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Can Silence or Refusal Be Used Against You?


When you are pulled over on suspicion of driving while under the influence, the law enforcement officer performing the stop will likely ask you several questions that may seem casual or cordial, but they are actually to serve a purpose: from the moment an officer starts watching you to determine whether or not to pull you over, they are trying to look for evidence that you may be driving while intoxicated. When they start asking you questions, they’re looking for things that might further confirm their suspicion. But are you allowed to refuse to answer these questions? What if the officer asks you to take a field sobriety test or a breathalyzer exam? Can you refuse those too? Let’s take a closer look.

Remaining Silent

Let’s get one thing straight right from the get-go: you probably aren’t going to be able to talk your way out of a DUI, but you can definitely talk your way in to one. The more drawn out a conversation you have with an officer, the more likely they’ll be able to determine your level of intoxication. If you’re not drunk, obviously this doesn’t matter. However, if you have had a drink or two that night, it might be in your best interests to keep your answers as short and simple as possible. You are permitted and have the right to refuse to answer and avoid incriminating yourself.

Refusing a Field Sobriety Test

It’s important to note that before you are placed under arrest, law enforcement have no right to search you or your vehicle without first obtaining your permission. If you give them permission and have an open bottle of alcohol in the passenger cabin of the vehicle, then you most likely will be placed under arrest, so obviously this is not in your best interests.

The same principal can be applied to field sobriety tests. These tests are usually conducted by officers to try to determine if you are intoxicated on some level that would prohibit you from driving, therefore justifying their placing you under arrest. It’s important to remember you can refuse these tests as well as they are not searches, so you are not legally required to submit to them.

But can any of these refusals be used as evidence against you? The answer is no. If an officer were still to arrest you and charge you with driving under the influence after having no recourse to make the arrest in the first place, your arrest could be considered unlawful, which then means any evidence against you obtained through searches (aka a breathalyzer test or a search of your vehicle) can be quickly suppressed and thrown out.

Silence or refusal to consent can never be used against you in a court of law: it’s your Constitutional right as an American citizen. However, refusal to submit to a blood or breath test after your arrest can lead to serious consequences due to California’s implied consent statute. If you are arrested, you’re better off submitting, and then contacting an Encino DUI lawyer for assistance in determining whether your arrest was lawful in the first place.

Contact the Law Offices of Scott R. Spindel today at (888) 973-0209 and let us review your options with you, starting with a free 30-minute case evaluation.

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