Booking Process for a Houston DWI Arrest

A DWI arrest is frightening and embarrassing enough. If you're not prepared, though, the booking process that follows a DWI arrest can add to the harrowing experience. And if you don't know what happens at booking, you can also unintentionally give away your most important DWI defense rights. No one really plans for a DWI arrest. But learn in advance what you can about booking for a Houston DWI arrest. Be prepared, know your rights, and preserve your rights, especially at booking. Doing so will make for a stronger DWI defense. And trust Houston DWI defense attorney Doug Murphy to aggressively and effectively pursue your DWI defense, no matter how you handled your DWI booking. Attorney Murphy knows the booking procedures of Houston police and the ins and outs of Houston’s DWI courts.

Expect Confusing Criminal Procedures

Few persons facing their first-ever arrest have any idea what the booking process is or why police follow it. Let's face it. Unless you are an experienced lawyer, law and legal procedures can be terribly confusing, as even U.S. Department of Justice prosecutors admit. And confusion can be your worst enemy in your DWI defense. The confused defendant is far more likely to give up important constitutional, statutory, and procedural rights. The police generally know what they're doing, even if they don't always do it right. Prosecutors certainly know criminal procedures. Prosecutors also use those procedures to their advantage in charging and convicting for crimes like DWI. Police and prosecutors also know when the DWI defendant does not know what's going on. And they'll sometimes use the DWI defendant's confusion to their advantage. In DWI defense, knowledge is your friend, and confusion your enemy. And avoiding confusion at booking can become a big part of a successful DWI defense.

The Value of Knowing What to Do

You need to know what to do when arrested for a DWI to preserve and improve your chances for a successful defense. Knowing DWI criminal procedure and knowing your rights can be your lifeline to a solid DWI defense. Understanding even a little about arrest, booking, bail, arraignment, preliminary hearing, plea bargaining, pre-trial motions, trial, and sentencing can help you do the right things to increase your chances of a successful DWI defense. Your likelihood of a successful defense increases when you know what to do not only at arrest but also about field sobriety tests, your vehicle, and your first phone call. Your defense gets stronger when you know about booking, the holding cell, and bail. Your defense improves when you know what to do when released on bail and at your arraignment. Most of all, your defense improves when you know how to choose and how to interview a Houston DWI lawyer who will aggressively and effectively defend your charge. Retain premier Houston DWI defense attorney Doug Murphy for your DWI defense.

Probable Cause Leading to Arrest and Booking

Most DWI arrests leading to booking begin with an officer's observation of a traffic infraction, expired tag, or erratic driving, or investigation of a vehicle accident. The officer who pulled you over for an infraction or erratic driving, or arrived at your accident scene, probably asked you a few questions while observing your demeanor and listening carefully to your responses. If your responses suggested intoxication, the officer might then have administered one or more field sobriety tests. The officer is looking for probable cause to make a DWI arrest, which is the first step leading toward booking on the DWI crime. That the officer lacked probable cause for your traffic stop, arrest, and booking on a DWI charge can be a big DWI defense. Just because they've booked you on a DWI charge doesn't mean you are guilty or that they have the legal grounds to convict you. Trust expert and experienced Houston DWI defense attorney Doug Murphy to raise your probable cause defense if your circumstances support it.

Transport for Booking

When an officer finds probable cause at your traffic stop to believe that you've committed a DWI crime and decides to arrest you for that crime, the chances are good that the officer will transport you to the police station for the process known as booking. Transport means you'll have to leave your vehicle behind to ride secured in the back of the police squad car to the police station. If your DWI arrest occurs in Harris County, police will probably transport you to Houston's downtown jail at 701 North San Jacinto Street. Depending on your location, that could mean a ride taking you quite a distance and requiring much time in the back of the squad car. Your arresting officer may not even take you straight to the station. They may hold you in the squad car at the scene while taking witness statements or gathering other evidence. They may take you or another person to a hospital or clinic before taking you to the police station. You may be restless, uncomfortable, sick, or scared in the back of the squad car. Still, do your best to wait patiently for your arrival at the police station for booking. If you have one rule to follow in the booking process, that rule is to be patient. Don't let police delay lead you to false, hurried, or scared admissions. Wait for your expert Houston DWI attorney to help you face, defend, and defeat DWI charges.

Incriminating Statements in Transport

Your transport for booking is an especially hazardous time for your DWI defense. Police officers know that you may be scared, embarrassed, angry, frustrated, or uncomfortable. They may also know or suspect that you don't know your rights or aren't prepared to stand on them. Police also know that during your transport for booking, you may speak or act emotionally, angrily, fearfully, or in other ways that cause you to incriminate yourself in a DWI crime. That expectation of capturing incriminating statements is a large part of why police forces fit the inside of many squad cars with recording equipment that captures anything you say or do. You should not volunteer information to the officers during your transport for booking. Your arresting officer may not even have read you your Miranda rights. Still, sit as quietly and patiently as you can. Officers and prosecutors can and will use against you anything incriminating that you say or do in the back of the squad car. If you have something to say, then retain Houston DWI defense attorney Doug Murphy to help you decide whether, when, where, and how to say it.

