Do you really get 20 minutes to speak to an attorney after being pulled over for suspicion of a DWI? Yes, but…

It is true that the police officer must give you 20 minutes to speak to an attorney before submitting to a chemical test.  This “20-minute rule,” however, can be tricky.  You must follow very specific guidelines before the police officer has to allow you to call an attorney.

Remember the following:

  • Three things must happen before the police officer is required to give you 20 minutes to contact an attorney: 1) The implied consent warnings must be read to you; 2) The officer must request you to submit to a chemical test; and 3) you must ask to speak to an attorney.
  • You MUST ask to speak to an attorney after the officer has read you the implied consent warnings, otherwise you will be deemed to have refused the chemical test (which means you will lose your license).
  • If the officer doesn’t give you 20 minutes to speak to an attorney or doesn’t read you the implied consent warnings, you cannot be charged with refusing to submit to a chemical test.
  • If you affirmatively abandon attempts to contact an attorney, you must either submit to a chemical test or be deemed to have refused the chemical test.  Thus, you must be actively trying to contact an attorney.
  • If at a refusal hearing you challenge the amount of time given, the Director of Revenue has the burden of proving that you were given a full 20 minutes to contact an attorney.
  • The 20 minutes to contact an attorney begins when you’re asked to submit to a chemical test and you have had an opportunity to call an attorney.
  • You are not given an additional 20 minutes for each time the implied consent warnings are read to you.
  • The police officer does not violate the statutory right to counsel by standing next to you while trying to call an attorney.
  • If you are given an opportunity to call an attorney before the implied consent warnings are read, then the Director of Revenue must prove that you were not prejudiced, otherwise the refusal will be invalid.
  • Asking for an attorney after refusing the chemical test does not trigger the 20-minute rule.  You must ask for an attorney before refusing.
  • You must specifically ask for an attorney, not just that you “want to use the phone.”
If you get stopped for driving while intoxicated (DWI), contact an attorney (preferably me) as soon as the officer asks you to submit to a chemical test (call me anytime at 314-270-2273 or 573-268-7316). The last thing you want to do is lose your license because you didn’t know your rights.

One Response

  1. Morgan December 14, 2012

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