If you are pulled over, especially if the traffic stop takes place late at night, you can expect that the police officer conducting the stop will be looking for signs of intoxication from the driver. They observe with their eyes and try to detect the smell of alcohol with their nose, but they’ll also see if you’ll straight up admit to drinking when asked about your actions earlier in the night. You shouldn’t lie, but you also shouldn’t incriminate yourself, so what should you do if a police officer pulls you over and asks if you’ve been drinking tonight? We explain in today’s blog.
“Have You Been Drinking Tonight?”
In almost all traffic stops in which the officer even has the slightest suspicion that the driver could be under the influence, they’ll ask the driver a form of the question “Have you been drinking tonight?” Other times they’ll assume that drinking has occurred and be more forward, saying things like “How many beers have you had tonight,” or “You’ve been drinking, haven’t you?” They are looking for probable cause to arrest you for drinking and driving, and if you admit that you’ve been drinking, you give them evidence to make a case against you.
So if you’re asked if you’ve been drinking, is the best answer to just say no? Not really, because that answer can land you in more trouble if you’re caught in a lie. Some states can tack on additional charges for lying to authorities, so if you’ve been drinking, you don’t want to lie and say you haven’t been. But again, you don’t want to incriminate yourself, so what should you say?
If you are asked if you’ve been drinking during a traffic stop, it’s in your best interest to answer with one of the following phrases:
- “Officer I’ve been advised not to answer any questions.”
- “I’ve been advised not to answer that question until I’ve contacted a lawyer. May I contact them now?”
Neither of these statements will admit guilt or present a lie, which is perfect.
Finally, it’s also not a smart idea to answer that you’ve been drinking, but that you’ve consumed an amount that you believe would put you under the legal limit. For example, most people who want to answer the question but don’t want to incriminate themselves tell police that they’ve had “two beers.” They assume that this will allow them to tell the truth that they have been drinking but also suggest that they are nowhere near the legal limit.
The problem here is that the officer is not looking for you to admit that you’re over the legal limit, they are trying to get probable cause to continue with a DUI traffic stop by getting you to admit that there is alcohol in your system. With the question “Have you been drinking tonight,” they aren’t concerned with how much alcohol is in your system right now, they are interested in whether or not you’ll admit to drinking alcohol. By answering with “two beers,” you’ve now provided them with evidence that you’ve been drinking prior to getting behind the wheel. It’s always best to default to one of the two answers we’ve given above.
If you are facing the fallout of a traffic stop, be it for speeding, DUI or another alleged crime, reach out to Avery and the team at Appelman Law Firm today at (952) 224-2277