A police officer believing that you were driving while intoxicated will pull you over. The purpose of the stop is to confirm (or negate) their suspicion and establish probable cause to arrest you. During the interaction with the police officer, you might feel that you must comply with their every demand and that all the actions they undertake are lawful.
However, that’s not necessarily correct.
At a DWI stop, the police officer must follow certain procedures. You also have several rights protecting you from unjust practices that could hurt your case or lead to a conviction.
Deandra Grant Law is a premier DWI defense firm providing representation in Dallas and the surrounding areas. To discuss your case, schedule a consultation by calling (214) 225-7117 or submitting an online contact form today.
The DWI Stop: Investigating Possible Driving While Intoxicated
The DWI stop is the investigation phase of a driving while intoxicated matter. It is initiated when a police officer observes a traffic law violation or something in your driving behavior suggesting that you were operating a vehicle while impaired.
During the stop, the officer will interview and subject you to tests to determine whether probable cause exists to arrest you. From the moment the officer activates their lights and sirens to the moment they put you in handcuffs (if they do), you have certain rights you can exercise or that should be protected.
Understanding and invoking your rights won’t necessarily prevent you from being arrested for DWI. The police officer can base their decision on several factors. However, being aware of what can and can’t happen at arrest can allow you to make choices that might weaken the prosecutor’s case or strengthen yours.
Below are some of your rights during a DWI traffic stop:
THE RIGHT TO HAVE BEEN PULLED OVER FOR A REASON
A police officer can’t stop someone without having reasonable suspicion. Reasonable suspicion means that the officer observed something, giving them cause to believe a violation had occurred. The violation need not have been specifically related to driving while intoxicated. It could be an offense under any other Texas traffic law. For example, an officer might have reasonable suspicion if they saw someone driving erratically or failing to use a turn signal.
If an officer pulls you over without reasonable suspicion, they have violated your rights. Because of this, the evidence they collected could be deemed inadmissible.
THE RIGHT TO BE FREE FROM UNREASONABLE SEARCHES AND SEIZURES
Fourth Amendment protections apply to DWI stops. Thus, an officer cannot search you or your vehicle unless they have a warrant or an exception exists. Exceptions include the officer seeing something in plain view, allowing them to seize the object as evidence.
An officer can also look through your car if you permit them to do so. In some cases, an officer might make you believe that you must allow them to search your vehicle, but you don’t. You can politely decline their request for a search.
THE RIGHT TO REMAIN SILENT
During the DWI stop, the officer will ask you several questions. The officer might want to know where you’re coming from, where you’re going, or whether you consumed alcohol, drugs, or prescription medication. In many cases, the questions are phrased to elicit incriminating statements.
You might feel inclide to cooperate with the officer because they are an authority figure or you want to show that you weren’t intoxicated. Unfortunately, statements you make can be misconstrued and used as evidence against you.
To avoid giving the officer any information that could hurt your case, you can politely let them know that you will not be answering any questions without a lawyer. You can remain silent during the rest of the investigation process unless you are declining a search or participation in field sobriety tests.
The only thing you must provide to the officer is your basic identifying information, including your name, address, and driver’s license.
THE RIGHT TO REFUSE A ROADSIDE BREATH TEST
The officer who pulled you over might want to subject you to a preliminary alcohol screening (PAS). The PAS involves your blowing into a handheld breath test device. The officer directs you to participate to establish probable cause for an arrest. Having a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 or more is a violation of Texas’s DWI law. Even if your BAC was below that level, the officer might still have cause to take you into custody, believing you committed a DWI of drugs.
You can refuse to blow into the breath test device. Not participating in the PAS is not a violation of the implied consent law (the law applies to post-arrest chemical tests), and you cannot face penalties for not giving a sample.
THE RIGHT TO REFUSE TO PARTICIPATE IN FIELD SOBRIETY TESTS
The officer might direct you to participate in field sobriety tests (FSTs). The assessment can include the standardized FSTs accepted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (horizontal gaze nystagmus, walk and turn, and one-leg stand) or other non-standardized tests.
The purpose of FSTs is to identify cues of impairment. For example, eye jerking during the HGN or an inability to balance while completing the walk and turn. Poor performance on the tests establishes cause for an arrest.
Contact Deandra Grant Law Today
Exercising and protecting your rights at a DWI can help build a defense for your case. Still, if you were pulled over but unaware of what could and couldn’t be done during the stop, options may be available to fight your charge.
Learn about legal avenues that may be explored by contacting our Dallas attorneys at (214) 225-7117.