As a prosecutor, on any case, the first thing I always asked the arresting officer was “did the defendant make any statements or answer any questions?” Why? Because that’s the best place to start and easiest way to get admissions of guilt or liability.
Think about it: when someone is pulled over for speeding, and a police officer asks them “How fast do you think you were going?” Any answer over the speed limit is an admission of guilt. Or if you get pulled over and the police officer is suspecting a DUI/OVI and he asks you “where are you coming from?” If you say a bar or a party or any place that serves alcohol, that’s more evidence that the police officer and eventually the prosecutor have to use against you. If they ask you how many beers you have and you say “two beers,” thinking it seems like a low number, the prosecutor is going to use that statement as an admission of alcohol consumption. Everything you say to a police officer in a traffic stop before the police officers arrest you can be used against you by the prosecutors.
So… What should you do if you get pulled over and questioned by the police? Keep your seatbelt on and roll down your window. Be polite and respectful to the police officer, but do not volunteer any more information than what is necessary. The police officer will ask for your driver’s license and watch you take it out of your wallet and your purse. If he or she suspects alcohol or drug use, he will carefully watch to see if you struggle getting to your license or fumble while trying to hand it over. This are all clues that they can use to eventually place you under arrest for OVI/DUI.
Many defense attorneys advise clients to not perform the field sobriety tests. The logic behind this advice is that the more you do the more evidence the prosecutor is going to have against you. However, an experienced criminal defense attorney will also stress the importance of remaining silent.
When I was a prosecutor, I had several OVI cases in which the defendant did not perform any of the field sobriety tests and refused to blow in the breath machine. To a defense attorney, that’s music to their ears. However, what they did not realize until they received a copy of the video, was that their client was a slurred speech chatty Cathy in the back of the police cruiser the entire 20+ minute drive to the police station. Most police cruisers have cameras in them that are pointed at the person in the back seat. They pick up every word, and video your face, eyes, expressions, and movement.
Police are trained to try to get you to talk to them. Even if you do not admit that you were drinking, if you sit in the back of the cruiser and utter nonsense or slur your words or are responding in a way that the prosecutor, judge, or jury can notice that you are impaired you run the risk of getting convicted. If you are nodding off, or laying down, or acting ridiculous in the back of the cruiser, the judge or jury are able to hold that against you. The key is to remain silent when possible. If the police officer tries to get you to talk to him or her, be polite and respectful. Kindly tell the police officer that you do not wish to answer any of their questions until you speak to an attorney.
I also teach at Miami University. When we discuss criminal law, I always tell my students not to argue with police officers. And no matter what attorney you speak to, what book you read, or what class you’ve taken, you are not a constitutional scholar. Do not argue with a police officer about your rights, or try to lecture him or her about the constitution. Do not try to be funny. Do not lie. Politely tell the officer that you do not wish to speak to him or answer any questions. At that point, call Jaime Glinka at Suhre and Associates- 513-333-0014