A traffic stop may be the first contact you will have with New Jersey law enforcement officials in connection with a potential arrest for suspected drunk driving. Many people are under the impression that they must comply with the officer’s instructions and answer any questions, but that might not be the case. Understanding your rights if you are pulled over might help later on if you are charged with DWI or DWAI.
After putting on your turn signal and carefully pulling off the roadway, remain in your vehicle and put your hands on the steering wheel where they are visible. Wait for the officer to approach before making any movements. This is for the safety of both you and the officer. Many people attempt to get out of their vehicles before being instructed to do so, and this could cause more harm than good — do not do it.
You are not required to answer any questions posed to you by the officer. You may politely assert your Fifth Amendment right not to answer. Many New Jersey residents believe that if they can “just explain” the situation to the officer, it will be all right, but that is often not the case. You are not required to participate in field sobriety tests (touching toes, saying the alphabet backwards, etc.), but refusing to take a breath test could mean an automatic seven month suspension of your license even if it is later determined that you were not legally intoxicated; depending on the specific circumstances, it may be in your best interests just to agree to it.
If you are placed under arrest on suspicion of DWI or DWAI, be sure to remain calm and polite. As soon as you are able, contact an attorney to ensure that your rights are protected. Being pulled over is understandably an unnerving and stressful experience, especially if there is a possibility that you are intoxicated. Knowing how to handle the situation can help reduce your anxiety and may pave the way toward achieving a favorable result.