Ask a DUI Lawyer: How Do I Answer Questions from the Police? Has a Bad Situation Upended Your Life? Don't Face it Alone. 

Ask a DUI Lawyer: How Do I Answer Questions from the Police?

I’m here to help people out of difficult situations. But you can help me help you, if you avoid common pitfalls that I see every day.

One of the most frustrating examples is when my DUI clients make a bad situation worse with what I call a “lying admission.” It’s a double whammy. The better play, as usual, is to keep your mouth shut and ask for a DUI Attorney.

I understand where you are coming from. You think that by offering some kind of partial truth you will make the situation better for yourself.

In reality, you are making the situation worse. You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to speak to an attorney, and to have an attorney present during any questioning. Unfortunately, it is such a rare occasion when one of our clients recognizes this. Instead, in a DUI case, it most often plays out like this:

Police Officer: “Have you had anything to drink tonight?”

Suspect: “Well, just a couple of drinks, but it was several hours ago.”

This answer sucks for a number of reasons. First, you just admitted to drinking, which practically speaking, means that the police officer now has probable cause to arrest you, regardless of how the rest of the traffic stop and sobriety tests transpire. You can count on that being in the police report!

Second, usually, the statement you have provided isn’t true either. You had more than a couple drinks. So what did you gain by telling the police officer that you had been drinking, but only a little bit? Cops get agitated when you lie to them. Typically, you’ve had more than a couple of drinks, and at least a few of them were consumed just a few hours ago. So you have both admitted to drinking, and the officer knows that you are lying about how much you have had to drink. This is not an intelligent strategy. You don’t have to be talking to them at all. Every word that is coming out of your mouth is making the situation worse. 

I’m not trying to beat you up. I know what you are thinking: “it’s best to give a semi-honest answer…the cop is likely going to smell the alcohol on my breath. So if I admit to drinking just a little, maybe he will appreciate my candor and let me go.” I can see the logic. But it almost never plays out that way.

On the contrary, the police will say that you made an admission of drinking and driving, and you that you lied about how much you had to drink. Doesn’t seem like such a great response anymore does it? 

Remember, you have the right to remain silent. The best answer to these kinds of questions are: “I apologize officer, I know you are doing your job and I respect that. I would not like to answer any questions without my attorney. Here is my license, registration and proof of insurance for your review. Am I free to leave?”

Is he likely to be pleased with this response? Nope. He may try to engage you in a series of further questions, which you do not have to answer. He may ask you to take a portable breath test, which you do not have to do. Answering questions makes the situation worse. Your job at the moment is not to please to officer, but to minimize the evidence they can gather against you. From the moment you were stopped, you were in a tough spot, no doubt about that…but silence sure beats admitting to drinking and lying to the police officer. That certainly isn’t going to help your case. Just stop talking. Let the cops do their work, and contact your attorney. They are likely still going to arrest you, but you will have left me with a case that is much more defensible than the majority of my cases where my clients talk and talk and talk. You don’t have to do that. It’s really not the time for conversation!

DUI cases are different than most legal situations. You don’t accidentally steal someone’s car, but many people honestly believe they are under the legal limit when they are not. At 0.07% BAC you are an upstanding member of society that enjoyed a drink or two and drove home–fully within your rights as a law abiding citizen. Add one decimal point, perhaps two more sips of beers, and BOOM–you cross the line to 0.08% BAC and now you’re arrested as a criminal under suspicion of committing a misdemeanor or even a felony. It’s a fascinating aspect of DUI law. Whereas most people that commit offenses do them with intent, most people that commit DUIs believe that they are legal to drive, and they have no way of knowing.

The truth is, if you drive with a BAC over the legal limit of 0.08 in California and you are stopped as part of a valid traffic stop, you are going to be in a tough position. You will need a DUI Lawyer to help you, and it is going to be a challenging and perhaps frightening experience. So obviously the best move is don’t drink and drive.

If all else fails, just remember: “I politely decline to answer any questions and I would like to speak with my DUI Lawyer.”

Then call us. We can help.

Categories

Common Questions

  • National Geographic
  • Bar Association of San Francisco
  • Berkeley Law
  • Duke Law
  • Lawyerist
  • Lawyernomics
  • Cision
  • Best of SF Winner
  • The National Trial Lawyers
  • 2020 Northern California Rising Stars Super Lawyer Award
  • 2019 Northern California Rising Stars Super Lawyer Award
  • 2018 Northern California Rising Stars Super Lawyer Award
  • 2017 Northern California Rising Stars Super Lawyer Award
  • Elite Lawyer for 2020

Each Year, We Protect Hundreds of Clients' Futures

Explore Our Practice Areas & See How We Can Help You

More Than 150 5-Star Reviews

See What Our Clients Are Saying About Us
    Best DUI lawyers in Los Angeles.

    “I love Jason. He helped me figure out what to do in a difficult situation. He’s the best with a cherry on top. Seriously, these guys rock.”

    - Staci M.
    The best DUI attorney in San Francisco!

    “Jason has more trial experience than anyone I have ever met and has more experience than anybody in the courthouse and seems to know everyone there. My outcome was incredibly positive! I couldn't ask for a better attorney.”

    - Subhi B.
    Super impressed with Jason's team and wholeheartedly recommend his firm.

    “Very, very easy to work with, and a seamless experience on a routine traffic violation. All electronic, easy communication, and consistent updates during the process.”

    - Mike G.
    Definitely hire Jason.

    “All charges were dropped. And the process was simple. I didn’t have to file paperwork, go to the courthouse, or deal with anything. Jason and his staff managed the whole affair. I’m so grateful!”

    - Rebecca B.
    Best decision I have ever made!

    “Jason helped me with my case in a professional and proficient manner. I will definitely come to Jason in the future for any upcoming issues I may have.”

    - Sara P.
/

What Sets Us Apart?

  • Personal Representation

    You work directly with your attorney every step of the way.

  • Virtual Services

    We utilize technology so you don't need to come into the office and in most cases, court.

  • Connected to the Local Community

    We have built close professional relationships with local judges and district attorneys and are deeply involved in the community.

  • Quick Response

    We get great results, and we get them fast!

Has a Bad Situation Upended Your Life?

Don’t Face it Alone.
/

How Can We Help You?

You can contact us using this form day or night, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. You will hear back from one of our attorneys the same day or next day.
  • Please enter your first name.
  • Please enter your last name.
  • Please enter your phone number.
    This isn't a valid phone number.
  • Please enter your email address.
    This isn't a valid email address.
  • Please make a selection.
  • Please enter a message.