The Fourth of July is fast approaching, and like many major holidays it is one of the busiest days of the year for police conducting DUI traffic stops. This heavy police presence makes sense since the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety analyzed federal crash report data and discovered that the Fourth of July is often the deadliest traffic day of the year. In fact, the report reveals a nearly 40 percent increase in traffic deaths during the Fourth of July over the daily average. Given the seriousness with which police view this holiday, it is important for people to be aware of their rights during a DUI stop. People have two main rights that are pertinent to traffic stops: the right to remain silent and the right not to consent to a search.
The Right to Remain Silent
A person’s right to remain silent allows them to refuse to answer police questions during a traffic stop. This means that when the officer asks if the driver has been drinking or where the driver is coming from, the driver is not under any obligation to answer. However, invoking this right involves practical issues. Refusing to cooperate with the officer is technically allowed, but may make the traffic stop more difficult. Consequently, a driver’s being polite and courteous is key, when exercising these rights.
This right extends to refusing field sobriety tests as well. Police will often request that people perform some sort of physical challenge or coordination test to determine if they are sober. While refusing these tests will likely result in a longer traffic stop, it makes it more difficult for the state to pursue a DUI conviction.
Importantly, the right to remain silent is not the same as the right to lie. While the driver does not need to answer the officer’s questions, the information they do choose to provide must be truthful. Further, the right to remain silent also has an exception. The law requires drivers to produce their driver’s license, a copy of their registration, and proof of insurance upon an officer’s request.
The Right Not to Consent to a Search
In addition to the right to remain silent, drivers also have the right to refuse to give the officer permission to search their vehicle. This is not the same as a right not to have the vehicle searched. The officer may still search the car if they have probable cause to suspect something illegal, but evidence from unconsented searches is harder for the state to use at trial.
This right not to consent to a search also affects whether a person must submit to a Breathalyzer test. People do have the right to refuse such a test, however, Illinois has an “implied consent” law, which means such a refusal could result in a driver’s license suspension. Still, that may be preferable to a DUI conviction.
If you were stopped for a DUI this holiday, seek counsel from an Illinois criminal defense attorney. Our skilled team of lawyers defends clients in many northwest suburban towns like Rolling Meadows, Palatine, and Schaumburg.
About the Author: Founding partner of Drost, Gilbert, Andrew & Apicella, LLC, Colin Gilbert, received his J.D. from Chicago-Kent College of law in 2005. Colin argues cases across many practice areas including criminal defense, collections, civil litigation, real estate law, and corporate law. Colin is an active member of the Board of Governors of the Northwest Suburban Bar Association and the Illinois Creditors Bar Association. He is currently Vice President of the Arlington Heights Chamber of Commerce, and is a Commissioner for the Village of Arlington Heights. Colin has a 10.0 Attorney rating on Avvo, and was named one of the 2014 “Top 40 Under 40” Trial Lawyers in Illinois by the National Trial Lawyers Association.