Booking Fundamentals

After your DWI arrest, your defense starts with doing the right things at booking. And to do the right things at booking means that you need to know what booking entails and why police pursue it. In simplest terms, booking involves the police making a record of your personal information, fingerprints, and photograph or mugshot. Merriam-Webster’s definition for booking in its legal sense is simply “a procedure at a jail or police station following an arrest in which information about the arrest (as the time, the name of the arrested person, and the crime for which the arrest was made) is entered in the police register.” The dictionary adds, “The arrested person is usually photographed and fingerprinted at the time of the booking.” Booking sounds simple. But like anything having to do with the law and legal procedures, there's more to booking than meets the eye.

Personal Information at Booking

Police at the scene of your arrest will likely have taken your personal information. But police booking you on a DWI charge at the station or jail will have you repeat or confirm that personal information. Personal information generally means your legal name, address, and date of birth, although police may also ask for your telephone number. Police may also confirm your driver's license number and Social Security number. Arrested suspects and the officers who arrest them make mistakes. Booking is a good time to correct any mistakes in personal information. Your personal information is generally all that you should expect to disclose. You may also share your emergency contact person or next of kin. You need not and generally should not disclose any other information, especially any information having to do with the charged DWI crime.

False Booking Information

Arrested suspects sometimes refuse to give identifying information or give false identifying information. The reasons for refusing or lying may be many, such as their criminal history, outstanding arrest warrant, or undocumented immigration status. But the reasons are not good. Refusing to give personal information or giving false personal information at booking could add to the charges against you. Texas Penal Code §38.02 makes it a crime to either refuse to give identifying information or to give false identifying information:

  • A person commits an offense if he intentionally refuses to give his name, residence address, or date of birth to a peace officer who has lawfully arrested the person and requested the information.
  • A person commits an offense if he intentionally gives a false or fictitious name, residence address, or date of birth to a peace officer who has: (1) lawfully arrested the person; (2) lawfully detained the person; or (3) requested the information from a person that the peace officer has good cause to believe is a witness to a criminal offense.

Texas Penal Code §38.02 makes refusing to give identifying information a Class C misdemeanor, punishable with a fine up to $500. The same code section makes giving false identifying information a Class B misdemeanor, punishable with jail for up to six months and a fine up to $2,000. The same code section raises the offense to a Class A or B misdemeanor if the person giving the false information is already a fugitive. Don't refuse personal information, and don't give false personal information. Don't compound a DWI crime with other criminal charges. Share your accurate identifying information. Just don't share anything else.

Fingerprinting at Booking

The police at the station or jail will handle getting your fingerprints at booking. Your fingerprints may or may not be evidence related to the charged DWI crime. Police don't need a specific reason to take your fingerprints. Fingerprinting isn't optional for you. Fingerprinting also isn't discretionary with the police. Fingerprinting is instead a standard practice associated with ensuring your identity. Police may take your fingerprints on an ink card or, more commonly today, using an electronic or digital system. Digitizing fingerprints enables their use in statewide and national databases. Texas maintains an Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) to store and match fingerprints statewide. The FBI collects fingerprints from states and local agencies to add to its own Fingerprint Identification Records System (FIRS) containing criminal histories on nearly 57 million individuals. DNA may be the preferred means of identifying persons suspected of crimes today, but fingerprints remain part of booking. You have no choice about it.

Mugshot at Booking

Mugshots are a big part of the booking's identification procedure. A name, address, Social Security number, and driver's license may all be false or inaccurate. A mugshot confirms the defendant's physical appearance. Everyone has seen a mugshot. Mugshots in Houston routinely include a straight-on front view of the defendant's head and shoulders. Mugshots may also include a side or profile view. Mugshots today are generally from digital cameras rather than film cameras, meaning that the mugshot may quickly appear online. Arrest mugshots in Houston are generally available online for the public to see on a free search, although the search may be through a business entity. Texas Business & Commerce Code §109.001 et seq. regulates those online mugshot services, including requiring them to remove mugshots for expunged arrests or convictions. Nevertheless, you should prepare for the public to see your mugshot. That preparation includes taking the best mugshot possible under difficult circumstances. We've all seen mugshots of celebrities, sometimes looking the worse for wear. Here are a few tips for a better mugshot:

