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How to Answer Police Questions About Drinking After a Traffic Stop

“Have you been drinking tonight?”

If the police pull you over on suspicion of driving under the influence (DUI), this is inevitably one of the first questions they will ask you. Like many of the tactics police use, there really is no right way to answer. Don't lie. Don't say anything that may incriminate you. DO call an East Bay DUI lawyer so that you can protect yourself and your rights.

Police Questioning

When the police ask questions during a roadside stop, they have several motives for why they ask those specific questions, and how the questions are worded. The roadside stop is an interview by police to develop incriminating information from the driver or other passengers.

If the police stop a person for a traffic violation, they have the probable cause to issue a ticket for that violation. After stopping the car, if they suspect any other criminal activity, such as operating the car under the influence of drugs or alcohol, they will ask additional questions. Their questioning technique is geared toward evaluating whether the suspect is being deceptive.

Indications of Deception 

Asking seemingly harmless questions, police may be trying to determine whether the driver is being deceptive, or catch the driver with conflicting or inconsistent answers. This is why it may seem like the police are repeating the same or similar questions, including: 

  • Do you know why I pulled you over?
  • Who is with you in the car?
  • Where are you headed?
  • Where are you coming from?

These questions may seem harmless, and most of the time the questions are not threatening. However, be aware that the police are watching what you say, how you say it, and how you are acting. They are gauging your eye contact, nervousness, and speaking pattern, as well as the response to the answers themselves. While nervousness or lack of eye contact are not necessarily signs of deception, they may compare how you answer certain questions versus others to see if a different reaction indicates a guarded response. 

If You Have Not Been Drinking

If you have not been drinking, telling the truth may be the best option. If you have not been drinking, The police could still decide to arrest you for a DUI if they believe they have probable cause from other factors, including the smell of alcohol, or if the driver exhibits impaired driving or behavior. If you have been unfairly arrested for a DUI, make sure to call a local DUI defense attorney to keep your record clear, and your driver's license in your hand.

If You Had One or Two Drinks

If you have had one or two drinks, and then decided to drive, for most people, one or two drinks is not enough to put them over the DUI limit. You may feel you are not impaired, and any reason for getting pulled over was a simple traffic violation and not as the result of intoxication. However, your answer may put you in jeopardy for a DUI.

If you admit to having one or two drinks, the police have a reason to question you further to get extra information to justify arrest. You may decide to tell the truth. However, you do not have to say anything if you think the answer may incriminate you. Politely respond that you do not want to answer any questions until you have had a chance to talk with your lawyer.

If you are arrested after one or two drinks, call a defense lawyer who focuses their practice on DUI defense, and has the training, and courtroom experience to defend your rights. 

If You Had More Than Two Drinks

For most people, having three or more drinks without allowing enough time to sober up will put them over the legal limit to drive. If you've had more than a couple of drinks, and get pulled over, you may get arrested for a DUI. Even if you don't think you were driving impaired, a blood or breath test may show you were over the legal limit.

Admitting to having three or more drinks may be enough information for the police to arrest a driver for drinking and driving. Even if you are impaired, you do not have to answer the question, as your answer may incriminate you. Don't lie to the police, simply reply that you do not want to answer any questions without your lawyer.

If you are arrested for a DUI, make sure you have the phone number for a DUI defense lawyer who specializes in drunk driving cases. 

Do Not Lie to the Police or Highway Patrol

Facing the pressure of a possible DUI, it may seem like you should just say you haven't been drinking and hope it works. If you were drinking alcohol, it is not a good idea to lie to the traffic officer. The police may already have the evidence they are looking for an arrest and lying about drinking will be used against you in court. Technically, lying to the police is considered a crime, with possible jail time, and will only make your experience worse.

Under California Vehicle Code Section 31, it is unlawful to knowingly give false information to a peace officer while in the performance of their duties. Lying to the police or California Highway Patrol is a misdemeanor, with a possible penalty of fines and up to six (6) months in jail. Although, it is not common for the prosecutor to file these kind of charges in Alameda and Contra Costa county as it relates to the number of drinks consumed.  

Experienced Attorney Representation in Alameda and Contra Costa Counties

Whether you are arrested for a DUI in Hayward, Oakland, Berkeley, or Dublin; Walnut Creek, El Cerrito, Danville, or Richmond; or anywhere else in Alameda or Contra Costa counties, Lynn Gorelick understands the possible penalties you may be facing.  She knows the local DUI laws, prosecutors, judges, and officers involved. With over 30 years of DUI experience, Lynn Gorelick understands the law and has the skills required to fight DUI charges.  

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