As a former prosecutor in Tarrant and Dallas County and now a criminal defense and DWI defense attorney in Fort Worth, many people have asked the question – what should I do if I have been drinking and get pulled over by the police? It’s a complicated question, but many times it really depends on how much you have had to drink. I have tried over 50 DWI jury trials and here are some thoughts and tips on what to do if you are under investigation for a DWI and what not to do…
TIP#1: BE POLITE – YOU’RE BEING RECORDED
My first piece of advice is to be polite. Assume that everything is be recorded and every word you say will be used against you at trial. It’s much harder for a jury to convict a person who comes across as a nice/polite person on video. It’s much easier for a jury to convict a jerk.
MISTAKE # 1: ADMITTING TO TRAFFIC OFFENSES
The first thing that happens is you get pulled over (speeding, didn’t use a blinker, etc.) and the officer asks something like – “why going so fast this evening?” or “why didn’t you use your turn signal back there?” Well, if you answer in the affirmative, then you have just admitted to the traffic offense and it makes it much more difficult in court to challenge the basis for the stop. Again, be polite and be smart on how you answer (try, I didn’t think I was traveling that fast officer vs. I am sorry officer for speeding, I was trying to get home because it’s late).
TIP#2: DON’T ADMIT TO DRINKING 12 BEERS
It’s not illegal to drink and drive. But if you admit to EVERY drink you had, it’s going to make it next to impossible to fight the charge. Many officers can smell it on you, so it’s tough to lie that you didn’t have any, but use a common answer (2, a couple) v. “I had a 12 pack.”
TIP #3: STAND BALANCED WITH FEET APART
If the officer pulls you out of the vehicle, don’t do any unnecessary walking about and when standing, don’t cross your legs (poor balance position). Stand with your feet apart (the best balancing position and one that will limit any sway).
MISTAKE #2 – FORGETTING TO TELL OFFICER ABOUT LEG INJURIES
Every juror wants to “see how they look on video.” And this piggy bags off the previous tip with regard to balance. If you have had ANY previous leg issues, tell the officer about it. Many folks forget to tell the officer and it makes it harder later on to turn around and say that a poor performance on the Standardized Field Sobriety Tests were because of a leg injury, not intoxication.
TIP#4: THE “TOTAL REFUSAL”
One strategy is the “total refusal.” It’s when you politely refuse to answer any questions or do any tests without consulting a lawyer. It’s important to note that you do not have the right to an attorney when you are merely being investigated, so the officer can and will hold this refusal against you. You are going to get arrested by employing this strategy, but these types of cases are historically more difficult to prosecute because of a lack of affirmative evidence (i.e. they don’t have you on video admitting to 4 beers and 2 vodkas and then stumbling through the field sobriety tests). This might be a good strategy if you KNOW you are over the limit, won’t look good on video, and will end up arrested anyway.
MISTAKE #3: THE OVER-SHARE
What do intoxicated people do? They talk and they ramble. What do drunk guilty people do? They try to talk their way out of the trap. Don’t do that. It won’t work. If you are going to answer questions (don’t recommend), then simply answer the question asked. Don’t over more than required. Don’t talk or say anything in the squad car.
MISTAKE #4: PASSING OUT IN THE BACK OF THE SQUAD CAR
Don’t pass out in the squad car after being arrested for DWI. It’s likely being recorded and is not going to look great at trial.
TIP#5: DON’T ANSWER QUESTIONS AFTER BEING ARRESTED
If you have been arrested for DWI, then they must read you your Miranda rights before they can ask any more questions. Don’t answer those and politely request an attorney at that point. The questions they ask are for the sole person of using your answers against at trial.
TIP #6: BREATH, BLOOD TEST, OR REFUSE?
Even though many agencies have started getting warrants for blood, I still would not recommend agreeing to a breath or blood test if you know you are going to fail. If you really had 1 or 2 beers, then you should pass a blood test (I would recommend blood over breath), but if you are not sure or think you will fail, then why agree? Force them to get a warrant (some won’t), it gives your Fort Worth DWI attorney another chance to fight something (if the warrant is bad), and it further delays the test if they do get a warrant (allowing more alcohol to eliminate from your body).
These are just some tips and thoughts if you get pulled over for a DWI in Fort Worth or Tarrant County.
Attorney Bryan Hoeller is a former prosecutor in Tarrant and Dallas County. He is an experienced Fort Worth criminal defense and DWI defense attorney. For help on a DWI charge, call 877-208-3382.