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What do you say when an officer asks, “Have you been drinking?”

Probably the very last question you want to hear when you’ve been pulled over while driving is, “Have you been drinking?” (This is particularly true when you have, in fact, had a drink or two while you were out.)

You certainly realize that it’s not exactly a good idea to tell the officer the truth, but you also may realize that lying to the police can also get you into trouble. Loudly announcing that you’re asserting your Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination sure doesn’t seem like the best approach, either. So, what do you do in this situation?

If the officer’s asking the question, nothing you say is going to probably matter

Here’s the reality: The moment an officer asks that question, they’re already suspicious that you are driving while impaired. Maybe they smell alcohol on your breath or clothes, or maybe they noticed you were having a little trouble focusing.

You could tell the officer that you’re just tired, you only had a single beer and your cousin spilled their drink on you – but would you believe that story? Everybody but a rookie officer on their first night has probably heard similar tales. Even if you’re telling the truth, the officer is probably too jaded to accept it.

Since you can’t lie and can’t tell the truth without putting yourself in legal danger, the best you can really do in this situation is to politely tell the officer that you aren’t comfortable discussing anything but the reason you were pulled over without your attorney present.

If you’re very fortunate, the officer will decide they really don’t have enough justification to take the inquiry any further. You’ll get a ticket for whatever traffic infraction prompted the stop, and that will be the end of it. More than likely, however, the officer will ask you to submit to a field sobriety test and/or a portable breath test (both of which you should also decline) and then arrest you on suspicion of drunk driving so they can force you to comply with chemical testing.

When you’re in a tight spot, don’t panic – but do immediately take the appropriate steps to protect your future when you’re charged with drunk driving in Pennsylvania.

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