Being pulled over and accused of a DUI/DWI charge can be a stressful and intimidating affair, especially when you’re sober. Regardless of your situation, there are many steps you should take to handle the situation with the highest levels of composure, patience, and aplomb. However, many people make mistakes and aren’t aware of their rights under criminal law when it comes to a drunk driving accusation against them. As experts in defending clients in DWI cases, we’ve compiled five tips that you should always follow when caught in this undesirable situation.
1. DON’T Self-Incriminate Yourself
Always, always, always practice the 5th Amendment. You have a right to not self-incriminate (also known as “pleading the fifth”) whenever posed with a question that might imply any sort of self-incrimination. If an officer asks you why you’ve been pulled over say you don’t know or plead the fifth. If he asks if you’ve been drinking, (and it’s obvious you have) plead the fifth. Any admission of guilt makes your case much, much more difficult to come out in your favor and can easily be avoided by avoiding self-incrimination. You always have a right to speak to your lawyer before answering any questions. If you are taken in for questioning, you can refuse questioning until you’ve spoken to an attorney. (Know that if you cannot afford a lawyer, one will be appointed.) In fact, it is good to know all your Miranda Rights at all times–in cases of situations like these.
2. DON’T Take a Field Sobriety Test
Legally, a police officer cannot force you to take a field sobriety test such as walking a straight line, or having you follow the light of a flashlight. These tests have been proven to be highly subjective, and consenting can give prosecutors more evidence against you if your situation goes to court. Refusing these tests is within your legal rights and is not breaking any existing law. Again, these tests are highly subjective to the officer’s perception (or ill will against you). Think about it: can you even correctly say the alphabet backwards while sober? We get confused somewhere around “SRQPONM.”
3. DON’T Refuse a Breathalyzer Test
In most states, chemical tests of inebriation are perfectly legal and refusing them can lead to consequences such as suspension of license. The most common of these is the Breathalyzer test. In the State of Texas, (where we operate) driving on the roads has been ruled to be an agreement that you will consent to any chemical tests if pulled over by a member of law enforcement. In general, it’s best to consent to these tests even if you test as positive for being over the legal intoxication limit, for several reasons. For one, if you refuse a breathalyzer test, it’s typically legal for an office to forcibly take you to a hospital for a blood test. Unlike breathalyzer tests, blood tests can be repeated multiple times and are typically more accurate. Which can work in your favor… or very much against you depending on your level of intoxication. Likewise, breathalyzer tests are easily challenged in court due to the common inaccuracy of the machines and the ability to manipulate results by the tester.
4. DON’T Get Out of the Car (Unless Instructed)
If you get pulled over, for whatever reason you may be tempted to get out of the car to speak to officer. Don’t do this. When dealing with a perceived drunk subject, officers can react with hostility to someone exiting the car unexpectedly. They may greet you with force, or testify that you were belligerent, threatening or uncooperative to a judge. This won’t bode well for your case. After dark, an officer might not know if you’re handling a concealed weapon and officers are trained to act in the interest of their own self-defense. Unless told otherwise by the officer, patiently wait in your car for instructions, and don’t get out of the car.
5. DON’T Be Belligerent or Argumentative
As obvious as it may seem, cooperate with your law enforcement officials. Have your license, registration and insurance information ready when he or she pulls you over. Even if you’ve never had a drink in your life, don’t begin to argue with the officer that he doesn’t know how to perform his job, or argue that you’re sober. If you refuse to field sobriety tests (as we’ve mentioned you should), politely refuse the officer and don’t become combative about the accusation or officer’s request. Even if the officer tells you you’re under arrest, it is best to accept this, rather than argue him or you may have charges such as resisting arrest or threatening an office tacked on to your case. Simply remember your rights, and your day to fight the arrest will come. The more you cooperate with an officer the less likely you will be arrested, and the easier it becomes to defend your case in court.
R. Blair Carroll is an Austin, TX based attorney at the Carroll Troberman Law Firm. Beginning his career as a DWI lawyer based in the Dallas area. Working under renowned DWI lawyer Mimi Coffey, Carroll has become an expert and success in the field of DWI Defense Cases.