Michigan DUI lawyer Paul J. Tafelski understands how terrifying it can be to be stopped on the suspicion of driving under the influence, or DUI, in Michigan. Even if you do not think you were driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, the process can be intimidating. Understanding what your rights are when you are stopped will not only make you more comfortable and secure during the stop, but could also go a long way toward assisting your defense if you are ultimately charged with DUI.
Your Right to Remain Silent
We have all heard about the right to remain silent. Although you do have a constitutional right to remain silent, you should use that right with discretion. If a law enforcement officer stops you, it is usually in your best interest to give the officer basic identifying information such as your name and address. You may also be asked to provide identification such as your driver’s license. Although providing basic information to the officer is typically the best course of action, there is no legal requirement that calls for you to respond to additional questions. On the contrary, you have a constitutional right to decline to answer questions, particularly if the answers may incriminate you. Offering any information that leads to the conclusion that you have been drinking alcohol is not in your best interest. For example, if asked whether you have been drinking, you may politely decline to answer. The same goes for any other questions that you do not wish to answer, such as where you were coming from or where you were headed.
Your Rights Regarding Roadside Testing
Typically, when a law enforcement officer stops you and suspects that you have been driving under the influence, you will be asked to submit to a preliminary breath test (PBT). You may also be asked to perform standard field sobriety tests that are designed to gauge whether you are intoxicated. You have the right to refuse either or both. If you refuse the PBT, you may be charged with a civil infraction and fined up to $150. If you are under the age of 21, you will likely be charged with the civil infraction and two points will be added to your driving record. Declining to submit to the field sobriety tests is fully within your rights and will not lead to additional charges, fines or points. While you have the right to refuse both the PBT and the field sobriety tests, you should do so in a calm and respectful manner.
Named after the case that made them mandatory, your Miranda warnings are what most people hear police officers on television reading to people they arrest. Your Miranda warnings include things such as your right to remain silent, a warning that anything you say can be used against you, your right to have a lawyer present, your right to request a lawyer at any point in the investigation and your right to stop questioning at any time. These warnings are required only once the law enforcement officer has decided to arrest you. This means that during the preliminary stage of the investigation the warnings are not required. In addition, if an officer fails to provide you with your Miranda rights, that will impact your case only if you were questioned while in custody and you made incriminating statements as a result of the questioning.
Your Right to Know Your Charges
You have a right to be told what you are being charged with at the time the officer places you under arrest. The officer should tell you the charges at the time you are read your Miranda rights. You also have a right to a copy of the charges filed against you. The charging information may be provided when you arrive at the jail, upon your release, or at your first court date.
Your Rights Relating to a Search
The police have a right to search you and the immediate area under your control when you are actually arrested. If you were driving a vehicle when the arrest took place, the police can also conduct a basic search of the vehicle without first obtaining a warrant. Your vehicle may also be impounded if you are arrested, and the police may conduct what is called an “inventory search.” Items of value must be listed and returned to you when the car is released back to you. A more thorough search of your vehicle may be conducted only when the police believe they have reasonable grounds to believe contraband will be found in the vehicle. The police officer may ask you to sign a consent-to-search form for your vehicle. Do not sign this. You have a right to refuse to give consent to any search.
Your Right to Have an Attorney Present
This may be your most important right of all. You have the right to consult with an attorney before answering any questions or cooperating with an investigation. If you do decide to answer questions or cooperate, you have the right to have your attorney present at all times during the questioning and at all phases of the investigation. If you initially decline to seek the advice of an attorney and agree to answer questions, but later change your mind, you have the right to stop answering questions and ask for an attorney. Once you ask for an attorney, regardless of when that happens, questioning must stop.