What Are My Rights If I’m Arrested for a DUI in Illinois?

An encounter with the police can be extremely stressful, especially if it’s your first time dealing with law enforcement regarding a suspected DUI. Fortunately, knowing your rights can take much of the stress out of being pulled over. Not only will you gain peace of mind, but you will be able to improve your chances of avoiding criminal penalties if you know what to say and how to act around the police.

Exercise Your Right to Remain Silent

When the police are restraining your liberty, being silent may be the last thing you feel like doing. You probably feel frustrated. You may want to vent your frustration and convince the police to let you go. However, in these situations, it’s best to remain silent.

The Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees that a person will not be “compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself.” People refer to the Fifth Amendment’s “right to remain silent” because any time you talk to the police, you are essentially testifying against yourself. Every word you utter may be used to prove your guilt because prosecutors are highly skilled in turning the words you say to the police – no matter how innocent – against you. For this reason, you should limit yourself to the following when the police pull you over:

  • Hand over your driver’s license, registration, and insurance information
  • Keep your hands visible and don’t make sudden movements
  • Politely inform the officer that you wish to exercise your Fifth Amendment right to remain silent

The last point is especially important because in 2013 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the authorities may use your silence as evidence of your guilt unless you specifically invoke your Fifth Amendment right to remain silent. Also, the police may react with anger when you try to assert your rights. But don’t let their agitation affect you. You are on the right side of the law.

You Have the Right to be Free from Unreasonable Searches and Seizures

The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution preserves your right to be free from unreasonable searches or seizures of your property or person. In the context of a traffic stop, the rights afforded to you by the Fourth Amendment apply in several ways:

  • The police need reasonable suspicion to pull you over. – The police cannot pull you over on the hunch that you have been drinking and driving. They must have seen you do something illegal, such as driving with your headlights off or running a red light. If they pull you over because they think you’re intoxicated, they must be able to show what led them to this suspicion. Were you swerving, driving too slow, or making erratic maneuvers? These issues will come up once your lawyer begins working on your case. Do not attempt to challenge the police on these issues when you get pulled over – you might incriminate yourself.
  • The police need probable cause to arrest you. – Probable cause means the police have gathered enough evidence to believe that it is more than likely that you are driving drunk. If you don’t talk to the police, don’t perform a field sobriety test, and don’t submit to a roadside breathalyzer, the only way the officer might gain probable cause is if you look, sound, or smell drunk or if your driving was particularly erratic. If the police arrest you for DUI despite following this advice, don’t panic. Rely on an experienced Chicago DUI defense lawyer to advocate for you.
  • The police cannot search your car without probable cause, a warrant, or your consent. – If an officer suspects you of being drunk or high, it’s likely that they will want to search your car for incriminating evidence. You have the right to refuse this search. If the officer sees something in plain sight, such as an open container, a baggie, or drug paraphernalia, they will develop the probable cause necessary to search your vehicle. Your incriminating statements might also give rise to the probable cause needed to search your vehicle. If a drug dog marks your car, the officer will have the right to search your car regardless of your consent. However, the police are not allowed to keep you at the roadside for an unreasonable amount of time while waiting for a K9 unit to arrive at the scene.
  • You have the right to refuse a breathalyzer or chemical test. – You can and should refuse to take a breathalyzer test at the roadside. Once in custody, the police will want to test your breath or urine to determine your blood alcohol content (BAC). You may refuse this test and deny the authorities the evidence they need to prove your guilt, but your driver’s license may get suspended. When you refuse a chemical test, the officer may take you to a medical facility where a medical professional will draw your blood to determine whether you are intoxicated. It’s illegal for an officer to force you to give up a sample of your blood without a warrant unless there is an emergency circumstance.

Request the Assistance of a Lawyer as Soon as Possible

If your rights are violated at any stage of the traffic stop or your arrest, it’s best not to argue or put up a fight. It’s unlikely that you will be able to convince an errant police officer to respect your rights, and in some cases, you might even provoke the officer further. In any case, your words will give the authorities evidence to use against you. Instead, you can and should request the assistance of an attorney once you’re in custody. Once you request a lawyer, the police must stop questioning you.

Your lawyer can assist in the DUI court process by helping you make bail and can start reviewing the evidence the authorities have against you to determine whether your rights were infringed. Protecting your rights isn’t just right from a moral standpoint, it also has practical value. The prosecutor cannot legally use evidence to prove your guilt if it was obtained in violation of your rights.

At O’Meara Law, defending your rights will be our priority when we take on your DUI case. If you want to talk about the specifics of your case with an experienced Chicago DUI attorney, call us today at 312-909-0706 for a free and confidential consultation.