How to Answer “Have You Been Drinking?” at a Traffic Stop
After a fun night out with friends, one of the worst things that can happen is catching the attention of a local cop on your drive home. Law enforcement officers in Orange County are trained to spot drivers who may be under the influence and get them off the roads. DUI is a serious crime for which police officers arrest dozens of drivers daily. Unfortunately, an officer may ask you questions that can hurt your case if he or she targets you for an investigation.
One of the first things a cop might ask a driver he or she suspects is impaired is “Have you been drinking tonight?” Often, the way you answer this question affects the outcome of the traffic stop. Most people might instinctively deny drinking despite having had a few drinks moments earlier. Although it’s human nature to protect yourself, it’s important to know that — just like driving while impaired — lying to a police officer is against the law. If you ever face this question, there are law-abiding options for responding to it that can protect you from self-incrimination.
The Reasoning Behind the “Have You Been Drinking?” Question
The reason police officers tend to ask drivers they suspect of DUI this question is simple: getting an affirmative answer reinforces the officer’s suspicion. A police officer in Orlando requires probable cause before he may arrest a driver for driving under the influence; so, a driver who responds with “yes” to “Have you been drinking?” at the time of the stop invites the officer to dig deeper.
All it takes for a police officer to obtain probable cause is to witness an event that can indicate drunk driving. Cops usually rely upon their observations of erratic driving patterns to establish probable cause for a stop. They may also note a driver’s physical condition once he or she has pulled over to the side of the road. A driver whose speech is slurred or who smells of alcohol provides further cause for investigation. An affirmative answer to “Have you been drinking?” confirms the officer’s suspicion that a driver may be under the influence of alcohol, making it more difficult to challenge the traffic stop in court.
The goal of “Have you been drinking?” is to get the driver to admit to imbibing before a DUI arrest. It’s crucial to avoid giving too much information while also being truthful.
Tips for Answering “Have You Been Drinking?”
Respect the Officer
It’s important to be respectful of police officers who are just doing their jobs. Being rude or difficult might be interpreted as further proof of your impairment, which can hurt your case down the line. On the other hand, making the officer’s job easier may lead him or her to reciprocate and make your arrest or detainment a little easier on you.
Do Not Lie to the Officer
If you deny that you’ve been drinking and fail the breathalyzer test moments later, you will hurt your case. Giving law enforcement officers false information is a criminal offense which will add to the charges against you if you are arrested for DUI. You may choose to remain silent when facing the question, or you may respond with “ I am not going to answer your question”.
Do Not Admit to Any Wrongdoing
Never admit to any wrongdoing when giving law enforcement officers information. Even admitting to having had one or two drinks can hurt your case; while few people can become impaired after one or two drinks, admitting to having had any amount of alcohol gives the officer all the more reason to conduct a sobriety test and make an arrest.
It is within your constitutional rights to ask to speak with a DUI lawyer before giving a police officer information that can hurt your case. Keep in mind that responding to “Have you been drinking tonight?” with “I wish to remain silent and speak with a lawyer. May I call a lawyer?” will prompt the officer to issue a sobriety test, one of which will likely be a breath test. The decision is ultimately yours whether to refuse to take the breath test; however, it can hurt your case to refuse. Remember, refusing a breath test violates Florida’s implied consent laws.
Trust Orlando DUI Lawyers to Defend You
If you do consent to the breathalyzer, attorneys with the Umansky Law Firm are experienced DUI lawyers with years of experience challenging the results of these tests. There are several DUI defense strategies available. By discussing your unique case with one of our attorneys, we can deliver the strongest defense possible.
Attorneys with the Umansky Law Firm have more than 100 years of experience and are highly-qualified to take your case. William D. Umansky is a member of the Florida Justice Association and serves as Executive Council to the Orange County Bar Association. We are also members of the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the Central Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. Allow us to review your case by calling at any time of day or night or completing our contact form for a free case review.