Every routine traffic stop is going to be somewhat stressful, but these issues become even more complicated when a driver is pulled over under suspicion of driving under the influence. If convicted, these charges will end up costing a driver tens of thousands of dollars and could impact almost every facet of their life. These are just a few of the reasons that many drivers get confused during these traffic stops and are unsure of their legal rights and responsibilities. This includes submitting to field sobriety tests that are one of the quickest ways for law enforcement officers to make a DUI arrest.
What every driver should realize is that law enforcement officers are actively searching for reasons to give drivers tickets or to make an arrest. They are bound by a wide variety of laws that can make this difficult for them, but these agencies have developed ways to bypass these laws and potentially even get drivers to incriminate themselves. With a traffic stop, the officer must first have a reason to pull the driver over. If they suspect the driver of being intoxicated, they may look for anything from broken brake lights to swerving that will allow them to legally pull the driver over.
Once the driver has been pulled over they have almost no responsibility outside of providing the officer with the required documentation such as their license and proof of insurance. Drivers are not bound by law to answer any questions and they may, in fact, unknowing incriminating themselves during the initial line of questions. Officers will commonly ask where the driver is coming from, how many drinks they had for dinner, what they do for a living, and where they are headed.
In addition to these questions, the law enforcement officer may also ask the driver to carry out field sobriety tests or FSTs. FSTs are used to determine if a driver is intoxicated by their balance, cognitive skills, and memory. The officer may also ask the driver to follow the tip of a pen or their finger for a nystagmus test. When there is alcohol in an individual's system, their eyes will move rapidly when at the furthest point of their vision. The officer may seem like they are commanding the driver to carry out these tests or answer the questions, but this is just another common tactic.
Drivers have no obligation to submit to any field sobriety tests or answer any questions by the officer. Until the driver is officially detained and charged with a DUI, they have the right to refrain from all of this. The officer may say that it will go better for them if they submit to the tests or are honest about drinking, but this is rarely the case. The officer wants probable cause or an admission of guilt so that they can make the arrest and legally require the driver to take a chemical BAC test. If a driver is formally charged and convicted, they could be looking at suspended license, thousands in fines, and even time in jail.
Never submit to a field sobriety test, regardless of what type of situation you're in. Remember, if a police officer wouldn't submit to test, then why should you? If you have been pulled over and suspected of DUI, be polite to the officer and contact our DUI law firm right away for a legal consultation.
Our experienced Washington State DUI attorneys provide DUI defense for individuals arrested for DUI in Seattle, Tacoma, Federal Way, Kent, Redmond, Bremerton, Poulsbo, Lynnwood, Everett, Marysville, Bothell, Sammamish, Renton, Burien, Monroe, Issaquah, Lakewood, Puyallup, Port Orchard, Pierce County, Snohomish County and Thurston County.