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Rights when being pulled over, Refuse a breathalyzer?
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Rights when being pulled over, Refuse a breathalyzer?

One of my professors was speaking off topic in one of our lessons and he asked us if we knew our rights when being pulled over. He said his son was a lawyer and that's how he knew. He said if your ever pulled over you only need to pull down your window a tiny bit for your own safety. He also said that if you are asked to get out of your car, you can say no, and also if they ask to search your car and to take a breathalyzer you can refuse? I've never been pulled over, so are these things true. If not, what are your rights when you get pulled over? He may just hate his students and wants to see them arrested. This is on Ohio.


Andy G {Join The Resistance}
Your professor may have told you conflicting information from his lawyer son. Your professor is not wrong, but there are a few discrepancies with his statement.

1. You can roll down your window a tiny bit, and you can explain to the officer that it is for your own safety. However, an officer does have the right and the authority to ask you to get out of the vehicle. Failure to do so can result in obstruction or failure to follow the orders of a peace officer.

2. Once an officer has probable cause, they are allowed to search your vehicle and detain you while they are searching your person and your vehicle.

3. Most states have laws that if a driver refuses a breathalyzer their license is automatically suspended for over 30 days, this is "implied consent law". But the reason you are being told to refuse a breathalyzer is because a defense attorney can argue during trial that there was no way to determine the accurate Blood Alcohol Content of the body. And since alcohol metabolizes, even with a blood sample an attorney could argue that you were within the limit. You can refuse a breathalyzer but not without consequences.

However, you are allowed (in OHIO) the right to counsel before taking any field sobriety tests or breathalyzer tests. The officer must grant you sufficient time for your attorney to be present. And you can bet that if someone called at 3 AM to represent someone on the highway I am going to get there ASAP. Once those handcuffs are placed on a suspect, the best defense is to stay quiet until you have consulted an attorney.

He is dead wrong. If an officer asks you to step out, and you refuse, you are disobeying a lawful order. Refusing a test gets an automatic suspension on your license. If they can prove Probable Cause, they can search your car at will.

I have found many times that those who cannot do the job themselves become professors.

DrinkingAndDriving.Org President
As you've seen from other responses here, refusing a breathalyzer test WILL get you arrested and WILL result in suspension of your license.

A lot of his other advice was crap too. You can find that stuff all over the web - "How to Beat a DUI" - yeah, right! Most such advice is littered with actions guaranteed to piss off the officer who pulled you over, like not cooperating.

That said, it is important to know your rights. But be very careful because most advice you hear on beating a DUI will just make things worse!

Remember, there is only one true way to beat a DUI. That's to never driver drunk, stoned, wired or tired in the first place.

YOu do have the right to only open your window a little, you have the right to ask the police officer to call backup if you "are uncomfortable with only him being present" but you must comply with their orders to vacate the vehicle. If you refuse the breathalyzer it is an automatic suspension of your drivers license. They WILL confiscate your car right then and there. You do have the right to say "no" to an unwarranted search, they will say they could easily get a warrant and then you should tell them to do it. Of course any refusal to comply with the lawful directions of a police officer will only get you into more hot water. It is usually best to just get out of the car if they ask, be polite as possible, refuse to let them search, (because that usually takes up a lot of time, and they will not push it if they have no cause)

Your professor is wrong.

There is a US Supreme Court case on this, so it is applicable in all states. In Maryland v. Wilson, the Court determined an officer can order all occupants to exit the vehicle.

As far as refusal to to field sobriety, that is evidence of intoxication and will be used against you in court.

I realize this is outside the scope of your question, but I will address it because another post is wrong. When performing a K-9 search, you can not detain a person while waiting for a dog. The dog must arrive during the normal time frame of the traffic stop.

The K-9 would not apply to your situation anyway, as if you refuse field sobriety you will be arrested. The officer then can search your car incident to the arrest.

Roadside sobriety tests are usually given before a breathalyzer is requested. Refusing to submit to the test (in most States) automatically suspends your license. It is also a separate charge from a DUI. Even if you went to court and were found Not Guilty of DUI, the refusal would still apply. Refusing to obey a lawful order will get you arrested. Refusing to allow a search of your vehicle can cost you lots of time. After you refuse, the officer can hold you until a drug dog can be dispatched to sniff the outside of the vehicle. This may take a couple hours.

mr. son of a bitchh
I work in Ohio with one of the captains of Cleveland City Police.... We were talkin about this one day and he gave me one piece of advice if you get pulled over..... "never take the test"... he said 95% of people who are found guilty of DUI self incriminate themselves by submitting to a breath test.... if you don't take the test, there's no evidence you are DUI. And, smell of alcohol is not probable cause for anything.... He said that with a refusal, you will go to jail for the nite. But he told me to say as little as possible and don't agree to anything

Most of the answers here are correct. But one:
"Refusing to allow a search of your vehicle can cost you lots of time. After you refuse, the officer can hold you until a drug dog can be dispatched to sniff the outside of the vehicle. This may take a couple hours."

That is wrong. While they can walk a dog around your car, they cant make you wait longer "than a reasonable amount of time to conduct a traffic stop". That's what the US Supreme Court has ruled.

Not true. Basically if you tell them no, you're giving them probable cause. If it's safety you're worried about, I've heard of people who told the cop they wanted to go someplace safer (better lit area, etc). One of my teachers at community college worked for a large police force, and said that if a person refused a breathalyzer he has every right to take the person's license and cut it up right there. And I have another cop friend who basically said they can make up anything to say they have probable cause (say they smell alcohol, weed, etc)

The Ugly Truth
Police are humans with a badge, i.e. they play God. They make the rules. If they want to pull you over, they can make up any reason they want. They make up their own probable cause. You just better be nice no matter how nasty they are. In Georgia, you are allowed to request a blood test at a facility/hospital of your choosing even though you refused their roadside tests.

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