  • don't smile or smirk -- a DWI charge isn't funny
  • don't frown or grimace -- just use your natural expression
  • clean your face if possible -- grime leaves a bad impression
  • comb or straighten your hair -- dishevelment can suggest intoxication
  • straighten your collar, tie, or other clothing
  • look straight at the camera with naturally open eyes

Personal Property at Booking

Police at the scene of the DWI arrest may have taken personal property as evidence. Those items may have included alcohol, drugs, guns, or other contraband. But some defendants reach the station or jail for booking, with other personal property on or about their person. That personal property may include a wallet, purse, necklace, bracelets, rings, other jewelry, or personal effects stored in pockets. Police will take those lawful things from you for safekeeping and return once you are released from custody, unless subject to forfeiture laws. Police may also use booking to search for, seize, record, and store evidence on or about your person of the DWI crime or other crimes. If, for instance, you have drugs or drug paraphernalia in your purse or pocket, you can expect the police to seize and hold those items as crime evidence, not for later return. Be aware that police at booking will take and hold what you have on or about your person. If you face a dispute with police over recovering your personal effects, then retain Houston DWI defense attorney Doug Murphy to represent you.

Body Search at Booking

Although it may not occur in every instance, a DWI defendant taken to jail for booking should anticipate the possibility of a strip search. Officers at the scene will routinely conduct a pat down search of the DWI defendant. The body search at booking, in preparation for lodging in the jail, will likely be more thorough and may include a strip search. The Supreme Court in Florence v. Board of Chosen Freeholders of County of Burlington held that the Fourth Amendment permits jail officials to conduct a strip search whenever an individual is arrested, even when the officials have no suspicion of weapons or drugs, and even when the arrest is for a minor offense. Authorities booking defendants into jail do discover contraband in a body cavity search doesn't mean intentional ridicule or abuse. Searches have limits. But the search may be more than one would reasonably anticipate.

Your Criminal Case File

To you, booking may seem mostly like getting your personal information, fingerprints, and mugshot. But in broader terms, booking also involves the police preparing to include in your new criminal case file any witness statements, audio or video recording, sobriety test results, or other evidence against you. Booking ensures that police have not only properly identified you but also connected you with their DWI evidence and can continue to do so throughout the criminal justice process. Booking ensures that police have adequately gathered, organized, and recorded the incident reports, statements, and other evidence that they have against you, matching that evidence with you and your case file. Booking is the administrative end of keeping you and your DWI arrest straight with the paperwork, physical evidence, and electronic records necessary for prosecutors to proceed with the DWI charges against you. That's why you should want to be scrupulously accurate with any identifying information you divulge while resisting volunteering any other information during booking. Let Houston DWI defense attorney Doug Murphy advise you before you make any further disclosures so that you don't end up creating problems for yourself, those of your own making.

Building the Case Against You at Booking

Police know that booking is a great place to build the DWI case against you. Booking is not usually a swift and efficient process. Police may be confirming that they have your correct name rather than an alias. They may be checking your correct address. They are surely working with prosecutors to prepare the DWI charges against you. They may also be busy completing records and reports of your arrest, booking other defendants, or handling other duties. They also may not have any real interest in moving your booking along. They may instead hope and expect that the longer they take with booking, the more likely you are to incriminate yourself with confused and inaccurate statements or to confess to crimes you did not commit. Booking can take anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours. Long or short, during that time police will be listening and watching for your incriminating words and actions at booking. Know your rights. Don't incriminate yourself. You have a right against self-incrimination.

Miranda Warnings at Booking

Don't expect officers to read you your Miranda rights at booking. You should know and rely on your Miranda rights at booking, but the police probably won't tell you those rights. The Supreme Court's Miranda case held that police generally cannot use statements that they obtained from you during custodial interrogation unless the police have first told you these statements:

  • You have the right to remain silent.
  • Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.
  • You have the right to an attorney.
  • If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you.

If the police conduct a custodial interrogation, that magic moment triggering your Miranda rights, then they'll read you those rights before asking if you understand them and nonetheless wish to speak with them. But booking generally doesn't involve custodial interrogation. You are in custody during booking, but the police generally are not interrogating you. Thus, if you speak voluntarily to police during booking, without police asking you questions or making statements seeking your incriminating information, then police and prosecutors can and will use your statements against you. If you've made incriminating statements potentially compromising your DWI defense, then retain expert Houston DWI defense attorney Doug Murphy to advise and represent you.

