August 27, 2018
If you are facing DWI charges in Texas, it’s wise to review your rights when the police stop you on suspicion of DWI. If your rights were violated, a skilled attorney may be able to help you get your charges reduced or dropped.
What You Can Expect If a Texas Officer Pulls You Over for DWI
Inside your vehicle
You are required to stop when an officer pulls you over on suspicion of DWI. You are also required to provide your driver’s license and insurance information when the officer asks for it.
In general, it is in your best interest to be cordial and respectful to the officer to avoid facing additional fines and charges, but remember that you have the right to not say anything that could incriminate you under the Fifth Amendment to the US Constitution. This includes not answering “basic” questions like whether you have been drinking and where you have been.
Outside your vehicle
You can expect the officer to ask you to step out of the vehicle. Under Texas law, you must get out of the vehicle if the officer makes a request.
He or she will also likely ask you to take some tests to make sure you are okay to drive. Even though the officer will not ask your permission to conduct the tests, you have the right to refuse them.
Here is a brief explanation for each test, collectively known as Field Sobriety Tests.
The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test. An inebriated person experiences involuntary eye movement called horizontal gaze nystagmus, which the officer will attempt to capture on a special camera. However, the test may be incorrectly conducted, and the results may be inaccurate.
The Walk the Line Test. The officer may ask you to take steps along a single line to test your coordination. Typically, an inebriated person has a shifted sense of balance and is unable to walk in a straight line.
However, many sober individuals may have problems walking a line due to physical impairments. Weather conditions may also interfere with your ability to walk in a straight line.
Additionally, the officer will ask you to walk in a very specific manner than may feel unnatural. You are asked to walk heel-to-toe with your arms hanging at your side, then to turn in an unusual fashion.
The One Leg Stand Test. This test requires you to stand still on one leg for 30 seconds. As with the Walk the Line Test, if you have certain physical impairments, you may not be able to pass this test even when sober.
Remember, you can politely refuse to take these field tests. A polite response is key to avoiding other charges, such as resisting arrest.
The officer will likely be capturing your actions on both audio and video, and this footage can be used in court. Your respectful behavior will speak volumes to the judge and jury.
Know that you will likely be arrested and sent to jail if you refuse to participate in the tests, but often it is still worth it. Why? Because there is almost no upside to taking the tests, and refusing them means there will be less evidence to use against you once your case goes to court.
Still not convinced? You should know that any of the following factors can work against you in a field test:
- Choice of footwear is unstable
- The weather is unfavorable
- You have a limp
- You don’t have good balance
- You were nervous
Moreover, the “results” of your field tests are completely up to the officer’s subjective opinion based on their interpretation of how you did.
Breath and blood tests
Most people don’t realize this, but any knowledgeable Texas criminal lawyer will tell you that there are different types of BAC tests – and different rules that apply to them.
The vast majority of information out there is about chemical tests that fall under the state’s implied consent law. This law says that every driver has given their “implied consent” to be given a chemical test when asked. If they refuse, they automatically lose their driver’s privileges for 180 days. Also, anyone who has had a DWI conviction, BAC test refusal, or failed test within the past ten years can use lose their driver’s privileges for two years.
Additionally, if the officer has a warrant to take a blood sample, you cannot refuse the test, and blood testing is mandatory if you are in an accident involving serious injury or death, or if you have a prior intoxication conviction under certain circumstances.
However, this law only applies to chemical tests requested after the officer has made a lawful arrest. If you are pulled over an asked to take a roadside breath test (commonly called a Breathalyzer test), you can refuse without legal consequences because you have not been arrested yet. In fact, in most cases officers are hoping to use the results of these tests as evidence to make an arrest.
Unfortunately, refusing the test will not prevent you from being arrested. In fact, your refusal may even be used as grounds for arrest. Still, you will be denying the police another piece of evidence that they can point to in your criminal case.
That, in the end, is probably the biggest thing you should be thinking about if you are stopped: what is the minimum amount of information that you are legally allowed to provide to the police. The vast majority of people get rattled and end up going above and beyond what they are legally required to do, which makes winning their case harder.
Don’t make this mistake. Know your rights.
About the Author:
Jeff Hampton has been practicing law in Texas in 2005, first in the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office as a prosecutor, and now as a private attorney with the Hampton Eppes Law Group, protecting the rights of Texans who have suffered injury due to negligence or are facing criminal charges. His success in helping people with their legal troubles has been recognized by clients and peers alike, with a Top Attorney designation and 10/10 Superb Rating on Avvo, and a place on the National Trial Lawyers list of the Top 100 Trial Lawyers.