Don’t Incriminate Yourself in a DWI Investigation. We’ll Explain Why.
Growing up, we are taught in Minnesota and across the country that police officers are authority figures who deserve our respect – and that we should always do what they say. They’re in charge, after all. Right? Not necessarily, especially when it comes to your rights in a DWI investigation.
Certainly the first part of the opening statement is true. Law enforcement officers work hard at protecting the public, and they have indeed earned our esteem and gratitude every single day. But when it comes to a Minnesota DWI arrest, motorists need to understand their rights when an officer starts asking questions or making demands during a traffic stop. In other words, you are in charge of your rights, and it’s your responsibility to make sure you are aware of them. This blog will outline what to do and what not to do if you’re pulled over for driving while impaired.
One of the Most Experienced DWI Law Firms in Minneapolis
If you are cited for a DWI in the Twin Cities or elsewhere, call the Minneapolis DWI law firm Gerald Miller, P.A. Our experienced Minnesota DWI attorneys will fight for your rights and help you understand the entire legal process. We work tirelessly to bring our clients the best outcome to their case possible – and we do it with kindness, compassion, and an understanding of what’s at stake. Give Minneapolis DWI lawyers at Gerald Miller, P.A. a call at 612-440-3867 as soon as possible after your arrest. Your first consultation is free.
Be Polite, But Don’t Say Too Much – Especially if You’ve Been Drinking
The problem with respecting authority is that as motorists during a traffic stop, it’s in our nature to appear helpful. We’re nervous and scared. But providing an officer with a lot of potentially damaging information is only helping him or her find the reasonable suspicion necessary to launch a DWI investigation.
Never, ever answer questions about whether you’ve been drinking. There is no good yes or no answer. If you say you haven’t been drinking, and an officer notes slurred speech, bloodshot eyes, or the smell of booze on your breath, the lie will be included in the officer’s report on your arrest. At the same time, if you admit to drinking – even if you say you had a few beers earlier in the day – the officer will consider it justification to investigate you for driving while impaired. Even if you admit to one drink, it is considered another reason for the officer to expand the scope of the stop and get you out of the vehicle.
What to do? The best answer is no answer. You will never be able to talk your way out of a Minnesota DWI arrest. In other words, you should only provide brief and concise answers that do not volunteer damaging information, such as telling the officer that you are uncomfortable answering his or her questions without an attorney present.
All Minnesota drivers should remember their right to remain silent. Do not offer any information until you have spoken to an attorney who specializes in drunk driving cases like the team at Minneapolis DWI Law Firm Gerald MIller, P.A.
What is a Field Sobriety Test?
If you seem impaired to the officer’s eye, he or she will ask you to step out of the car to perform field sobriety tests. Just like asking you if you’ve been drinking, the only purpose of the field sobriety tests is to give an arresting officer probable cause to arrest you, so again – politely decline. Even if you feel fine, these tests are usually difficult and very technical. It could become a critical factor in the case if the state, at trial, is tasked with proving you are under the influence. Without the field sobriety tests, the state may not have much evidence to put to a jury.
Minnesota’s implied consent law allows means motorists pulled over on suspicion of a DWI can politely refuse to participate in field sobriety tests. They also have the right to ask to speak to a lawyer before agreeing to any tests that may or may not determine if they are over the legal limit to drive.
Field sobriety tests include:
- The horizontal gaze nystagmus, or an involuntary jerking of the eyeball that occurs as the eyes gaze side to side;
- The walk-and-turn, where the motorist is asked to take nine steps touching heel to toe and in a straight line, turn, and repeat those steps back;
- The one-leg stand test, where the person is told to stand on one leg, hold the other leg about six inches off the ground and count beginning with one thousand one for thirty seconds;
- The Preliminary breath test (PBT), the portable hand-held breath test that can be administered on the side of the road.
Now, our discussion of possibly refusing these field sobriety tests is only about those test. Later on in a DWI process, after arrest, you must submit to a formal breath test at the police station, however. Refusing the testing at the jail or police department will result in a test refusal charge. Which depending on your history, could be a very bad choice.
Were the Officer’s Observations Accurate?
