If you have had a couple drinks (or more) and you get pulled over by a police offer, consider these tips:
Always have your license, registration, and proof of insurance in a location where you can easily find them. Police officers take notice if you fumble around looking for these items, which can be a sign of impairment.
Be polite and cooperative with the police officer, but remember: You have no obligation to provide any information to the police officer apart from the items mentioned above. It is always better not to answer questions about how many drinks you have had and where you’re coming from than to lie.
If the police officer requests that you get out of your vehicle to do some Field Sobriety Tests, such as reciting the alphabet backwards and walking in a straight line, you may again refuse to do so. Whether or not it’s a good idea to take the tests really depends on the situation. If you are not impaired, full cooperation is the quickest way to be sent on your way. However, if you are impaired, your cooperation provides incriminating evidence, and that could be used against you at trial.
In addition to other types of Field Sobriety Tests, the police officer may request that you take a preliminary breath test, commonly referred to as a “PBT.” Putting breath mints, pennies, etc in your mouth will not help. If the PBT indicates that your blood alcohol content (“BAC”) is above the legal limit, which is .08% in Minnesota and most other states, you will likely be arrested for DWI. This test may also be refused, but you may be arrested for DWI for refusing to take the test if the police officer reasonably believes you are impaired.
If you are arrested for DWI in Minnesota, you have certain rights and obligations, which the police officer is required to tell you about in what is called the Implied Consent Advisory. You have an obligation to take a test to determine your BAC, even if you already took a PBT on the side of the road. You have the right to consult an attorney before you take the test, and the police officer will make a phone book available to you.
If the police officer says he or she wants you to take a breath test, you must take a breath test. If the police officer says he or she wants you to provide a blood sample, he or she must also offer the choice of providing a urine sample, or vice versa. It is never in your best interest to refuse to take the test at this point, and doing so will result in more serious criminal penalties and a longer license revocation. You also have the right to have an independent test done at your own expense.
DWI charges are complicated—they can result in serious jail time, fines, loss of license, and even losing your vehicle, so you should always seek competent legal advice as soon as possible.
Attorney Steven R. Coon