You look in your rearview mirror and see what all of us dread, a police officer is motioning to pull you over. You do what any responsible citizen would do and pull over. The officer runs your plates, and approaches the driver's side window to make contact with you. Because it is late in the evening, the officer wants to rule out that you may have been drinking at a bar, so asks you, "have you been drinking?" If you answer the usual, "a beer or two" you have just opened the door for the officer to perform field sobriety tests on you. At this point, the officer suspects that you may be driving while intoxicated. The officer will probably ask you questions about where you have been, when you last consumed alcohol, and if you feel that the alcohol impaired your driving. Are you going to answer these questions? No. You have the absolute right to invoke your fifth amendment right against self-incrimination. Any admissions made by you about your drinking activity will be used against you in court as an admission.
If you have been arrested for suspicion of driving while intoxicated, you will be taken down to a substation for breath test processing. The officer will ask if you are willing to submit to a breath test. What should you do in this situation? When you obtain your driver's license, you sign a statement that is called "an Implied Consent Form" that allows the State to obtain a sample of your breath if you are arrested for driving while intoxicated in the State of Alaska. You should provide the operator/officer with a breath sample. The failure to do so could result in a separate charge of Refusal, which carries the same penalties of Driving While Intoxicated. In other words, you could get hammered twice. The officer will ask you if you want to take an independent chemical test, and in our state, that would be a blood test. Should you take the test? The answer is no. You should submit to the breath test, but decline to take the blood test. At the end of the breath testing process, the officer will read to you your Miranda warnings. After he does, he will ask you a bunch of questions that are set up to incriminate you in a court of law. You should always invoke your Miranda rights and decline to answer any of the questions the officer asks you. Will it hurt your case by not answering the questions the officer asks you? No. You will not be prejudiced by invoking your 5th Amendment right against self incrimination. Will it hurt your case if you answer the questions any way? Almost always, the answer is yes.
Have you ever driven a car that you knew had a broken headlight or taillight? What about a badly cracked windshield? What if your turn signals don't work? Can a police officer pull you over for an equipment violation? You bet they can. The officer pulls you over for a broken tail light, makes contact with the driver and asks if they have been drinking. In my 17 year career as a DUI defender, I estimate that approximately half of my cases are based not on bad driving, but from a basic equipment violation. If you choose to drive with an equipment violation, you are asking to be stopped by a police officer. Before you drive your car, check it out. Make sure that everything works, and if it doesn't, take the time to get your car fixed. It is much less expensive to make vehicle repairs than pay the penalties associated with a DUI conviction.