The police have the right and duty to stop cars that are suspected of committing crimes or were going to commit crimes. One such crime is drunk driving. An officer may have reasonable suspicion that a driver is drunk if the officer witnesses the driver run a red light or swerve between lanes, for example.
Very few people know what happens the first time they’re stopped by the police. Here’s what you should expect:
Present your driver’s license, registration and proof of insurance
The first thing an officer should do is collect your driver’s license, registration and insurance information. This does two things: first, the officer can make sure the vehicle isn’t stolen and, second, the officer can do a background check on the driver for any history of criminal actions.
Questions and your Fifth Amendment rights
Most officers will ask drivers a few questions, especially if there’s suspicion that the driver is drunk. For example, the officer may ask where the driver has been or where they’re going or if they’ve been drinking.
Under the Fifth Amendment, you have the right to remain silent and not say anything that would incriminate yourself. You may still need to comply with police requests for your identifying information and documents, but you don’t have to answer any questions about what you’ve been doing or where you are going.
Standardized field sobriety test and chemical tests
For further evidence that a driver is drunk, the police may ask the driver to do a standardized field sobriety test or chemical test. A field sobriety test is a physical examination and can help the police make further judgments about someone’s sobriety levels. For a more accurate judgment, the officer may have a driver do a chemical breath test to evaluate their blood alcohol content.
Understand your legal rights
Just as an officer has the right to pull over vehicles, you also have rights that should be respected. If you believe your rights were violated during a traffic stop, then you may need to learn what legal steps you should take next.