One of the most intimidating sights for a driver is that of flashing lights in your rearview mirror. Your mind may begin racing, wondering what you may have done wrong. Did you come to a complete stop at that traffic light? Were you driving over the speed limit? As the officer collects your driver's license, vehicle registration and proof of insurance, he or she is also trying to determine if you are impaired behind the wheel.
The conversation that takes place during a traffic stop, gives Ontario police a chance look for clues that a driver has been drinking. Is there alcohol on your breath? Are you slurring your words? Do you seem confused? Are your eyes bloodshot or glassy? Any of these signs or others may be enough for the officer to ask you to step out of the vehicle. It is important that you understand your rights in this situation.
Can you refuse roadside commands?
In order to have sufficient cause to place you under arrest for drinking and driving, officers may order you to submit to one or several roadside sobriety tests. You may not refuse this command, and doing so can place you at risk of further criminal charges. You also may not have a lawyer present for any roadside tests, so it is wise to remain alert so that when you speak with your lawyer, you can inform him or her of what transpired.
The roadside tests usually include one or more of the following:
- Testing your balance, such as telling you to stand on one leg
- Observing your coordination, such as making you walk a straight line
- Noting physical reactions to alcohol in your system, such as an exaggerated jerking movement in your eyes
- Measuring the level of alcohol in your blood with a preliminary breath test
If your blood alcohol concentration is higher than the legal limit, police may confiscate your driver's license, and authorities will suspend your driving privileges for up to 90 days. You will be taken to the police station, and you will then have the right to contact a lawyer.
Protecting your rights
Once you arrive at the police station, legal advocates recommend that you inform officers that you intend to remain silent until your lawyer arrives. Police officers will want you to undergo a second breath test with more advanced equipment, but you have the right to postpone that test until you have spoken with your lawyer.
Exercising your rights at this time is critical. You must inform the police that you want legal counsel or ask them to contact your lawyer for you. Officers must provide you with a private place to meet with your lawyer to discuss your legal options before they proceed with more tests or questions.