The standard observations an officer typically includes in an investigation report is subjective at best. For example, if your eyes are red, how can an officer assume you have been drinking? Perhaps you have been ill, or you have pink eye, allergies, or another condition that might cause irritation. At the same time, an officer can’t prove upon observation alone that alcohol is the cause of your slurred speech. For all he or she knows, you have a medical condition that inhibits your ability to speak clearly. Slurred speech is another reason to keep your answers short.
In Summary: DWI Investigation 101
As a licensed Minnesota driver, you should understand your rights during a DWI investigation whether you’ve ever been pulled over or not. The DWI attorneys at Gerald Miller, P.A, will look at all aspects of the traffic stop, including:
- Whether the officer had reasonable suspicion that a crime was being committed before executing a stop.
- Whether the officer met the standards established by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) when administering the field sobriety tests (if you performed them), including the proper location for the test, proper mandatory demonstration of the FSTs, and application of the objective standard for scoring performance.
- Whether the officer had probable cause to make the traffic stop to check for the use of alcohol or drugs. If you don’t agree to a field sobriety test, the officer might have no evidence other than personal observations, which could be insufficient to establish probable cause.
- Whether the officer complied with strict rules of the Breath Test Advisory. Or in the case of a warrant, did they comply with the procedure necessary there. If an officer makes a mistake during these procedures, it could result in your test result, and possibly the corresponding license revocation or charges, dismissed.
- Whether the officer complied with the recommended 15-minute observation period when administering the evidentiary breath test to detect blood alcohol concentration (BAC). The officer also must ensure that no alcohol is ingested or expelled into the suspect’s mouth through regurgitation, belching, or vomiting.
- Whether the officer read your Miranda rights to counsel during questioning as well as the right against self-incrimination. If he or she didn’t, any incriminating statements might not be admissible during your DWI trial.
No matter the circumstances of your DWI case, we can help. There is always a chance for a positive outcome, and we won’t stop until it is reached.
About Gerald Miller, P.A.
Were you or someone you love arrested for DWI or BWI? The process can be worrisome – or even frightening. There are a lot of unknowns and legal jargon to weave through. You’re not alone. We can help, whether it’s your first DWI or if you’ve been convicted in the past.
If you are facing a conviction, the experienced Minnesota DWI attorneys at Gerald Miller, P.A. will look at your case and determine the best course of action. We will guide you through the process, working toward a positive outcome no matter the circumstances of the arrest. Our firm has a high success rate, and we’ve fought cases all the way to the Minnesota Supreme Court.
Your case is not open-and-shut. You should fight. We look at every aspect of the case, from the time of the arrest the officer’s actions to the accuracy of your Breathalyzer test.
What makes Gerald Miller different from other Minnesota criminal defense lawyers?
The Minneapolis lawyers at Gerald Miller handle all aspects of criminal law across the Twin Cities and statewide, but we have focused on DWIs for nearly 40 years. A DWI affects your driving ability, your finances and your professional reputation. Don’t let one mistake affect your future.
We have earned dozens and dozens of positive Google, Yelp, BBB and Facebook reviews from satisfied clients. We are widely recognized throughout the Twin Cities for our professionalism, compassion, success rate, knowledge, and dedication both in and out of the courtroom. The Minneapolis DWI attorneys at Gerald Miller DWI Law Firm are respected by our peers, colleagues, judges, and prosecutors. We have earned national awards and accolades from the American Bar Association, The National Trial Lawyers, the American Institute of DWI/DUI Attorneys, the National Academy of Criminal Defense Attorneys, the National Academy for DUI Defense, and more.
Gerald Miller, P.A. also has consistently earned the elite “SuperLawyer” distinction by Thomson Reuters.
Legal Counsel is Critical to Success
The sooner you contact us, the sooner we can start protecting your rights. Even if a case cannot be dismissed, your charges may be reduced, which is a positive outcome no matter how you look at it. First-time offenders have a stronger chance to receive lower charges than a repeat offender. Some prosecutors will consider reducing a DWI charge for certain reasons. It helps if you were cooperative at the time of your arrest and if you followed the instructions of the court prior to your hearing, including completing an alcohol assessment and/or DWI classes. And it is our job to put together the comprehensive argument on your behalf to tell the prosecutor who you are and why we are asking for what we are asking for.
Contact us today to schedule your free and confidential case evaluation at 612-440-4610. We are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to give you some answers, a little hope, and plenty of well-deserved peace of mind. We can also be reached on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.