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How To Answer The, “Have You Been Drinking Tonight?” Question

A male driver sits in his car while a police officer stands next to the vehicle, examining the driver's documentsIf you are pulled over by a police officer who suspects you are driving while intoxicated, you will no doubt be a bit nervous. This is intimidating, even if you haven’t touched a drop of alcohol in your life. What is most important to remember is that what happens during the next few moments could have a serious impact on your life.

The officer will ask, “Have you been drinking tonight?”

Depending on how you answer this question, you may face a large variation of outcomes from:

  • Jail time
  • Losing your license
  • Large fines

This is why it is important to understand how to answer this question properly in order to best protect yourself from the consequences of a DUI.

Why Police Officers Ask This Question

While seemingly harmless, officers ask this question to try and get more evidence to confirm their suspicion that you were in fact drinking and driving. They need probable cause to make an arrest, and if you answer them in the affirmative, you give them some evidence that can lead to probable cause along with bloodshot, watery eyes, slurred speech, odor of alcohol – if any of these facts exist. This combined with a breathalyzer test can lead to a DUI.

You can give little to no self-incriminating evidence, and reduce your risk of being arrested by answering properly.

4 Things You Must Do When Pulled Over For Suspected Drunk Driving In California

1. Be Respectful

Be respectful. Officers will not like it if you are rude or make things difficult for them, so the best thing you can do is be respectful. This can go a long way with how the officer chooses to process you after an arrest or detainment.

2. Do Not Lie

Lying to a police officer about your intoxication – or anything else – is a crime. In the State of California, even a great lawyer cannot do much about this in a court of law. If you have been drinking, you are better off not answering, or responding with, “I do not want to incriminate myself by answering this question, sir.”

3. Do Not Indemnify Yourself

Indemnifying yourself means admitting that you have been drinking. While refusing to answer this question and take a breath test is considered to be admittance of guilt in some courts of law, your chances are much higher for being found not guilty of DUI if you do not incriminate yourself. By admitting to drinking and driving you are giving the officer more evidence to use against you in a court of law.

How Should You Answer If You Have Been Drinking And Are Afraid You May Get A DUI?

People often retort with “I’ve consumed two beers” because they think that this type of answer is short, fairly harmless, and falls within the legal parameters so the officer will just let them go. That’s not exactly true. Remember that the goal of the question is to get you to admit that you have consumed alcohol—any amount of alcohol. That is a step in making an arrest.

But if you tell an officer you were not drinking at all, or you only had 2 beers when in reality you had 6 then you lied. Lying is a separate crime the conviction for which could result in $1,000 in fines and up to 6 months in jail. Plus, jurors and prosecutors don’t like lying to cops.

You can politely respond, “I refuse to answer that question until I speak with a lawyer. May I call a lawyer?” This statement is within your 5th Amendment Right.

Why This Is A Better Answer Than Answering With How Much You Have Drank

You should not admit that you have consumed even the smallest amount of alcohol. It is advised that you retort politely with something to the effect of “I have been advised by a law firm not to answer questions” or “I have been advised not to answer that question until I speak with an attorney”.

This means that you have elected not to incriminate yourself. Such a response does not give the police officer any information they can use later to testify against you in court or arrest you now.

What To Expect If You Give This Answer

If you give this answer, chances are the police officer will request that you submit to a breath test. You can do that on the spot, or you can demand a blood test which will likely result in the officer taking you to a police station to be tested and processed. During that time, you can also request an attorney.

If you have been drinking and driving, but believe you can -pass a breathalyzer, it may be best to take the test on the spot. If arrested, a refusal to blow or submit to a blood test in the State of California results in an automatic suspension of your license.

However, if you fear that you are too intoxicated to pass the test, or may be close to the legal limit, it is best that you refuse the breath test and wait for a blood DUI test at the station. This gives more time for the alcohol to leave your system and is also less prone to errors that could lead to a higher reading than you actually have.  You should qualify your submission to the blood test by stating, “I submit to a blood test because I believe it is more accurate and because you told me I am required to submit to a test.”

What To Do If You Have Been Arrested On DUI Charges In California

If you have been arrested for a DUI in the Los Angeles area, you should seek legal representation immediately. The results of a DUI trial can be very harmful to your professional and personal life. Furthermore, a DUI attorney in the Los Angeles area can help you fight your case.

Jon Artz is an expert DUI lawyer in Los Angeles and can help you understand the law, know your rights, and fight your case based on the evidence at hand. Call Jon today at (310) 820-1315  for a professional consultation.

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