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Top Five Things to Remember if You are Pulled Over on Suspicion of Drunk Driving
1. Don’t answer any questions.
If you are pulled over and the officer suspects you of drunk driving, he or she may start asking you questions regarding where you are coming from, where you are heading, if you’ve had anything to drink that day, etc. You should politely decline to answer any questions. A simple, “I do not wish to discuss my day” should suffice. If the officer continues to ask questions, simply reply that you are asserting your Fifth Amendment right to remain silent. Remember: anything you say to a police officer can and will be used against you later in court if you are charged with a drunk driving offense.
2. Step out of the car if asked.
If the officer asks you to step out of the vehicle, you should do so. Failure to step out if requested could result in a more serious charge being filed against you such as resisting/obstructing a police officer, which is a felony. Simply get out of the vehicle and remain silent.
3. Do not submit to Field Sobriety Tasks (FSTs).
If an officer suspects you of drunk driving, he or she will probably ask you to perform Field Sobriety Tasks (FSTs). These are typically standardized tasks such as following the officer’s pen or finger with your eyes (called the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test), standing on one leg, or walking heel-to-toe in a straight line. Oftentimes, an officer will make it sound like you are required to perform these tasks. Under Michigan law, you have the right to refuse to perform such tasks, and there is no penalty for refusal. However, if you do perform the tasks, they can be used to establish probable cause to arrest you, and your performance on those tasks will be used against you later in court.
4. Do not submit to a Preliminary Breath Test (PBT).
The officer may ask you to submit to a Preliminary Breath Test (PBT). This is typically a handheld device that gives a preliminary measure of your breath alcohol content. An officer usually requests that you submit to this test either on the side of the road or in his or her patrol car. The results of a PBT are usually not admissible in court in Michigan, however, they can be used to establish probable cause to arrest you. In Michigan, if you refuse to submit to a PBT upon request by an officer, it is a civil infraction punishable by a fine only and will not have any impact on your driver’s license. It is important to note that a PBT is different than a “chemical test” such as a Datamaster test or blood test. We explain the difference between a PBT and a chemical test here.
5. Consider whether you should submit to a chemical test or not.
If you are actually placed under arrest for a drunk driving offense, the officer will likely ask you to submit to a “chemical test.” He or she will usually do this by reading, verbatim, a form known in Michigan as a DI-177 form to you that contains your chemical test rights. A chemical test can consist of a breath test (called a Datamaster test in Michigan), a blood test, or a urine test. The officer has the discretion to determine which type of test he or she requests, although it is usually a breath test due to it typically being the easiest type of test to obtain. By accepting a Michigan driver’s license, you are agreeing to consent to a chemical test upon the request of a police officer. If you refuse, you will trigger an “implied consent suspension,” meaning your license will automatically be suspended for one year, and six points will be added to your driving record if it is your first refusal. Note that this is on top of any sanctions you may ultimately face as a result of an alcohol-related driving conviction. If you receive an implied consent suspension, there are steps you can take to try to salvage your driving privileges including requesting a hearing before the Secretary of State and/or applying for a restricted license through the Circuit Court.
If you’re facing a drunk-driving offense in Michigan, contact Triton Legal to see how we can help. The attorneys at Triton Legal have handled hundreds of drunk driving cases all throughout the state of Michigan as well as driver’s license issues that are associated with these types of cases, including restoring driver's licenses that have been revoked due to multiple offenses. Contact us today!