“Have You Been Drinking?” How Drivers Can Respond During Traffic Stops

woman driving car

Police Questioning During Traffic Stops

If a police officer pulls you over while you’re driving, they may ask you, “Have you been drinking?” It’s important to understand the potential consequences of answering this question. You have certain rights during police encounters in Minnesota, including traffic stops.

During a traffic stop, the police will likely first ask to see your driver’s license and proof of insurance. If you are the driver, you are required by law to provide that information. However, you do have the right to refuse to answer any further questions. That includes, “Have you been drinking?”

Keep in mind that the police typically won’t ask you this question unless they have a reason, including:

  • They smell alcohol on you, your passengers, or in your vehicle.
  • They can see alcohol containers in the vehicle.
  • You were driving erratically.
  • You were driving much slower than the speed limit and road conditions required.
  • You drove through a sobriety checkpoint.

Ways Drivers Can Respond to, “Have You Been Drinking?”

Legally, you have choices in how you respond to police questioning, including, “Have you been drinking?”:

  • You can answer the question.
  • You can invoke your right to remain silent. Refusing to answer does not necessarily mean the police won’t take further action, including asking you to take a breathalyzer test.
  • You can ask to postpone further questioning and any BAC testing until you’ve contacted an attorney. Minnesota law states that your right to speak with an attorney “is limited to the extent that it cannot unreasonably delay administration of the test.”

Actions the Police May Take

Driving is considered a privilege, not a right. When you received your driver’s license, you signed paperwork stating you would agree to a breathalyzer test if ever asked to do one. This is called the implied consent law. According to Minnesota Statute 169A.51, “refusal to submit to a breath test is a crime.” This law means that refusing a breathalyzer test carries its own penalties, whether or not your BAC is above the legal limit.

So no matter how you respond to, “Have you been drinking,” the police may still ask you to perform a breathalyzer test and/or field sobriety test. If you refuse either test, the police may take you into custody. They can then request a search warrant to have a urine or blood test performed to determine your BAC.

General Tips for Interacting with the Police During Traffic Stops

Any time you are pulled over by the police, keep these tips in mind:

  • Keep your hands on the steering wheel. Turn on your car’s interior lights.
  • Always be polite.
  • If you are arrested, ask to speak with an attorney before answering any questions.
  • In Minnesota, if you are a passenger in a car you do not have to show the police your ID. They cannot arrest you just for refusing to identify yourself. However, they may arrest you for other reasons.
  • Don’t drive away until the traffic stop is over. Ask, “Am I free to go?”
  • You and your passengers should stay in the vehicle unless explicitly asked to exit.
  • Cooperate with the police if you are taken into custody. Ask to speak with an attorney as soon as possible. Politely but firmly exercise your right to remain silent.

Minneapolis & St. Paul DWI Attorney

If you were arrested for a DWI in the Twin Cities, we can provide you with experienced legal representation. Please contact us today for a consultation.

Our law firm understands that a DWI arrest can happen at any time. Anderson Law Firm, PLLC, is available 24-hour hours a day. For immediate needs, please call us directly at (952) 582-2904.







DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this article does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. Please contact attorney Kirk Anderson for an initial consultation.