If you’re driving along and see a police officer’s patrol car behind you on a New Jersey roadway with its lights flashing, it typically means that the officer is attempting a traffic stop and wants you to pull over. Especially if it’s the first time something like this has ever happened to you, you might feel a bit nervous or afraid, which is understandable.
If the officer asks you to step out of your vehicle, he or she might suspect you of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Unless you have a specific background in criminal law, you might not know what a police officer can or cannot do during a DWI stop. It’s important to pay close attention to everything that happens because it might be relevant later on, especially if you wind up facing charges in court.
Police may ask you certain questions during a DWI stop
When a police officer approaches your driver’s side window, he or she may request to see your driver’s license, as well as your vehicle registration card and proof of auto insurance. This is perfectly acceptable police behavior. However, a police officer may not demand any information beyond basic questions, such as your name or place of residence.
You are not obligated to answer other questions. For instance, if the officer asks if you know why he or she pulled you over, you do not have to answer. If he or she asks if you have had any alcohol to drink in the past few hours, you do not have to answer. As mentioned earlier, the officer may ask you to step out of your vehicle.
Can police make your passengers get out of your vehicle, too?
If a police officer pulls you over and instructs you to exit your vehicle, you’re obligated to comply. However, unless the officer believes there’s an immediate safety risk, he or she may not instruct passengers in your car to step out. They are to remain inside the vehicle.
If you refuse to take a preliminary alcohol screening, can police arrest you?
A police officer must have a specific reason for pulling you over in a traffic stop, such as a traffic offense or suspected DWI. To arrest you for suspected drunk driving, the officer must establish probable cause. It’s common for police to ask drivers to take a field sobriety test or breath test to determine if probable cause exists to make a DWI arrest.
If you refuse to take the tests, a police officer cannot arrest you as a form of punishment. It is your choice whether or not to comply with a request to take a sobriety test. There is no law in New Jersey that obligates you to take a field sobriety test.
If a police officer takes you into custody
An arrest for suspected DWI in New Jersey has immediate, as well as potentially far-reaching, implications, especially if you face charges and are convicted of the crime. If a police officer takes you into custody, however, he or she cannot force you to answer questions under interrogation. You may invoke your rights protected under the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution to remain silent without the presence of legal representation.
If you believe a personal rights violation has occurred leading up to, during or following a DWI arrest, you may have grounds for requesting a dismissal of the case or challenging the evidence. The more you know about your rights ahead of time, the better able to defend them you will be. It’s wise to seek additional support if you do not feel equipped to handle your defense on your own.