When the police find a reason to pull you over, such as a broken taillight or an erratic movement in your driving, it is perfectly normal to feel nervous. The officer may seem friendly and easy-going as he or she makes small talk, and soon you may begin to feel more relaxed. However, the officer who approaches your vehicle is trained to look for signs of something more serious than a taillight.
What you may see as chitchat is really the officer creating an opportunity to smell your breath, listen to your speech patterns and scan the inside of your car for drugs or other contraband. Any indication that you have been drinking or using drugs, and the officer will become all business. Do you know what to do to protect your rights if the police ask you to step out of your car and submit to a Standardized Field Sobriety Test?
Protecting yourself until counsel arrives
In most situations where your rights are at risk, seeking the advice of a lawyer is a wise move. However, when officers ask you to step out of the car because they suspect you are impaired by drugs, you must comply and do so without the aid of a lawyer. If you try to refuse, you may face additional charges of failing to comply with the demands of the police. This can be a difficult charge to fight in court.
Because you will not have legal counsel at your side as the police guide you through the tests of balance and coordination, you would do well to say as little as possible to avoid potentially incriminating yourself. Simply follow the instructions to the best of your ability. If you are successful, the officers will likely let you go. However, if you fail the tests, the police will take you to the station to collect further evidence of drug impairment.
At the police station
Some police stations in Ontario have a certified drug recognition expert to evaluate someone under suspicion of drug impairment. Since different drugs react in the body in different ways, these officers receive special training to identify which drugs a driver may have taken based on the symptoms the driver exhibits. The DRE will take your vital signs, review the notes from the arresting officer and interview you.
You will also have to give a sample of your blood or saliva to confirm the presence of drugs in your system. However, this is the time when you have the right to ask for a lawyer. Before the police do any drug testing or collect a sample from you, it could be in your future best interests to firmly request the counsel of a lawyer and respectfully refuse to answer further questions. From this point on, it is critical that you remain silent and wait for your lawyer to arrive and advise you on the next steps to take.