When dealing with law enforcement, it is always important to know your rights. As a Canadian citizen, you have legal rights in place to protect you during a police encounter, and if you’ve been stopped for suspected driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol (DUI), you may not know what these rights are or how to exercise them. While it is never wise to be deliberately uncooperative or rude with police officers, knowing and utilizing your rights during a traffic stop is crucial to protect you from facing greater legal consequences. In this post, we’re going to answer some of your questions so you can fully understand your rights during a DUI traffic stop.
What if I am stopped by the police while driving?
A police officer can pull over a vehicle any time there is probable cause for a traffic stop. This may be because of a defect in the vehicle, such as a burnt-out headlight, you commit a traffic violation such as speeding, or suspicion of impaired driving. If you’ve been pulled over by the police while driving, you are legally required to provide your driver’s license and vehicle registration if asked to do so. You should always know where these documents are located in advance so you’re not left searching for them in the event of a traffic stop.
Do I have to answer questions?
When pulled over by a police officer, remain as silent as possible and do not admit guilt to anything. A traffic stop can be a huge source of anxiety, and all too often, citizens might blurt out something like, “I’ve only had one beer, officer,” before even being asked. Remember, you may have been pulled over for a minor infraction, such as a broken taillight or another vehicle defect, and giving away information will only give an officer reason to investigate you further. A police officer may ask you questions such as, “Have you been drinking?” You do not need to answer any questions. Remain polite and courteous with your law enforcement officer while answering the question in a neutral manner, such as, “I have no comment”. Anything you say or admit to can later be used against you.
Do I have to take a breathalyzer?
If you are suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol, you may be asked to do a roadside breath test with an approved screening device (ASD) to measure your blood alcohol content. An ASD will register your breath as either a “pass”, “warn”, or “fail,” depending on the percentage of alcohol in your blood. Choosing not to comply with this test or a roadside physical sobriety test can result in fines, suspension of your license, and even criminal charges. If you do fail the ASD, you can be arrested and/or requested to take another breathalyzer test at the police station. At this point, you have the right to call a lawyer before taking this second test.
Can the law enforcement officer search my vehicle?
Under most circumstances, a police officer cannot search your vehicle without a warrant at a DUI traffic stop. They can, however, look into your vehicle from outside or use a flashlight when necessary.
Please note that this blog does not constitute legal advice, nor does it establish a solicitor-client relationship. If you have been charged with impaired driving in Manitoba, going forward, you have the right to a DUI lawyer to provide you with legal representation and guidance.