Reaching over the passenger seat for something and simultaneously swerving into another lane momentarily is enough to invoke sirens. That one mistake for some can turn into a lifetime of frustration. No matter if you have been drinking or not, getting pulled over by the police is stressful, what you do from the moment you pull over matters.
If the officer suspects alcohol or drugs, you could be arrested and charged with driving while intoxicated (DWI). The penalties if convicted are severe, and it does not with the potential for jail time, fees, and license suspension. A conviction of a DWI means a criminal record, and that criminal record could have a negative effect on your job, especially if your position requires a security clearance or a professional license, like a pilot license, a medical license, or a nursing license. A criminal record can also impact where you live, what financial aid you get (or not) to fulfill (or impede) academic aspirations, among other things. If getting pulled over leads to a third DWI, then you could be facing a felony. A felony DWI means your civil rights could be affected, particularly your right to own and use a gun and your right to vote.
Heres's your concise guide on what to do if stopped by the police in Harris County, Texas.
No. 1: Do not drink and drive.
As you know, the best way to keep from being arrested for drinking and driving is not drinking and driving. If you have a drink too much, always ensure you have an alternative way home. Some things to keep in mind include:
- If you drink and drive and get into an accident and injure or kill someone else known respectively as intoxication assault and intoxication manslaughter, you face a felony DWI that results in years in prison and severe fines as well as collateral consequences that will follow you throughout your life.
- If you drink and drive and have a child in your vehicle, you also face a felony. This scenario often happens after a family has been out celebrating and the parents had a drink or two before departing for home. You think you are fine, and you may very well be fine to drive, but you never know what the officer will assume -- and chances are, if the officer knows you have had a drink, his or her judgment is already shaped by that knowledge, and you will likely be arrested for DWI with child passenger. Also, if you are in the middle of a divorce or custody proceeding or will in the future, this arrest and subsequent possible conviction can and will likely be used against you.
- If you drink and drive, it does not matter if you are charged with a felony or not, the damage is done if convicted -- unless you find an experienced Board Certified DWI attorney to defend you. An attorney who can review and challenge each and every part of the DWI detection process is an attorney who can hold the State accountable to its burden of proof.
- If you drink and drive, it does not matter if you are at or above the legal limit of 0.08% for either breath alcohol content (BrAC) or blood alcohol content (BAC), you can still be arrested if your BrAC or BAC is below the legal limit but you do not exhibit "normal" use of mental or physical faculties.
No. 2: Watch what you say.
Always, watch what you say. Even if you have below the legal limit of alcohol in your system, you can still be arrested for DWI. This often happens when drivers are rude and tensions escalate between the driver and the police.
And remember: the police must have reasonable suspicion to pull you over for a traffic stop. Be mindful of that fact and if the officer asks why you know why you were pulled over, play dumb even if you know you were speeding, but be polite about it. This way you do not invoke any reaction from the officer and can also identify the exact reason you were pulled over.
Also, remember: never admit to anything, including having had a drink that was legally within the limit prior to operating the vehicle. Just knowing you had a drink but exhibiting no signs of intoxication can lead to a DWI investigation that means you may be asked to conduct field sobriety tests. Not only are these tests difficult for just about anyone to complete when nervous and anxious due to the traffic stop, but they are designed for failure.
Thus, watch what you say, or rather, don't say anything, but be polite when refusing information.
No. 3: Watch how you behave.
Like speaking to an officer, be mindful of how you behave. If you are stopped for a traffic violation, the officer immediately begins watching you for signs of intoxication. Belligerent behavior can be a cause to pursue a DWI investigation. But apart from that, your actions, like fumbling fingers or unsteady walk are signs to the police you are intoxicated.
If you have any physical condition that materializes in signs of intoxication or could negatively affect the way you perform a field sobriety test, you may want to advise the officer of the same. That said, the officer will likely take it as a grain of salt and pursue field sobriety testing anyway. So watch your overall behavior -- especially with initial contact with the officer, because that will impact the officer's impression of you immediately.
No. 4: Know your rights.
You should always know your rights, and these include:
- The right to be free from wrongful search and seizure.
- The right to remain silent.
- The right to refuse field sobriety testing, breath tests, or blood tests -- though in the end, a refusal may work against you.
- The right to a record of the incident even if the officer does not want you to have a copy of the report.
- The right to an attorney.
No. 5: Contact a Board Certified DWI defense attorney.
At Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C., we care about your future and your freedom. Doug Murphy has spent the last nearly 20 years holding the State, judges, and juries accountable to the principle that you are innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Not only is he Board Certified by the Texas Board of Legal Specializations for criminal law, but he is one of only two lawyers in Texas to be specialized in criminal law and hold Board Certification in DWI defense through the National College of DUI Defense.
Doug Murphy does what he does because he knows for most of you, you are hard working people who deserve a second chance without the burden of a criminal record. His skill and resourcefulness are known among his peers in the legal community: when he is not defending clients, he may be traveling the State of Texas or beyond to other states to speak to other defense attorneys on DWI issues. He has the experience and the legal team to support and defend your DWI.