A DUI / DWI charge around the holiday season can turn a joyful time into an anxious situation for anyone. However, if you happen to find yourself in this unfortunate situation, there are few things you should remember when dealing with the police in Virginia:
1. You have the right to remain silent. You do not have to answer the officer’s questions! Being silent protects you from making statements that might be used against you later in court. I think we all know we have this right but so few people in this situation exercise this right. Further, its important to remember that during an investigation, a police officer has no obligation to tell you of this right. Since you are not technically “in custody”, police officers do not have to read you Miranda warnings either. Even during the first interactions with the officer, you have the right to say nothing. If you feel you must speak, tell the officer that you do not wish to make any statements and that you wish to exercise your right to remain silent. You can simply tell the officer “I’m sorry but I do not wish to answer any questions or make any statements.” It is important to note, that exercising this right does not mean you do not have to follow lawful commands of the officer such as producing your identification, registration, and exiting the vehicle. Failure to follow his commands, could get you in more trouble; however, you can do so silently.
2. You do not have to do Field Sobriety Tests. In Virginia, performing Field Sobriety Tests are voluntary. You do not have to do them and, if you do choose to do them, this evidence will surely be used against you if charged with DWI / DUI. A police officer is under no obligation to tell you that you do not have to do these tests. In fact, the officer will likely try to talk you into performing them. In limited situations, a refusal to do Field Sobriety Tests could be used against you. But the inferences drawn from a refusal to do them far outweighs the evidence that they offer if you do take these tests. In the end, it is in most people’s best interest not to do these tests.
3. You have a right to refuse the Preliminary Breath Test: Under Virginia law, you have the right to refuse to submit to a preliminary breath test (also known as a roadside breath test) (PBT). The officer must tell you that you do not have to take the test and can not be used against you a prosecution for DUI; however, it can be used to prove probable cause to arrest you. In every situation, you should exercise your right not to take the PBT. This test rarely, if ever, helps you avoid arrest. By the time the officer is offering this test, he or she likely knows if they are going to arrest you. All performing this test can do for you is take away you lawyer’s ability to challenge probable cause.
The above three tips will help those of you who find themselves charged with a DUI | DWI in Virginia potentially avoid being convicted. If the officer is asking you questions about drinking or asking you to do Field Sobriety Tests, they already suspect that you are driving under the influence. Don’t think you can talk your way out of it or show them that you are not intoxicated by passing the Field Sobriety Tests. Think long-term and do the best to protect yourself from prosecution. Cooperating with the investigation and not exercising your constitutional and statutory rights only gives the prosecution more evidence to use against you.
Keep in mind that one of the first questions the prosecutor will ask the officer is if you were polite and cooperative with them. Never be rude to the officer or difficult. Be polite and courteous while exercising these rights.
If charged with a DUI | DWI in Arlington, Alexandria, Fairfax, Loudoun, Prince William, or Fauquier, I can help you potentially win your case. A good defense starts with you protecting yourself!