The police can pull over vehicles if they suspect a driver is committing a crime, such as drunk driving.
It’s relatively rare to get pulled over by the police, so it can come as a surprise when it happens. Drivers may want to prepare for a traffic stop by understanding the following:
Prepare for questions from the police
The police can gather evidence against a driver by simply asking them questions. The police may ask, for example, where the driver was going or coming from, if they know why they are being pulled over or if the driver has been drinking. In effect, the police are hoping that drivers admit to criminal activity.
However, drivers have the right to refuse to answer questions by pleading the Fifth. When a driver pleads the Fifth, they are exercising their constitutional right to refrain from making self-incriminating comments. Even drivers who believe they have not committed any crimes can benefit from pleading the Fifth.
The driver may be asked to do sobriety tests
If the police don’t get any evidence after questioning a driver, they may ask the driver to do sobriety tests. Many police officers start by having drivers do field sobriety tests (FST). There are three kinds of FSTs:
- Horizontal gaze nystagmus test (HGN)
- Walk-and-turn test (WAT)
- One-legged stand test (OLS)
The above tests are considered standardized by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Other kinds of tests, such as spelling the alphabet backward are considered non-standardized.
Alternatively, the police may ask drivers to do chemical sobriety tests. Chemical sobriety tests evaluate the blood alcohol content (BAC) in the body. People may do urine or blood tests, but the most common may be breath tests. Breath tests can be administered during traffic stops.
The police may violate a driver’s rights during a traffic stop. Anyone facing criminal charges may need to learn about their legal rights to understand how they can create a defense.