When the police are investigating a case, they often pay attention to the suspect’s demeanor and attitude. If a suspect is rude, aggressive, or combative, police officers will usually reflect that in their reports. While it is not a crime to be rude or difficult, it certainly does not help your case. A bad attitude could sway a prosecutor when making a plea offer or may be considered by a judge when sentencing a defendant. Also, a suspect if often recorded by a dashboard camera or a hidden camera in the interrogation room at the police station. This may be shown to a jury during trial. We have all heard the saying, “You get more bees with honey.” Even if you disagree with the police officer and are rightfully upset, keep your cool, maintain your composure, and stay polite and respectful.
Say as little as possible.
The 5th Amendment affords a suspect the right to remain silent. Exercise this right. Invoke your 5th Amendment right. When a police officer is performing an investigation, they are trying to gather evidence. Don’t give the police any more evidence than they already have. The investigation is not the time to tell your side of the story. Talking can only hurt you. You may put yourself at the crime scene. You may establish that you had a motive. You may make inconsistent statements and destroy your credibility. You are excited or nervous and may not articulate yourself clearly. You can tell your side of the story later (with the assistance of counsel). Odds are, you will not talk your way out of an arrest. But, you might talk your way into a conviction.
Request an attorney.
If you are being interrogated, requesting an attorney will end the interrogation. Police officers are trained professionals. They are trying to build a case. If they are interrogating you then they are trying to build a case against you. They may act like your buddy or pretend that they can help you. They can’t. They are trying to gather as much incriminating evidence as possible. The prosecutor will decide whether or not to file charges and what type of plea offer to make. Therefore, do not make any “deals” with police officers. These “deals” are not binding on the prosecutors and may not be honored later. Would you try to navigate through a dangerous jungle without a well-trained guide? Don’t try to navigate through the legal system alone. You could get hurt.
Get the names of any witnesses.
Try to get the name, address, telephone number of any witnesses. This could include any witnesses to the alleged crime as well as any witnesses to the way the police officer’s stopped you, arrested you, or questioned you. It is always great to have independent witnesses (who do not have an interest in the outcome of the case).
Gather your own evidence. Take pictures or have someone take pictures of the alleged crime scene, the inside of the vehicle where drugs were found, the exterior of the vehicle that was stopped, etc. Were your headlights really broken? Was your tail-light really out? Was your tag obscured? Have someone take pictures of the vehicle to help prove that you should not have been stopped. Did the alleged victim punch you first? Were you acting in self-defense? Have someone take pictures of your bruises or injuries. Did the police use excessive force? Have someone take pictures of your injuries. Remember, a picture is worth a thousand words.
Do not blow.*
For DUI cases, do not blow. Unless you are absolutely positive that you are going to blow under the legal limit, do not blow. If you blow over a .08 there is a presumption you were impaired. If you blow over a .15 there are enhanced mandatory penalties. The government has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you are impaired. This is more difficult when there are no breath results. If this is your first refusal, you are eligible for a hardship license.
*However, a second refusal is a crime in and of itself. It is a first-degree misdemeanor. Also, if this is your second refusal, your license will be suspended for 18 months and you will not be eligible for a hardship license. Therefore, if this is the second time you are being arrested for DUI and you have previously refused to provide a breath sample, it is better to provide a breath sample.
Should you really do the field sobriety exercises?
The police often do not broadcast the fact that field side sobriety exercises are voluntary. They can’t force you to do them. These exercises involve numerous instructions and are looking for potential “clues” that a suspect is impaired. Are you well balanced? How coordinated are you? If you are confident that you will be able to perform well then you should do the exercises. A good performance can be used to show the jury that you were not impaired. However, if you are not the most coordinated or well-balanced individual, maybe it is not the best idea to try these exercises for the first time during a DUI investigation. Remember, these exercises are typically recorded so that they can be played to a jury. Therefore, even if you refuse to perform the exercises, be polite, respectful, and speak clearly. Remember, you are probably being recorded so be on your best behavior.