Some people think that if they cooperate with an officer who is investigating them for drunk driving, the officer will let them go, or, at least go easier on them. I can tell you that this is 100 percent false.
I would like to be clear that when I say “cooperation,” I mean doing what the officer wants you to do. Just because you exercise your rights does not make you uncooperative.
Following the traffic stop, the officer is going to want several things from you if they believe that you have been drinking. The officer is going to want you to answer his or her questions. They’re going to want you to perform field sobriety tests. They’re going to want you to provide a pre-arrest breath sample.
You can and you should always politely decline to do any of these things.
The 5th Amendment to the United States Constitution gives you the right not to say anything. And you shouldn’t even if you don’t think you’re saying anything incriminating.
Field sobriety tests are notoriously unreliable. In fact, I’ve never seen a DUI case where the suspect “passed” the field sobriety tests. This was true even when the person was, in fact, sober. Officers see what they want to see. In other words, the officer will interpret your performance as a “failure” even though you may have actually performed well.
The law only requires that a person provide a chemical test after a lawful arrest. Prior to a lawful arrest however, any breath test that the officer requests of you is optional. These tests are called Preliminary Screening Alcohol tests (PAS test). And again, politely decline the PAS test. Don’t give the officer any more reason to arrest you.
The officer is not going to let you go if you do what he or she wants. The only thing you’re doing by submitting to their request is giving them more reason to arrest you. And, yes, they will arrest you.
The officer is not going to “go easy” on you. It’s not their call. If they arrest you, the case will be sent to the appropriate prosecutor’s office. It is the authority of the prosecutor, and only the prosecutor, to file charges and decide what sentence to offer as a plea deal.
You can exercise your rights while being cooperative. Politely decline to answer any questions. Politely decline to perform any field sobriety tests. Politely decline the PAS test.
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