How to Handle a DUI Investigation in Rhode Island
Okay, it’s Friday night/Saturday morning and you’re on your way home from a fun night of socializing, but before you arrive, you get stopped by the RI police. You’re afraid your alcohol consumption may have put you at risk for an RI DUI arrest. What do you do?
There are many who say: “Don’t drink and drive in the first place!” And you know what? They’d be right. If you’re one of them, stop reading. This article isn’t for you. However, this article is for those who are human and prone to making mistakes. So, if you’re part of that group, please by all means read on.
The first thing you must do is avoid panic. Being stopped by the RI police carries with it a certain amount of anxiety to begin with, so adding to it will only interfere with your thought process.
When driving in Rhode Island you must always have your motor vehicle license, your car’s registration and proof of insurance ready to produce to a RI police officer if he’s stopped you and asks you to produce them. It’s good practice to keep your insurance and registration in an envelope secured in your glove box. It should always be ready. Also, know where your license is. Many times, I’ve read RI police reports where the officer states the motorist had a hard time producing a license, or produced a credit card instead. Don’t mix and match your drivers’ license and credit cards within your wallet. Stow them separately within your wallet and make your license easily accessible. “Fumbling” with your wallet will be written in the RI police report and used as evidence against you.
When you see the RI police cruiser’s emergency lights, stop safely but immediately. Roll your window down, but only to a degree sufficient to speak with the RI police officer. You need not roll your window down completely and not doing so will send a subtle message that you are not going to consent to ANY searches. Place your hands on your steering wheel so the officer can see them and then listen to what he has to say.
Undoubtedly, he will ask you if you know why you were stopped. I’ve always thought this was a funny question…as if he needs your permission. He knows why he stopped you! All he’s doing is trying to get you to confess to some sort of motor vehicle infraction that will immediately justify the stop. We have an absolute, 100% right not to speak with the police (for more info see my article on the Fifth Amendment). So, if asked do not supply any information. Reply politely and state that you do not wish to answer any questions.
The next question will likely be, “Have you had anything to drink tonight?” Remember your rights. You are not required to speak to the police and since you’ve already asserted your 5th Amendment right I would simply keep my mouth closed. He might get mad. He might appear angry. So what. He’s only angry because you are smart enough to know not to incriminate yourself. Remain polite and remain silent. In the long run, it’s better for you if you supply no information. Also, don’t think for a second that if you’re honest with the police officer that he will let you go. The mere presence of alcohol on your breath will trigger an arrest. Why make it any easier for the RI police officer? Remember – making it easy for the RI police officer means making hard for you. Making it difficult for the RI police officer means making it better for you in the long run.
Next you’ll likely be asked to submit to a series of Standard Field Sobriety Tests (SFSTs). Once again, politely refuse. You are not under ANY obligation to submit to these tests. In reality these tests are designed for one thing – that is to create evidence to be ued against you in court. After reading many, many RI DUI police reports, I can’t think of a single one where the motorist actually passed. Don’t take them!
By this time, you will have been as successful as possible in protecting your rights, but the RI police officer will still want evidence. Actually, he’ll NEED it. So, you’ll most likely be asked to submit to a Preliminary Breath Test (PBT). Refuse it. They are not reliable and more over, refusing it only results in a traffic fine, not a loss of license and certainly not an RI criminal record. However if you do take it, you will most likely cause a license suspension and/or RI criminal record.
Sadly, at this point you will be arrested, placed in handcuffs and taken to the police station. You will be asked to submit to a breathalyzer test, which you may refuse, but know that the refusal will result in a six month loss of license unless your RI criminal defense lawyer can show the court that the RI police officer had no reason to ask you to take it in the first place. Also note that if you refuse, you will also be charged with an RI DUI. That’s a criminal offense so you will have to face charges in both the RI District Court for the RI criminal charge and the RI Traffic Tribunal for the refusal charge.
Be careful. However, if you get arrested, you should call a successful RI Criminal Defense and DUI Lawyer as soon as you can!
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RI Criminal Defense Lawyer James E. Smith’s website and blog are listed below.
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