If you have my card or one of my koozies, you have heard about My 4 Simple Rules if Stopped by the Police. The four simple rules come with a disclaimer that tells you to go to my website for more specific information. The reason, of course, is that nothing is ever simple when it comes to dealing with police traffic stops. Here I’ll explain the reasons behind the rules.
Rule 1: Never admit to drinking (or anything else).
The first thought you should always have when encountering a police stop is, “The police officer is an agent of the government; he has the ability to cause my loss of freedom and loss of drivers license.” When a police officer stops you, they so because they believe you have violated a traffic offense. From the very start, their minds are focused on gathering evidence which they can use against you to convict you of whatever crime they believe you committed. Your focus from the start should be NOT to provide the officer with evidence that you do NOT legally have to provide!
What do you have to provide if stopped by the police? You have to provide your license, registration, and insurance. You have to exit the car if asked to do so. Other than that, you do not have to admit drinking or having illegal substances in your car, nor do you have to say or do anything which might be used as evidence against you. So the rule really is—if asked by the cop whether you have had anything to drink, do not admit or deny, just simply refuse to answer that question.
While it is not against the law in Georgia to drink alcohol then drive, the reality of today’s DUI world is that if the officer smells alcohol on your breath he or she is going to begin an investigation to see whether your driving ability is impaired by the alcohol. The first question they ask if whether you have been drinking.
If you answer no, then they will probably continue to question you until you admit to drinking, or they will ask you to blow into a portable breath test at the scene, and therein lies the real dilemma in denying drinking. If you deny drinking then you really need to continue to refuse to do anything else in the officer’s investigation which would prove you had been drinking—you don’t take ANY field tests, you don’t take the portable breath test at the scene, and you don’t take any state chemical tests if the officer decides to arrest you. Once the officer smells alcohol on your breath, he will begin to note physical signs of impairment (whether your eyes are bloodshot, speech slurred, walk unsteady).
If you deny drinking anything, then go ahead and try to do the field tests (especially the portable breath test at the scene) and the state test, which then does show that you had consumed alcohol, you seem like a liar, which judges and jurors also do not like.
If you admit drinking, then he or she should ask you what you were drinking, how much, and when. By admitting to drinking 4 or 5 beers, you have helped the officer tremendously in proving you guilty of DUI. In my experience, when a judge or jury hears that you have had more than 3 drinks, the chances of you being found guilty of DUI increase, regardless of any other evidence that would tend to prove you were not impaired.
So even though the simple rule is to not admit drinking, a more detailed rule might be this: If you have truly only had 2 or 3 drinks over an hour or two period, you could admit to drinking a couple, over two hours. Then you would still refuse all field tests. The officer would then have to make a decision on whether to arrest you for DUI based only on your driving and your physical appearance. If he arrested you and requested a state test, you would take the state test first, THEN request an independent blood test and breath test. That way, the tests would more than likely confirm the fact that you did really only have 2 or 3 drinks.
The key, of course, is that you must remain focused on not providing evidence which would tend to prove your guilt of DUI. If you are going to do the field test and take the breath test, then you are better off admitting to at least drinking 2 or 3 drinks. If you can remain steadfast and exercise your rights to refuse to give him evidence against you, then you should remain silent and refuse to answer any questions about drinking.