A significant portion of the motoring public has consumed alcohol and operated a vehicle at some point in their life. A large percentage does so on a weekly or monthly basis. Restaurants, bars, sporting events and other entertainment venues serve alcohol for one simple reason; the majority of the public drink alcohol. Most people these days don’t walk to their destination but instead drive to and from it. With the days of seemingly ever-lowering “legal limits” it does not take much one to leave a dinner or social event only to find ones-self staring straight into the flashing lights of a police car after having a few drinks. What a person does and says from that point forward can make the difference between a successful defense and a conviction for operating while intoxicated.
Americans enjoy the greatest number of individual rights than any other citizen of any other country. Unfortunately, the majority of the American public does not take the time to learn their rights and certainly do not possess the confidence to effectively exercise those rights when confronted with the intimidating presence of law enforcement.
Knowing your rights before experiencing the unpleasant surprise of being pulled over and investigated for operating while intoxicated, can make the difference on how a person’s case is resolved.
The Lawyers at GRL Law have coined a simple phrase to assist Iowan’s in remembering and exercising their rights. They are the three keys to surviving a drunk driving arrest: 1) Shut up; 2) Wise up; and 3) Lawyer up. They are designed to help remind people of the following rights:
- Right to remain silent. Anytime what you say could potential incriminate you, you have the right not to say or answer those questions. This right is guaranteed by the 5th Amendment to the United States Constitution. It is the first part of the “Miranda” warning that is usually given to someone when they are placed under arrest. “You have the right to remain silent, anything you say can and will be used against you.” The less you say the better. Many convictions have been obtained simply because the person being arrested couldn’t keep their mouth shut. “Shut up.”
- Field Sobriety tests. Field sobriety tests in the State of Iowa are voluntary. There is no law requiring someone to submit to field sobriety tests. Field sobriety tests include the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (checking your eyes); 9 Step Walk and Turn; and One Leg Stand. These “tests” are incredibly subjective and do not adequately take into account medical conditions, environmental factors and other inherent biases that may impact the “test” results. Studies have called into question the scientific validity behind these exercises with one concluding that officers will fail perfectly sober individuals on these tests an astounding 46% of the time. If you don’t have to do them, why voluntarily give the prosecution evidence that they will attempt to use against you. “Wise up.”
- Lawyer. In Iowa you have the legal right to call, consult, AND see a family member, attorney or both, after you have been arrested or “detained” by law enforcement. The police are not required to advise you of this right but if you make a request, they must provide you a reasonable opportunity to contact and consult with an attorney or family member before making a decision regarding whether or not to take or refuse the evidentiary test at the station. Make a clear request and the officer must give you a reasonable opportunity to obtain the consultation you request. More cases are won because a person requests to place a phone call, talk to someone or “lawyers up.” “Lawyer up.”
- Preliminary Breath Test. The hand-held preliminary breath test result is not admissible in any proceeding against the individual submitting to it. It is an inherently unreliable device. However, it can serve as an effective tool to assess the general alcohol concentration that a person is at. Since the result is not admissible in certain circumstances, it may be advisable to submit to a preliminary breath test so long as the officer first agrees to tell you the full 3-digit result.
- Independent Test. You have the right to an independent test conducted by a person or entity of your choice, if you first submit to the chemical testing requested by the officer. Their test must be taken first. You are responsible for paying for these tests and again, you must make an affirmative request for the independent test. If you don’t ask, they won’t tell you about it.