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Have you ever been pulled over by a police officer and had no idea why? That happens to many people; and even if you know you were speeding or ran the stop sign, it’s no fun to see those blue lights in the rearview mirror.

Knowing your rights when dealing with police can keep things from escalating, and it may just keep you out of jail.

It seems there is a new story every day about police officers being investigated for the handling of one arrest or another. There are a lot of questions about dealing with police and what you can and cannot do.

There are three tiers of police-citizen encounters: Consensual approach by law enforcement where the officer comes up to you for no apparent reason and begins asking questions. You should know that you are free to leave at that point. You don’t have to answer their questions, at all. You may remain silent.

However, you may want to give the officer your name and date of birth. This will help clarify that you are not the suspect for whom they are looking.

The other two tiers are detention and investigatory detention. In this case, police may detain you for a short amount of time – usually 30 minutes or less. After that time, they must arrest you, or you are free to leave.

The best legal advice is to ask the officer whether or not you are under arrest. If you are not, you’re free to leave.

There are a lot of questions about what to do if you’re pulled over in a traffic stop. For instance – do you have to take a breathalyzer test?

There are two types of these tests – one that is performed in the field and one that is generally done at the police station. You do not have to take a field sobriety test. If you choose not to take one,  you will not be punished in most states.  However, your refusal may not stop the officer from arresting you if there is additional evidence of alcohol usage. (slurred speech, bloodshot eyes, empty bottles, etc.)

The second test is more powerful and accurate and is usually used at the station. Police will read you an implied consent warning where they will let you know your right to refuse this test, too. However, if you don’t consent, it is possible you will be charged with refusal, and your license may be suspended for a period of time.

There are different types of DUI charges: DUI of alcohol; DUI of drugs; DUI of a combination; and even DUI of prescription drugs. Prescription drugs are treated the same as any other illegal drug, if you do not have a prescription.

If you have legal questions, please consult our Online Legal Directory to find an attorney in your area.

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