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Exercise your Fifth Amendment rights if stopped for DUI

You have probably heard of people taking the Fifth Amendment when they have to go to court or testify before one of the federal government committees.

Perhaps invoking the Fifth Amendment is something you never thought you would need to do. However, keep it firmly in mind if law enforcement stops you on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol.

About the Fifth

In the Bill of Rights, the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution creates rights for citizens that apply to both civil and criminal proceedings. What is important to you as a motorist pulled over by the police is the amendment’s protection against self-incrimination. Specifically, the amendment guarantees that no one “shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” If a law enforcement officer stops you, he or she can legally ask that you identify yourself, and you must comply or risk a charge of obstructing the officer’s discharge of duty. However, according to the Fifth Amendment, you do not have to answer any other questions.

How to proceed

An officer will usually follow a stop on suspicion of DUI with requests for testing. First, call your attorney. Next, you can refuse to take a field sobriety test because the results could be incriminating. You can, however, take a preliminary breath test, which is either performed in the police car or at the side of the road, since the results are not usually used in court. You must also take the Datamaster breath test. Refusal is a gross misdemeanor and you could spend up to a year in jail. You would also lose your driving privileges for one year.

Remember your rights

Being stopped on suspicion of DUI can be alarming, especially if it is your first time. This is why it is important to seek legal advice at the outset. Be courteous to the officer, provide your name and address when asked, but remember the Fifth Amendment: You are within your constitutional rights not to answer any other questions.

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