Four Things You Should NOT Do if You’re Stopped for DWI in Texas (or Any Other State)
Ready for some sobering facts? On average, a drunk driver will drive 80 times before their first arrest. Every day in America, 300,000 people drive intoxicated but only 3,200 are arrested.
Chances are, you or someone you know has driven under the influence before and just hasn’t gotten caught. But what happens when that luck runs out? What should you do – or rather, not do – when police stop you after you have been drinking? While our best advice is not to drive if you’ve had anything to drink, here are four tell-it-like-it-is tips that could help avoid a DWI/DUI conviction down the road.
1. Don’t Answer Questions.
Other than providing basic information — your driver’s license, vehicle registration and insurance — you have the right to remain silent if you’re stopped for DWI. You don’t have to tell the officer how much you’ve had to drink or where you’ve been or where you’re going. In fact, if you do answer these questions and have been drinking, you very well may incriminate yourself. So how do you politely decline to answer officer’s questions? Here’s some suggestions on what to say:
- “With all due respect officer, I’m going to decline to answer questions.”
- “I respectfully decline to answer any questions, officer.”
- “I do not wish to speak without a lawyer present.”
- “I would prefer not to answer any questions without first speaking to an attorney.”
- “I have a friend who is an attorney and he told me that I should not answer any questions.”
2. Don’t Take Field Sobriety Tests.
After you decline to answer the officer’s question, one of two things will happen: the officer will let you go on your way (unlikely) or attempt to further the investigation. You’ll know you’re being investigated for DWI if the officer asks you to step out of the car to take a field sobriety test. While you should obey the officer’s orders to step out of the car, you are not legally required and should NOT take a field sobriety test. These tests are a tool for the officer to try and gain evidence of intoxication and arrest you. They are subjective and many would argue designed for failure. Even individuals who have not had a drop to drink often have trouble “passing” field sobriety tests, which may include standing on one leg, counting backward and walking heel-to-toe. Just like you did when you refused to answer questions, politely refuse to take any field sobriety tests if your stopped for DWI.
It’s important to point out that at this juncture, your chances of getting arrested are increasingly likely. However, without evidence from a field sobriety test, it will be much more difficult to convict you of a DWI. Remember, you may be able to beat the rap, but you won’t beat the ride.
3. Don’t Consent to a Breath or Blood Test.
At this point, the officer is going to ask you to consent to a breath or blood test. Again, it is in your best interest if you have been drinking or may be intoxicated to refuse these tests. Unfortunately, this refusal is going to come with consequences, but most likely you are going to be in a better position than if you voluntarily consented and failed – meaning your test results came back with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or higher. Don’t do the officer’s job for them.
Texas is an implied consent state, which simply means that if you are arrested for DWI or DUI, you are required to consent to testing to determine your alcohol concentration. If you refuse to give a breath or blood specimen, your driver’s license will be suspended for 180 days. If you blow or give blood and fail then your license will be suspended for 90 days anyway, plus you’ve now voluntarily given law enforcement evidence to use against you in their effort to convict you of DWI.
When you refuse to give blood or breath, the officer must get a search warrant to draw your blood, which takes time and effort. Sometimes, they will seek one and sometimes they won’t. If they don’t (or if you’ve sobered up while they go through the process of getting one), then the officer has very little evidence to make a case against you for DWI. The officer has no statements from you, no field sobriety tests and no blood evidence. Prosecutors will have a tough time convicting you of this offense.
Yes, you still got arrested and lost your license, but a DWI conviction is far worse. Also, most people who have their license suspended can get an occupational driver’s license without too much trouble. You can also request a hearing in front of a judge to challenge law enforcement’s efforts to suspend your license.
4. Don’t Delay Contacting a Skilled Defense Attorney if You’re Arrested for DWI.
As soon as you are released from jail, immediately contact an experienced DWI defense attorney in your area. This should be somebody who understands all aspects of DWI cases, including how their investigated, prosecuted and defended. The quicker an attorney can start working on your case and your license suspension, the better. Having a defense attorney in your corner, fighting your case from the start, will greatly increase your chances of a favorable outcome.
Attorney Benson Varghese is the founder and managing partner of Varghese Summersett PLLC, the largest criminal defense firm in Fort Worth, Texas. Benson is an experienced Fort Worth DWI lawyer who has extensive experience handling alcohol-related charges, including DWI, intoxication assault and intoxication manslaughter.