Protecting Your Rights During A Traffic Stop

If your car is pulled over by a law enforcement officer after drinking, you need to understand your legal rights. This knowledge allows you to protect your case's integrity before you even secure the services of an attorney. Without knowing your legal rights, you are more likely to make mistakes that can be used against you to secure a DUI conviction.

If you are charged with DUI, do not leave your future to chance. Call Gullberg, Box, Worby & Rogers LLC, at 309-760-4022 for experienced defense. We have offices in Peoria and Monmouth, Illinois, and Bettendorf, Iowa.

How Your Conduct Impacts A Traffic Stop

Your conduct during a DUI traffic stop can either aid or impede a lawyer's ability to achieve a favorable case result. Without knowing their rights, people often say and do things which are used to convict them.

During a traffic stop and before arrest, law enforcement officers are not required to state your Miranda rights, including the right to remain silent. You have these rights, but the officer does not need to remind you of them. Instead, the officer will ask you questions which, if answered, can damage your case. Before arrest, the officer makes a record of your statements, field sobriety test performance and conduct to find "probable cause" to arrest you for DUI. Later, the prosecutor will have this information to convict you of DUI.

Differentiating A Traffic Stop And Arrest

In order to know your rights, you need to understand the difference between a "traffic stop" and an "arrest." A traffic stop is a brief, public detention. During an arrest, you do not have the right to leave. Whether you were detained or arrested is based on the circumstances of each particular case. An arrest may include questioning in the squad car, police station or being informed by the officer that you are not free to leave. Once you are arrested, the police must warn you of your Miranda rights.

Much of the key incriminating evidence in a DUI case happens during the traffic stop. Since officers will most likely not advise drivers of their rights at the traffic stop, drivers need to take the initiative to learn their rights ahead of time.

Do Not Incriminate Yourself

If the officer believes you may have been drinking, they will try to collect information to support a DUI arrest. This information may include:

  • Answers you provide to the officer's questions
  • Odor of alcohol on your breath or in your vehicle
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Erratic driving
  • Confusion in finding your registration, insurance and driver's license
  • Fumbling for documents
  • Slurred speech
  • Performance during field sobriety tests

After witnessing these factors, if the officer forms a reasonable belief that you may be impaired in driving from the consumption of alcohol, this constitutes "probable cause" to arrest you for DUI.

Addressing An Officer's Questions

An officer will often ask the driver if they have been drinking. Many people answer "only a couple." Truthful or not, this answer constitutes an admission to drinking alcohol and adds probable cause for a DUI arrest.

Drivers have a fundamental right to remain silent and to not incriminate themselves. They must provide their name, driver's license, vehicle registration and proof of insurance, but they may decline to provide further information. Instead of answering the officer's questions, you may say: "I'm not answering that question" or "I choose not to respond to that question."

Tip: Use a distinctive folder to compile your registration and insurance information. Place the folder in an easy to find location in your vehicle. If you do not have your information organized, the officer will note nervous fumbling for these items as evidence of intoxication, even though many people do this when they are completely sober.

Contact Our Experienced Legal Team

If you face DUI charges, call our offices at 309-760-4022 to schedule your free case consultation. You may also contact us online. Our experienced lawyers will carefully evaluate your case and provide strategic counsel to prevent a conviction or lessen your penalties.