Advice given to those who are stopped for driving under the influence runs across the entire spectrum. You have people saying that you should comply with every request, take all requested tests, and be as cooperative as possible. On the other end, you have those who say you should not answer any questions or engage in any tests until you are legally required to.
This is partially because of differences between each state’s laws. Knowing what to do during a DUI stop in Alabama can mean the difference between dropped charges and a conviction. If you’ve been arrested and you don’t know what to do next, we can help. Call Coumanis & York at 251-990-3083.
The Difference Between Field Sobriety Tests and Post-Arrest Tests
Before you understand why you should not take a breathalyzer test during a traffic stop, you have to know the difference between field tests and post-arrest tests. While on patrol, police officers carry a portable breath test with them to use during stops where they suspect a driver is impaired. These tests lack a slope detector, so it is very easy to get a false positive read. The breathalyzer test used at police departments is much more accurate and reliable.
Here’s another key difference: you can refuse the roadside breath test without penalty. You cannot refuse the breath test they order after an arrest without consequences. Alabama has an implied consent law. This means that you consent to a breath or blood test after an arrest as a condition of receiving a drivers’ license. If you refuse the test after an arrest—also known as an evidential test—you will face license suspension and other possible penalties.
How a Field Breathalyzer Test Can Hurt Your Case
You may wonder what the harm is in taking a breath test. If you haven’t been drinking to excess, a breath test could absolve you, right? That isn’t necessarily the case. Remember, if a police officer stops you, they are looking for the evidence they need to arrest you. They aren’t looking for evidence to exonerate you and send you on your way.
When you submit to an optional breath test, you are handing them the evidence they need to make an arrest! These machines are not always accurate, so you could actually harm the case for your innocence by taking a test.
Without sufficient evidence, the police cannot arrest you for driving under the influence. If you take the test, you give them the evidence they need. If you refuse the optional test, they cannot force you to take one until they arrest you.
This principle is similar to the commonly given piece of advice that you shouldn’t speak to a police officer about a criminal situation without a lawyer present. This is because anything you say or do can be used against you as they build a case against you. Your choice to take a roadside breath test will not help you; the very best possible outcome is that it has a neutral effect, which is not worth the risk.
What to Do During a DUI Traffic Stop
Instead of handing over evidence to the police and weakening your own chance at freedom, follow these tips if you are stopped for driving under the influence.
- Do not take any field sobriety tests. This includes the eye gaze test, the standing on one foot test, and the walking in a straight line test. These are like roadside breath tests. They can only hurt you, not help you.
- Be respectful during the traffic stop. Being confrontational or argumentative with the police is never a good idea. Even if you are completely in the right and you were stopped unfairly, do not get aggressive or start an argument.
- Make sure you have your required documents ready. When you are stopped, get out your driver’s license, insurance, and registration.
- Be ready to call an attorney if you are arrested. DUI charges are serious. Be ready to call an attorney if the need arises.
How Coumanis & York Can Help You After a DUI Arrest
We’re here to help if you or someone you love has been arrested for driving while impaired. Hiring an attorney is the best way to protect your rights throughout this process. Get in touch with us now by calling us at 251-990-3083 or reaching out to us online.