By: Mark Diaz
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What to Never Do if Pulled Over for DWI
Of all possible crimes that could lead to an arrest, people are probably most familiar with drunk driving laws. In fact, at around 72,000 arrests every year, violations of the Texas statute on Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) are one of the most common reasons individuals face criminal charges. What you may not realize about the laws is that there are two ways that you could be charged with DWI:
- You have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) that qualifies you as being intoxicated. In Texas, like all other US states, the legal limit is .08 BAC as measured by a blood, urine, or breathalyzer test.
- Police arrest you because you are intoxicated under the statutory definition, i.e., you do not have normal use of your mental faculties and physical capabilities because of the consumption of alcohol or controlled substance.
Knowing that there are two ways you could be arrested, you can see that what you do when stopped by police is critical. You are in a position to protect your rights by handling the encounter wisely. Plus, you support the efforts of your LaMarque DWI attorneys when you follow a few tips during a drunk driving roadside stop.
Things Not To Do When Pulled Over For DWI
Everything you do and say can get you into trouble when you see the flashing lights of a police car behind you. Some issues are within your control, so make sure to keep these points in mind:
- Do not give in to the temptation to flee or attempt to outrun the police. Officers will reach you eventually and the criminal charges will add up.
- Avoid making erratic moves or illegal lane changes as you move toward the shoulder of the road. These are traffic violations that could add to your legal woes.
- Do not hesitate to start collecting the important documents the officer will request. Grab your driver’s license, vehicle registration, and insurance details, and have these ready to hand to the police.
- Never answer questions about where you were going to or coming from, as well as other inquiries regarding your activities. The information could tip off police about locations or events where drinking alcohol is common.
- Never answer the question “On a scale of 0-10, how intoxicated are you?”, it is a trick question and there is no good answer.
- Decline to do a breathalyzer test in the field, as these portable devices are notoriously inaccurate.
- Under no circumstances should you ever resist arrest, either through offensive language, gestures, or physical contact. You could be arrested for assaulting a police officer, a Third Degree Felony.
What You SHOULD Do When Stopped for Drunk Driving
There are some ways you can support your case when officers pull you over for DWI. Aside from avoiding the mistakes mentioned above, the most critical tip is to be polite and respectful during the encounter with the police. You will never hurt your case by being courteous, and you may even get through the experience with minimal consequences.
However, being civil will only get you so far when pulled over for a DWI. Additional To-Dos include:
- Exercise your right to remain silent when questioned by police. You can confirm your driver’s license and insurance details, but do not volunteer other information.
- Carefully consider the penalties and legal implications if you refuse to blow. Under the Texas implied consent law, your driver’s license could be suspended for up to 180 days. However, the statute only takes effect if you are already under arrest.
- Use caution if officers ask you to perform field sobriety tests. You can refuse to take them, but keep in mind that you DO need to step out of the vehicle if the police request.
- If you are charged with DWI, exercise another important constitutional right: Your right to legal counsel. Get in touch with a drunk driving defense lawyer immediately.
Additional Tips For a Texas DWI Case
Cases move relatively quickly after being charged with drunk driving, and there are deadlines to meet, defense strategies to develop, and tasks to manage. You can count on your attorney to deal with legal issues, but note a few recommendations in the days and weeks following an arrest.
- If you head to court for arraignment before you retain counsel, make sure to plead not guilty to DWI. You keep the door open for defenses and other opportunities.
- Arraignment is also an opportunity to make arrangements for bail and pretrial release. You should prepare for the costs involved, but the advantages of remaining free until your trial date are priceless.
- A potential suspension of your driving privileges does not occur on the date that you were arrested for drunk driving, even though police will take your license. Officers will provide you with documentation that allows you to legally drive temporarily.
However, it is essential to file a request for an Administrative License Revocation hearing to contest the actions involving your license. You must do so within 15 days after being arrested for DWI, at which point you will have the opportunity to present defenses.
Two Proceedings for Drunk Driving Charges
Many motorists do not understand the nuances of DWI cases. Different proceedings can result from a DWI arrest.
- Administrative Proceedings: One aspect of a DWI case is handled by the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS), and an administrative law judge presides over the proceedings. The government must show that your driver’s license should be suspended, but you will also get a chance to present evidence in your favor. If successful, you could get your license back right away.
- Criminal Charges: Because DWI is against the law, there is a second case that is a criminal proceeding. The government, represented by the prosecutor, must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The case is presided over by a criminal court judge, who may also be the finder of fact in a bench trial
Penalties for Violating Texas DWI Laws
For a first-time conviction for drunk driving, you face Class B Misdemeanor charges. The mandatory minimum jail time is 72 hours, but a judge could sentence up to 180 days and a fine of $2,000. Your driver’s license will also be suspended for at least 90 days and up to one year.
Still, concerning both your driving privileges and sentence for a conviction, the penalties increase in severity for subsequent offenses.
- A second drunk driving conviction is a Class A Misdemeanor. The minimum jail term is 30 days, but you could be sentenced to a maximum of 12 months. DPS may suspend your driving privileges for 180 days to one year. Note that there is no lookback period in which a prior DWI conviction is not considered for purposes of subsequent cases. ANY previous case makes a person a multiple offender.
- For a third conviction on DWI charges, the case is a Third Degree Felony. At a minimum, the sentence will be two years in prison; the maximum term of imprisonment is 10 years. Plus, the judge could impose a fine of up to $10,000.
Legal Help With DWI Defenses
Tips on what to do when pulled over for DWI may be helpful, but keep in mind that you still have defense options if you are ultimately arrested. One important opportunity will be attacking the prosecutor’s case-in-chief and preventing the government from meeting its burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt. LaMarque DWI attorneys also pursue defense strategies on such grounds as:
- Police did not have a reasonable suspicion to pull you over or probable cause to arrest you.
- Officers did not advise you of your Miranda rights or the required statements regarding implied consent laws.
- There were issues with the urine, blood, or breath tests for BAC. For instance, a breathalyzer must comply with strict rules on maintenance, inspections, and calibration. The operator must have proper credentials to analyze the results, Any discrepancies could be a reason to toss the test results.
Even if you do not have a complete defense, you may qualify for other legal options for resolving DWI charges. Examples include probation, deferred adjudication, and related programs for first-time offenders.
A DWI defense attorney is essential for identifying opportunities, gathering evidence, and handling pretrial matters. Some defenses can only be raised by motion, a complicated process involving briefs and a hearing. At trial, a drunk driving lawyer will present evidence, witnesses, and arguments in your favor.
Consult With Our LaMarque DWI Attorneys About Defense Strategies
You can see that there are numerous things you should never do if pulled over for DWI, but there are also many tasks that you can undertake to support your rights. Retaining experienced legal counsel is a crucial first step, and it is smart to do so early to leverage defense options.
To learn how our team can assist with your drunk driving case, please contact criminal defense attorney Mark Diaz. You can call 409-515-6170 to schedule a complimentary case assessment with our LaMarque DWI defense lawyer. Our office serves Greater Houston, Galveston County, and the surrounding region, so we are ready to fight for your rights.
Mark Diaz & Associates is a Criminal Defense Law Firm in Galveston, Texas representing clients throughout Galveston, Chambers and Harris Counties including but not limited to Tiki Island, Jamaica Beach, Texas City, League City, Alvin, Algoa, Santa Fe, Hitchcock, La Marque, Bayou Vista, Bacliff, San Leon, Dickinson, Kemah, Bolivar Peninsula, Clear Lake Shores, and Friendswood.