminating. Again, why would you want to help the officer build a case against you?
There are many reasons why the police might stop you and investigate you for DUI. My job is to find out why and to ensure your constitutional rights are protected. If you’re not stopped for a legal reason or if your rights are violated during the officer’s investigation of you, then it becomes my job to fight for you to get that illegal evidence thrown out. Angela in Newark, DE, thank you so much for the DUI question!