Investigation and Assessment at Booking

While booking is technically a matter of making a reliable administrative record of your identity and arrest, booking simultaneously has important aspects of investigation and assessment to it. Police will, for instance, be checking for criminal history and outstanding arrest warrants on other charges. They do so in part to help prosecutors and the court determine whether you should go free on bail while awaiting further proceedings on your DWI charges. If their routine check of criminal history and for outstanding warrants indicates that the DWI defendant is dangerous or a flight risk, then police and prosecutors may seek to have the court increase bail, set special bail conditions, or hold the defendant without bail. A lot may be going on behind the scenes during booking. If your background or circumstances could complicate your DWI arrest and booking, then retain premier Houston DWI defense attorney Doug Murphy.

Mistakes at Booking

Booking may still seem like a straightforward procedure. But police do make mistakes at booking. Sometimes, those mistakes can work to the DWI defendant's advantage, especially when expert DWI defense counsel represents the defendant. Other times, though, police mistakes can worsen the DWI defendant's situation, again requiring expert representation to sort out and correct the mistakes. Police mistakes at or around booking can include:

  • writing a sketchy, inadequate, bare-bones report omitting critical information from the new case file
  • failing to identify, interview, and retain reliable contact information for key witnesses in the defendant's case file
  • failing to secure critical evidence and properly book it into evidence in the defendant's case
  • processing multiple defendants at once, mixing up information between related or unrelated cases in the booking process
  • failing to document and ensure a continuous chain of custody for critical evidence

If your DWI case appears to involve one or more of the above police mistakes, whether to your benefit or your detriment, then retain expert Houston DWI defense attorney Doug Murphy for your best defense.

Release After Booking

Your release after booking generally occurs when you pay bail or otherwise satisfy bail terms. Booking has that additional security purpose beyond ensuring the DWI defendant's proper identification and building the administrative case file supporting the DWI charge. The court needs to ensure both that (1) the defendant will return to court for further proceedings on the DWI charge and (2) the defendant will not harm anyone or anything in the interim. Bail with conditions is the way that courts accomplish those twin security objectives. So, authorities will generally hold the DWI defendant until the booking process is complete with proper release on bail. Jail officials don't want to be among the many authorities who have mistakenly released a dangerous criminal. If you face any issue in obtaining your release on reasonable bail conditions, then retain Houston DWI defense attorney Doug Murphy to aggressively represent you at the bail hearing. You doubtless have many good reasons to remain free on bail while awaiting resolution of your DWI charge.

What to Do at Booking

As you can see, while booking looks to be routine, booking can instead be a hugely significant step in a DWI proceeding. Booking involves several critical police steps. Booking also implicates several of your constitutional rights, including rights to remain silent, avoid self-incrimination, have reasonable bail to secure your release, and choose and retain defense counsel of your choosing. A DWI defendant can win or lose the criminal case based on what happens at booking. Here, then, is a summary of what to do at booking, drawn from the above explanation of the goals, purposes, and effects of the booking process:

  • generally, remain silent other than providing identifying name, address, and birthdate information as the law requires
  • when providing the identifying information that law requires, provide only accurate information, not misleading information
  • answer no other questions other than for identifying information, not even in what may seem to you like innocent chatter or conversation
  • avoid small talk not only with police but also with staff members or other jail inmates even when it seems innocent because it's probably not
  • without attempting to conceal contraband, ensure that authorities secure your wallet, purse, jewelry, and other personal items and effects
  • submit to a mugshot in which you look directly into the camera with a natural expression and groomed demeanor, as much as you can
  • cooperate with fingerprinting while understanding that fingerprints go into searchable statewide and national databases
  • expect and cooperate with a body search greater than the pat down police performed at your arrest
  • remain as calm and patient as you can, without losing your reason or saying or doing anything in the short term simply to gain your swift release
  • use your telephone call and the help of family or friends to retain an expert Houston DWI defense attorney to help you defend and defeat the charge

Retain an Expert Houston DWI Defense Attorney

Your best move at or around booking is indeed to retain the best available Houston DWI defense attorney for your aggressive and effective defense. A DWI arrest, booking, and charge is not the same as a DWI conviction. Premier Houston DWI defense attorney Doug Murphy has the keen knowledge, honed skills, extensive experience, and outstanding reputation to aggressively defend your Houston DWI charge. Attorney Murphy knows and pursues all applicable DWI defenses, whether you've managed your Houston DWI booking responsibly or not. Attorney Murphy is one of only two Texas lawyers holding both DWI Board Certification and Criminal Law Certification. He knows criminal procedures, including Houston DWI procedures, inside and out. Fellow attorneys voted Doug Murphy Best Lawyers in America's 2021 Lawyer of The Year. You can trust attorney Doug Murphy with your Houston DWI defense. Contact Doug Murphy Law Firm now either online or at (713) 229-8333 to discuss your case today.

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If you are facing DWI or other criminal charges in Texas, contact our office today to discuss your case, so we can begin working on your defense. Please provide only your personal email and cell phone number so that we can immediately and confidentially communicate with you.