A police traffic stop can make just about anyone nervous. But when you have had a drink prior to the stop, it can be particularly nerve-wracking. Doug Murphy, Board Certified attorney in both DWI defense and criminal law -- one of only two lawyers in Texas to possess both certifications simultaneously -- understands a thing or two about what you must be thinking or feeling at the time of the traffic stop and throughout the entire DWI process. Here, he explains what you should and should not do if you are pulled over and a DWI investigation ensues and results in an arrest and subsequent charge.
What You Should & Should Not Do from the Moment You are Pulled Over for DWI in Houston, TX to the Moment Your DWI Trial Begins
So, you have been pulled over for a traffic stop. Initially, it may have been for a minor traffic violation, but it could turn into a DWI investigation that leads to a DWI charge. Here's what you should do and not do from the time you are pulled over in Houston or any other place in and outside the metropolitan area to your DWI trial begins in Harris County or one of its surrounding counties.
Texas DWI Stop Do's and Don'ts in Houston
- Do use your signal to pull over and wait. Pretty basic, but if you hear the sirens behind you, use your signal to pull over into a safe location. Then, wait with your hands on the steering wheel for the police officer to approach your car and to request identification, vehicle registration, and insurance information.
- Do stay calm. It's easy to get scared and start acting the same. Will you end up in jail? Will you lose your job? What will your family say? These are real questions that produce real fear and anxiety. Always keep in mind, however, that the officer is watching your behavior and reading into it. As part of the DWI detection process, police officers are monitoring your behavior, listening to what you are saying and how you are saying it, and being mindful of your overall demeanor. Any small deviation from what's to be expected of you is an opening for the officer to suspect drinking and driving and to pursue an investigation into the same. Be polite. Be respectful.
- Do think before you act. Don't just react, but do think about things first. If you are asked to perform a field sobriety test, know that you are not required to perform these tests -- which are not scientific and can do more harm than good. But if you do perform the tests, be sure to advise the police officer of any health or environmental conditions that could impact the results of the test. If asked to take a preliminary breath test (PBT), know that you can refuse it. If you do take it, the PBT cannot be used as evidence to your breath or blood alcohol content (BAC) level in court.
- Do not keep any open containers in your vehicle. If a police officer spots an open container of alcohol, you can be charged for the same. But that will also lead to a DWI investigation that, ultimately, will lead to your arrest.
- Do not be rude. Some people have a tendency to be rude or belligerent to authority, especially the police. Sure, they do not have a good reputation in Houston. They are known to abuse their power. But to prevent or minimize any mishandling or abuse, it is best not to be rude. Be polite. You do not have to go out of your way to be polite, but be mindful of your tone and choice of words.
- Do not give permissions. Specifically, do not give the police permission to search your person or your vehicle. If they want to do so, they will have to go about the proper channels and obtain a warrant for a search and seizure.
- Do not talk too much. Be succinct. In fact, the less you say the better. Officers are trained to ask questions in a way that are designed to acquire incriminating statements from you. You can say: I don't want to answers any questions without a lawyer. Some people have a natural tendency to talk too much when they are nervous. And of course, being pulled over can make you nervous. But do not let it get to you; do not talk too much. You are not required to answer any questions about drinking or prescription medication. You do not have to say where you were. You do not have to say who you were with. You talk, and you could say something you'll regret later, something that can be used against you in court.
- Do not trust the police. Some police officers have a secret weapon: being nice. They want to be your friend. They want to help you out. But it just isn't so. They want you to talk, to confide, to say things that will ultimately get you into trouble. Do not talk too much -- as already mentioned. Likewise, do not trust the officer when he appears to only want to help you… because chances are, he's just trying to get information from you that can lead to your arrest for DWI.
DWI Arrest Dos and Don'ts
- Do invoke your Fifth Amendment rights. If you haven't already, then during an arrest, you should invoke your right to remain silent. Do not say anything. Politely advise the officer you are invoking your Fifth Amendment right
- Do not resist arrest. Resisting arrest, even when you know you are innocent, can mean more charges filed against you.
- Do not touch the officers in any way. Alongside refraining arrest is refraining any kind of touching. Even a friendly gesture can be misinterpreted.
Post-DWI Arrest & Pretrial Dos and Don'ts
- Do retain the best DWI lawyer in Harris County. Do not retain the first lawyer you find or the cheapest lawyer available. You want a lawyer who is Board Certified in DWI defense. Only the National College of DUI Defense is accredited by the American Board Association to certify lawyers throughout the U.S. in DWI / DUI defense. This certification is rigorous and must be renewed annually. Certification demonstrates the lawyer's knowledge, skill, and trial experience, among other important credentials. Likewise, Board Certification in criminal law by the Texas Board of Legal Specializations means the attorney has completed yet another rigorous written and oral exam. Successful completion of the exam -- which must also be renewed annually -- indicates specialization in the given practice area.
Only Board Certified attorneys are permitted to call themselves experts in the respective practice area. Doug Murphy is Board Certified expert in both DWI defense and criminal law and has maintained these certifications on an annual basis. Not only do these certifications testify to his abilities, but the certifications are also a result of his abilities. You must demonstrate competency before you are even allowed to sit for the rigorous examinations.
- Do hire an experienced Board Certified DWI & criminal defense lawyer within 15 days so you can challenge your driver's license suspension. Not only will can he prevent your driver's license suspension, but if you retain a skilled attorney like Doug Murphy, he will use the ALR Hearing as a means to gain valuable evidence and insight into your criminal DWI case.
- Do show up for your court hearings. Even if you have an attorney, for most court hearings, your presence is required in most counties in Texas. If you are required to appear and do not show up for a court hearing, an arrest warrant may be issued. That means if you are pulled over again for a minor traffic violation, you can be arrested.
Do write down everything you remember of the arrest. The sooner you make these notes, the better your memory and notes will be. Things to note include:
- What were you doing before you drove?
- Where were you going?
- How much you drank -- if anything?
- How soon after starting to drive were you pulled over?
- How soon after pulled over were you arrested?
- How did the officers behave?
- How did you behave?
- Were you Miranda rights given?
- Do not talk to anyone about the case. If you talk to coworkers, friends, or family, they can be used as witnesses. Likewise, do not share anything online via social media of the arrest and any events related to the arrest. Anything online can become potential evidence against you -- and believe it or not, the police are actively checking social media for evidence.
Texas DWI Trial Dos and Don'ts
- Do pay attention to what you wear, how you speak, and how you behave during a DWI trial. For most of you, if you want to fight the charge, you will go to trial. You must look and sound your best. It matters not only to the judge but to the jury. They will make an opinion of you based on these superficial things, and that opinion will influence the verdict.
- Do know these cases are defensible. With the right attorney -- one who knows the law, the science behind the tests, the problems plaguing the accuracy and admissibility of these tests, the court system, a jury's proclivities, among other things -- you can anticipate dismissal or acquittal at best or reduced charges and/or a reduced sentence in the least.
- Do not forget you are innocent until proven guilty. Do not ever plead guilty in a Texas DWI case. Doug Murphy understands this principle and ensures the State and the jury upholds the same.
When to contact the Best DWI Attorney for you in Houston, TX
Doing the right things and abstaining from doing the wrong things can prove difficult at times. It is important to keep these do's and don'ts in mind regardless if you have been charged with DWI or if you are currently fighting a DWI or DWI-related charge. Doug Murphy will help you maintain your composure and help you relax knowing that you have hired the best DWI attorney for you in all of Texas. Contact Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C. today to review your case.