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What should I say to the police if they ask if I've been drinking?

During a traffic stop, the police often ask if the driver has been drinking. This can be a tricky question to answer when the driver has had one or two drinks but does not feel impaired. It is also frightening if the driver feels on the edge of having one too many and worried about getting arrested for driving under the influence (DUI).

Admitting to drinking alcohol gives the police officer a reason to think that you may be over the legal limit or impaired because you admitted that you were drinking and are now driving. Saying you have not been drinking could give the police officer reason to believe you are lying if the officer smells alcohol coming from the driver or the car.

You always have the right to say nothing. Even if you think it makes you look guilty, you have the right to remain silent and let your California attorney help you deal with police questioning. If you were arrested by the police for a DUI in the East Baycontact the DUI lawyer Lynn Gorelick today.

What are the police looking for during a California traffic stop?

The police officers are trained in looking for signs of impairment and questioning drivers. It may sound like casual chatting but each statement from an officer can be calculated towards a certain goal. For example, the officer may ask how many drinks a person had instead of asking if the driver was drinking. Or instead of asking if the driver used drugs they will ask when the last time the driver smoked pot.

The police are looking for any information or evidence to give them probable cause to make an arrest or extend the investigation. Statements that can give them evidence of possible impairment may include:

  • Admitting to drinking,
  • Coming from a bar,
  • Coming from an event where drinking or drug use occurs,
  • Conflicting information about what the driver was doing, or
  • Claiming no drinking when the officer smells alcohol.

“I just had one beer…”

If a driver in Dublin is pulled over for rolling through a stop sign, the police ask how much he or she has been drinking. The driver says, “I just had one beer after work before heading home.”

The police officer now has the admission from the driver that he or she had been drinking alcohol and is now driving. The officer may then ask for field sobriety testing or a roadside PAS breath test. Neither of these tests is mandatory unless you are on probation for DUI or under 21 and a driver should consider how an inaccurate test could give the police evidence that the driver may be impaired.

“I had a glass of wine with dinner…”

driver in Fremont says he or she had a glass of wine with dinner. A glass of wine could really mean the driver and some friends ordered a bottle or two of wine. Even if a driver feels ok to drive, they may have had more drinks than they realized and have a blood alcohol content (BAC) over the legal limit. Admitting to a glass of wine at dinner may give the police reason to believe the driver may be impaired.

“I had some drinks but it was a while ago…”

Saying the drinking was awhile ago may not give the police enough confidence to believe the driver is not impaired. Alcohol can take awhile to get absorbed by the body and the effects to be felt. The more alcohol the driver had, the longer it will take before the driver is considered sober again.

Lying Can Lead to an Arrest

Outright lying is generally a bad idea. It is better to say nothing than to lie. If you lie to the police about drinking and they know or suspect you are lying, this may lead them to believe you are not telling the truth about other things, like the amount you've been drinking, when you were drinking, or if you were using drugs.  In some jurisdictions, you can be charged with giving false information to a police officer.  

Your Right to Remain Silent in DUI Questioning

In some cases, it may be the best course of action to remain silent. Refusing to answer a question from the police may seem like you are acting guilty. However, it is your constitutional right to remain silent and refusing to answer these questions is not evidence that you are doing anything wrong. However, you may have to invoke your right to remain silent in order to be protected.

If the police are questioning you and you don't want to answer their questions, you should tell the police that you are invoking your right to remain silent and that you want to talk to your attorney.

It is important to understand that the police may not read you your “Miranda warning” in a DUI case. Miranda rights generally apply to custodial interrogations. In a traffic stop, the police may just be conducting a temporary stop to determine if the driver is impaired and they may not be considered an “interrogation.”

Challenging Your Case in Court

 The time to challenge your case is not on the side of the road or at the police station. Once the police officer has decided he or she has enough probable cause to make an arrest for drunk driving or driving while high in California, there is probably not much you can do to change their mind.

However, you can still fight against a criminal conviction by challenging your case in court. Talk to your East Bay criminal defense attorney about ways to fight a criminal conviction and keep your license to drive. Contact California DUI lawyer Lynn Gorelick today.

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