You were pulled over one quiet night. The policeman approaches you and explains why you were stopped. Then, as part of a DWI check, he asks: “Have you had anything to drink?”
You casually reply: “Just a few beers.”
Congratulations, you just admitted to a possible DWI through self-incrimination. By answering the officer about the number of drinks, you’ve given him probable cause to conduct further inquiry and—if everything checks out—arrest you on the spot. A “few beers” won’t cut it, especially in a state that takes DWI seriously like North Carolina.
On top of that, a “few beers” doesn’t always work. You may think that by telling the officer you just had a few beers that you are being honest and cooperative, but you may have inadvertently invited a breathalyzer test that will reveal the real truth.
Although few drivers know this, you can “plead the fifth” when faced with a similar situation. This is a reference to the Fifth Amendment, which protects Americans against self-incrimination or being forced to testify against yourself. It is usually best to give the officer as little evidence as possible to increase your chances of steering clear of a DWI conviction.
If you choose to “plead the fifth,” you have two choices. You can either stay silent (because you have the right to do so) or explain to the officer that you won’t talk until you see your DWI lawyer. Even if the evidence against you appears incriminating, a professional defense can potentially mitigate the worst possible outcome.