It isn’t unusual for drivers to suppose there is some kind of difference between a traffic stop and a regular police interrogation. After all, on TV, police questioning is so dramatic and takes place in a dark room with one-way glass. There are detectives and even the occasional assistant district attorney present. How could someone unfamiliar with the criminal justice system conclude otherwise?
The truth is any time a police officer is questioning you, they are gathering evidence. That evidence might be used to exonerate you, but more often than not, if you are the one being questioned, you are the focus of the investigation. That means the evidence might end up being used against you. If you are stopped, especially for a serious reason like suspicion of driving under the influence, there are some things you need to keep in mind.
In the state of Illinois, aside from producing your driver’s license and proof of insurance if asked to do so, you are under no legal obligation to answer any question asked by a police officer. This is your right under the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution. It states “[no person] shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself.” This is why the familiar Miranda warning starts with “you have the right to remain silent.”
There are numerous reasons to decline speaking to the police. Not the least of which is the fact nothing you say can help you if the police decide to arrest you for driving under the influence. No criminal defendant has ever avoided arrest because of their articulate rhetorical testimony at the side of the road at 1AM. Even if you present the officer with exculpatory evidence, it can’t help you at trial. Anything you attempt to enter into evidence will be considered hearsay.
Consent to No Search
One detail that drivers often overlook when being pressured to authorize an unconstitutional search of their person or vehicle is the fact that even if the police have probable cause to presume they will find evidence of a crime in your car, they still need a warrant to seize the evidence. If the police had such probable cause, they wouldn’t have to ask you to authorize the search.
This is why you should never authorize a search of your car. The moment you waive your rights under the Fourth Amendment, anything the police seize from inside your vehicle can be used against you. The same principles apply to any search of your person.
In Illinois, if you are arrested for driving under the influence, you can be compelled to take a breath, blood or urine test to determine your blood alcohol content. This is known as an “implied consent” law. Refusal to take the test can result in the suspension of your drivers license for a year or more.
Further, if you are arrested for driving under the influence, you do not have the right to speak to an attorney before the test is administered, and you must take the test as soon as possible. You do, however, have the right to gather your own medical evidence in the form of additional tests after the initial blood alcohol content test.
Every driver will have to make their own decision as to whether they will consent to any medical tests. Under the Constitution, you are under no obligation to consent to any test or any seizure of evidence from your person or property without a warrant, you are under no obligation to testify against yourself and you have the right to counsel before, during and after any questioning by police.
A traffic stop for driving under the influence can be confusing and unsettling, even for sophisticated individuals who believe they have done nothing wrong. The key to properly navigating any situation involving the police is preparation and being fully aware of your rights as a driver and as a citizen.
Perform whatever actions you are required to under the law, but be aware of the fact that anything you say or any search you authorize can produce evidence that may not only be used to convict you of the DUI charge but could lead to further legal entanglements. As always, you should consult with a qualified attorney who specializes in representing DUI cases at your earliest opportunity.
The information on this website is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this site should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship. Learn more about DUI by reading this wikipedia page.