DWI Stop -- How Do I Respond When Asked If I Have Been Drinking?

NYPD police car with lights on

For just about any motorist seeing the flashing lights in the rearview mirror is not a welcome sight – particularly if you have been drinking. Whether you just had a glass of wine with dinner or slugged down a six pack while watching the game at a buddy's house, an encounter with the police is probably the last thing you want to happen. Nonetheless, if you find yourself face to face with a law enforcement officer and you know you have at least some alcohol in your system and/or on your breath the most important question you likely have at the moment is "How do I respond when asked if I have been drinking?"

This is a tricky question for any attorney to answer. On the one hand, lying to the police is never a good idea and certainly not something your attorney can suggest, much less encourage. On the other hand, you have an absolute right against self-incrimination. To prevent self-incrimination you also have a right to remain silent. In other words, you are not required to tell a law enforcement officer anything that could be used against you in court. Admitting that you are drinking and driving, for example, is self-incriminating. Therefore, you do not have to answer the question. Of course, refusing to answer the question outright will likely make the officer even more suspicious. Make no mistake about it though – as soon as you admit that you consumed any alcohol prior to driving the officer will assume you are driving while intoxicated. A little tact and finesse sometimes works in this situation.

You can try to deflect the question by answering the question with a question. For example, when the officer asks if you have been drinking, you might respond "Officer, can you tell me why you pulled me over?" You have a legitimate right to ask that question and it prevents you from answering the original question without outright refusing to answer it.

You can also simply explain to the officer that you have always been advised never to answer any questions without your attorney present. Though you must provide identifying information to the officer, you can then inform him/her that you decline to answer any further questions.

While neither of these options will necessarily prevent the officer from moving forward with a DWI investigation, you have managed to prevent giving the officer evidence to be used against you down the road.

If you have been charged with DWI in the State of New York, contact an  experienced New York criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.