You’re out having some drinks with friends one night. As a responsible drinker, you know your limits and drink only a moderate amount. Remember, it is NOT illegal in Texas to consume alcoholic beverages and then drive your vehicle. But it IS illegal to drink WHILE driving your vehicle.
So as you’re driving home, you’re surprised when the ominous red-and-blue flashing lights force you to stop your car along the side of the road. As the officer walks up to your car, it’s easy to feel nervous in the moment, but it’s critical to stay calm. After all, you’ve done nothing wrong that you know of. Knowing what the police officer might ask can help you prepare for the situation.
It’s important that whenever you are stopped, you pull over to the side of the road or into a well-lit parking lot where it’s safe. Roll down your window and have your driver’s license and proof of insurance ready. Then place your hands on top of the steering wheel where the officer can see them—this lets them know that you are not a threat.
Q. Do you know why you were pulled over?
- No, officer. I’m not sure why I was pulled over.
It’s important that you treat the officer with politeness and respect. If you’re driving at night, just think of what they have to face with every traffic stop. You don’t have to lie, but you don’t have to volunteer any information you don’t want to either. You have the right not to incriminate yourself. And know that anything you say could not only give the officer probable cause, but could be used against you later in court, since the entire encounter is likely being recorded.
Q. Can you provide your license and proof insurance?
- Sure, officer. Here you go.
Some jurisdictions already have it in their database whether you have proof of insurance, but others don’t. Whatever documents the officer requests, provide them efficiently, but don’t make any quick movements. Make sure you know exactly where the documents are located and that they can be easily accessed when needed. If you have to reach into your glove compartment, ask the officer first so that he can watch you. Police officers are observing you while you do these things and are looking for subjective signs of intoxication.
Q. Where have you been tonight? Have you been drinking? How many drinks have you had?
- I choose not answer that question.
Where you’ve been and what you’ve been doing is none of the officer’s business. While it seems that they may be just making friendly conversation, they are also fishing for probable cause. Don’t lie to a police officer, but don’t say anything you don’t have to.
If you say that you’ve been to a bar, then they’ll ask the logical follow-up question: “Have you been drinking?” Denying or admitting that you’ve been drinking won’t do any good if the officer thinks that you have been.
If you say yes to the question, they’ll ask you, “How many drinks have you had?” Know that 80% of people pulled over for DWI say “two” to this question. Now the officer knows, by your admission, that you’ve been drinking and can legally ask you to exit your vehicle to perform roadside field sobriety tests.
The best thing is to assert your right to stay silent from the very first question. Do it politely but firmly.
Q. Would you like to step out of the car for some roadside sobriety tests?
- No, thank you.
Once again, you absolutely have the right to refuse to take any roadside tests, including handheld breath tests, counting tests, alphabet tests, or one-leg balance tests. Portable breath tests have been proven to be unreliable, but they can still incriminate you in court.
The roadside physical field sobriety tests are designed to make you look foolish. Most people who have physical disabilities, have past injuries, or are just not athletic fail these physical tests. Plus, the main factor that decides whether you pass or fail roadside sobriety exercises is the officer’s OPINION! No matter how well you THINK you did, the officer will likely fail you. That’s why DWI is known as an “opinion crime.”
On the other hand, refusal to take the tests cannot be used against you in court, since there’s no evidence. However, if you refuse a breath test, you will likely be arrested.
Q. We can get a warrant to have you take a blood test. Wouldn’t you rather just cooperate and make it easy?
- Show me the warrant.
When the officer says that they can get a warrant, it means they don’t have one. Tell them to get one and you’ll provide a blood sample. Otherwise, politely refuse to take the blood test.
if you do all of these things, you will likely be arrested anyway. In which case, you’ll need an experienced criminal defense lawyer as soon as you can. Attorney JL Carpenter is an aggressive DWI/DUI attorney who is also a former prosecutor.
Consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney in the Clear Lake area. The Law Office of JL Carpenter specializes in defending folks just like you who have been charged with crimes related to DUI or DWI, domestic violence, drug offenses, and assault. Call 713.561.5931 to set up an appointment.