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What are your rights during a DWI traffic stop?

On Behalf of | Apr 1, 2024 | DWI Defense |

You still have certain rights if an officer pulls you over and accuses you of driving under the influence or driving while intoxicated in New Jersey. These rights can protect you from unnecessary trouble and ensure a fair process.

On the other hand, failure to understand what you must do and what you can refuse might complicate your case. Therefore, it is a good idea to know the extent of your rights in such situations.

The right to remain silent

Just because an officer pulls you over does not mean you forfeit your right to remain silent. You must identify yourself and provide a license to show that you have permission to operate a vehicle. However, you do not have to answer any questions from the police beyond this.

Staying silent can prevent you from accidentally saying something the prosecution could use against you. While staying silent might feel uncomfortable, it can be a sound strategy for protecting yourself.

The right to refuse field sobriety tests

Field sobriety tests are one way officers try to identify impaired drivers, but they are not foolproof or mandatory. These include the walk-and-turn test, balance tests, the one-leg stand test and the finger-to-nose test.

You can choose not to take these tests without facing immediate consequences. Still, you should handle the situation respectfully and calmly when refusing FSTs.

Bear in mind that the rules are different for alcohol breath tests and chemical tests. Drivers have implied consent in New Jersey. If you refuse, the officer can impose penalties, and you could lose your license for a time. Still, it might be worth addressing later in court if you have reason to suspect the result will be inaccurate or unfair.

The right to freedom from unreasonable search and seizure

The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution protects your right to freedom from unreasonable search and seizure. This means that the police cannot search your vehicle or seize any property without a valid reason or a warrant. During a DWI stop, the police must have a reasonable suspicion of illegal activity before searching.

While you have these rights, cooperation where possible with law enforcement is also beneficial. Being polite and following lawful commands can help de-escalate the situation and ensure a smoother process. However, knowing your rights gives you the power to protect yourself.