Drinking and driving is always a bad idea. It’s far safer for you — and others — if you call for a ride when you’ve been drinking. Just the same, it’s also important to know how to handle a traffic stop when the officer involved clearly seems to be questioning whether or not you’re impaired by alcohol or drugs.
Here’s how to handle some of the most common questions you may hear during a traffic stop:
The safest answer is something like, “No, officer, I don’t.” You are under no obligation to read the officer’s mind. Even if you think you have a good idea, it’s better to let the officer tell you. Otherwise, you could be admitting to a traffic error or some other grounds that gives the officer reasonable suspicion to investigate further.
The officer is definitely fishing. If you admit to being at a bar, a barbecue, a restaurant or anywhere else that might have alcohol available, you can be the officer’s next question will be laser-focused around that very issue. The safest answer is to invoke your right to remain silent and ask the officer to focus on the traffic violation. (Remember: You cannot lie to a police officer. You can, however, refuse to answer questions.)
This may not really sound like a request, but you’re under no obligation to submit to roadside sobriety testing — and you probably shouldn’t. Roadside testing, which includes anything from asking you to follow a penlight with your eyes to walking in a straight line with one foot in front of the other, is arguably based on shaky science. It’s hard to get right under the best of circumstances, let alone when you’re stressed. Your best answer is to decline, politely, to participate.
Will any of this necessarily prevent a drunk driving charge? Maybe not — but it will at least force the officer to later justify his or her reasoning for any chemical tests, and that may help you in court.