By: Mark Diaz
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8 Steps To Take If Pulled Over For Drunk Driving In Galveston County
You are driving home after having dinner at a restaurant in Galveston County. You had a couple of drinks with dinner but you still think you are well below the legal limit. Nevertheless, as you make your way home you suddenly see the light and sirens of a police car behind you.
Maybe you committed a minor traffic infraction without realizing it and the officer just plans to give you a ticket. Nevertheless, you are concerned about the smell of liquor on your breath and worry this simple traffic stop may lead to a drunk driving arrest.
So what should you do in this scenario? Should you preemptively try and explain yourself to the officer? Should you sit tight and say nothing? Will that just make you “look guilty” to the officer? And what if the officer asks you to submit to a Breathalyzer? Can you refuse?
For many Galveston County residents, a drunk driving arrest is often their first interaction with the criminal justice system. Lack of experience often leads people to panic and make crucial mistakes that can undermine their legal rights. With that in mind, here are the steps that you should take if you are pulled over on suspicion of drunk driving in Galveston County or anywhere else in Texas.
1. Pull Over Promptly But Safely
We should not have to tell you this, but when an officer signals for you to pull over, do not try and flee. Even if you have not been drinking, leading an officer on a high-speed car chase will still land you in serious trouble. So when you see the flashing lights, the first thing you need to do is comply and pull over.
Keep in mind, the officer is watching you this entire time. If you pull over in an unsafe or erratic manner–say you stop your car suddenly in the middle of the road–the officer will probably take that as a sign you are intoxicated. So the first thing you need to do is locate a place where you call pull off the road promptly but safely.
2. Remain In Your Vehicle–Do Not Make Any Sudden Movements
We are all familiar with incidents where police officers draw their weapon and fire on a suspect when the officer feels their life might be in danger. You do not want to become another excessive force statistic. This means that when you are pulled over, remain in your vehicle until approached by the officer. Do not get out of your car or make any sudden movements that may be misinterpreted as an attempt to resist the officer.
This goes for how you compose yourself in your vehicle. That is to say, keep your hands on the steering wheel when the officer approaches. Do not “reach for” anything below your seat or in the center console. Even if such movements are perfectly innocent, an officer may see this as you going for a weapon.
3. Always Remain Polite
Here in Galveston County and throughout the country, it has become standard procedure for officers to record their interactions with the public using body or dashboard cameras. Even if you do not see such a camera right away, you should always assume that you are being recorded. As such, it is in your best interests to not say or act in a manner that might be viewed unfavorably later by a prosecutor or jury.
In simple terms, you should always remain polite when interacting with the officer who has pulled you over. Refer to the officer as “sir” or “ma’am,” as may be appropriate. Even if the officer says something offensive or rude, do not take the bait.
4. Provide Basic Information–But Do Not Answer Detailed Questions
This is one area where people often get confused about their legal rights. You probably know that you have a “right to remain silent” when questioned by police. But when you are pulled over, even for a routine traffic stop, you do need to provide some basic information to the officer, including your name, driver’s license, and proof of insurance.
Remember, driving is still a state-regulated privilege in Texas. Asking to see your license and insurance information is not considered a “search” that requires any type of warrant.
But beyond this basic information, you do not–and should not–answer any further questions during a traffic stop. This includes seemingly innocuous inquiries like, “Where are you coming from?” If you tell the officer you were just at a restaurant or bar, that will only fuel their suspicion regarding drunk driving.
Basically, the moment that an officer asks you anything about where you are traveling or where you have been, you should politely but firmly invoke your right to remain silent.
5. Do Not Agree to Any Field Sobriety Tests
When an officer suspects you of drunk driving, they may ask you to take a “field sobriety test” right there on the side of the road. An example of a field sobriety test is the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test. You have probably seen (or taken) this test before: It is where the officer asks you to follow a light with your eyes. The purpose of the test is to see if your eyes engage in an involuntary jerking reaction. The officer is supposed to look for 6 potential cues that may indicate intoxication.
Field sobriety tests are notoriously unreliable. Many police officers are not trained on how to properly administer and judge the tests. More to the point, you are not legally required to submit to such tests. The same goes for any hand-held Breathalyzer test the officer requests.
6. You Can Normally Refuse a Blood or Breath Test–But Be Aware of the Consequences
If you are placed under arrest on suspicion of drunk driving, standard procedure is for the police to formally request you submit to a chemical test to determine your blood-alcohol concentration. This is typically done with a blood or breath test (the latter is commonly known as a Breathalyzer) administered by a trained professional.
As a matter of constitutional law, you normally have the right to refuse a request to take such a test, as it constitutes a search of your person. But refusing a chemical test following a lawful arrest will have certain consequences beyond any potential criminal case.
Under Texas law, your driver’s license is automatically suspended by the state’s Department of Public Safety. If this is your first arrest, the automatic suspension lasts 180 days. You do have the right to appeal the administrative suspension of your license, and during the appeals process, you will continue to enjoy driving privileges.
And even if you refuse to submit to a chemical test, that does not prevent the District Attorney from continuing to pursue a criminal DWI case against you. On the contrary, the prosecution can introduce other evidence, including the arresting officer’s observations, to prove you were drunk driving. Furthermore, the prosecution can point to your refusal to consent to a blood or breath test as proof that you knew you were too drunk to drive.
7. Never Make Any Statements to the Police Following Your Arrest Without Speaking to an Attorney First
When you are placed under arrest, the officer is required to give you the standard Miranda warnings. This includes your right to remain silent and your right to have an attorney present during any questioning. These rights are critical. Do not waive or ignore them.
In particular, once the handcuffs are placed on you, it is imperative that you make no further statements to the police unless and until you have spoken to an experienced Galveston DWI lawyer. An attorney should always be present when you are questioned by police. This protects you against inadvertently saying something that might be construed as a confession of guilt or otherwise introduced against you as evidence in court.
8. Write Down Anything You Remember About the Arrest
After you are released from custody, it is a good idea to take down notes about everything you can remember about the circumstances leading up to your arrest, such as what you were doing that night and what the officer actually said to you when you were pulled over. This information will help your attorney devise a defense for your case. Even a seemingly minor detail can prove useful.
Contact Galveston DWI Lawyer Mark A. Diaz Today
A drunk driving arrest is often a frightening experience. Especially if you have never been in trouble with the law previously, a DWI charge may appear overwhelming at first. The good news is, you do not need to face that charge alone. Galveston DWI lawyer Mark A. Diaz represents people like you every day who have been charged with DWI. Contact his office today to schedule an initial consultation.