There are a lot of common misconceptions when it comes to getting stopped for driving while intoxicated in Houston, Texas. Ill-informed friends and dodgy websites can repeat these misconceptions, which only perpetuates them. Unfortunately, many people charged with DWI in Texas act on bad advice and misconceptions every day.
It is not uncommon for people who have valid defenses or who have been wrongfully accused plead guilty because they are under the false belief they have no other choice. A consultation with one of Houston's best DWI defense attorneys could have cleared up these DWI myths and helped avoid an unnecessary criminal conviction. If you have been charged with a DWI in Houston, the Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C. is ready to clear up any questions you have about your case.
The following is a brief discussion on the six most common misconceptions about Texas DWI cases.
Misconception #1: All Defense Attorneys are the Same
This common misconception can lead to major consequences for you. Anyone licensed to practice law in Texas can hold themselves out as a DWI defense attorney. In fact, there are hundreds of attorneys across Harris County that promote themselves as Houston's best DWI defense attorney. But many of these self-proclaimed defense attorneys are only interested in wrapping up your case as quickly as possible so they can move on to their next paying client. This means their best interests are not always aligned with yours.
To ensure you find an attorney dedicated to being your fierce advocate, here are a few qualifications to seek out when hiring an attorney:
Board Certified Expert: In Texas, an attorney can't just declare himself as an expert in DWI defense law. Attorneys are required to qualify and pass rigorous testing in order to become a Board Certified expert. A certification in DWI defense law and/or criminal defense law is a good indicator of an attorney's expertise. Dual certifications in both criminal and DWI defense law are even better: only two attorneys in the entire State of Texas are allowed to refer to themselves certified experts in both areas of the law. Doug Murphy is one of those two.
Trial Experience: A sure sign of an attorney that is only interested in a quick result is a lack of trial experience. A defendant's best chance for a positive result is frequently arguing his/her case in front of a jury of his peers. An attorney that puts the interest of the clients first will have a track record of trial experience to show for it.
Leader in the Legal Community: The best DWI defense attorney's influence extends beyond the courtroom. The best DWI defense attorneys will serve as leaders to local defense attorney groups and will frequently be called to teach other attorneys through speaking engagements.
Misconception #2: You can't get arrested if your breath or blood alcohol concentration is below .08
Many people believe that if your roadside breath test reflects your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) as below .08, you are always in the clear. Those people are wrong. This is one of the biggest fallacies in all of DWI defense is that once I pass the breath test, I will be free to go. The reality is that in Texas you have to be under arrest before a police officer can request you to take a breath or blood test. That is because your BAC isn't the only factor the police consider when they investigate you under suspicion of DWI.
For starters, the portable breath test (PBT) device is notoriously unreliable. So much so, in fact, that the results of these tests can't be used in court. The police don't need a PBT test result of .08 or above to arrest you if they believe that you lack the normal use of your physical or mental faculties due to consumption of drugs or alcohol.
The police may also use the results of field sobriety tests as grounds to arrest you for DWI. Both field sobriety results and whether you lack normal mental faculties relies on the opinion of the arresting officer, which is inherently subjective. That's why it is important during a traffic stop you stay calm, say as little as possible, and refuse to take part in any field sobriety tests.
Misconception #3: If you are intoxicated, you can just sleep it off in your car
It may sound logical to you that if you believe you are too intoxicated to drive, the best course of action is to sleep it off in your car. Unfortunately, doing so will put yourself at risk of a DWI conviction even though you may have no intention of driving anywhere.
Texas DWI law doesn't actually require your vehicle to be moving in order for the police to arrest you for DWI. Under Texas law, you can be “operating” a motor vehicle when you “exert personal effort” to control the vehicle. Unfortunately, that definition is subjective and can mean different things to different people.
However, there are some general tips that can help you avoid being arrested for operating a motor vehicle even though you aren't driving:
- Do not put the key in the ignition and sit behind the wheel.
- Do not turn the car on.
- Do not close your eyes while sitting behind the wheel.
- Do not put your seatbelt on.
- Do not pull over and park on the side of the road.
- Do not park anywhere other than a designated parking spot.
Misconception #4: Breathalyzer Results are Always Accurate
Police and prosecutors would have you believe the results of a breathalyzer test are accurate beyond all doubt. That is simply not the case. For starters, a breathalyzer is only as reliable as the person operating it. If the machine is not properly calibrated or the operator is not properly accredited to use it, the result of your breathalyzer could lead to a false positive result.
What's more, there are some foods that can lead to a false positive during a breathalyzer test. Some of these foods include:
- Very ripe fruit
- Yeast bread
- Protein bars
- Honey Buns
- Hot sauce
- Vanilla extract
- Lip balm
- Energy drinks, and
- Sugarfree gum.
Breathalyzer results are frequently inaccurate. Attorney Doug Murphy is experienced in reviewing these test results for errors that can lead to a false positive. If mistakes were made, Doug Murphy may be able to have the results of those breathalyzer tests excluded from trial.
Misconception #5: You Should Plead Guilty Because Houston DWIs are Impossible to Win
It is an unfortunate misconception that you have no chance at avoiding a DWI conviction. This misconception has caused many defendants to plead guilty when it is against their best interest.
DWI cases in Houston are defensible so long as you have a proven trial lawyer that knows how to craft a winning defense. An experienced DWI defense attorney will review your case starting with the police report. If your rights were violated during your arrest, your attorney may be able to have evidence against you excluded from trial. In some cases, your attorney may even convince the prosecutor to dismiss the case against you.
Misconception #6: You Must Answer Every Question During a Traffic Stop
If you have ever been stopped by the police while driving, you were probably asked if you knew why you had been pulled over. You may feel obligated to answer questions from the officer, but it is a misconception that you are required to do so. Your right to remain silent extends to traffic stops, which means other than answering some basic questions, you are under no obligation to speak to an officer at all.
While you have the right to remain silent, that right is not limitless. Texas has what's known as a Failure to Identify law that says:
- If you have been arrested, it is illegal to refuse to provide your name, residence, or date of birth.
- If you have been arrested, detained, or are a witness to a crime, it is illegal to give a false name, residence, or date of birth.
Outside of those two circumstances, you are under no obligation to answer questions from law enforcement during a traffic stop. That doesn't mean being rude is a good idea; it is in your best interest to be polite in order to resolve your traffic stop as quickly as possible without trouble.
When to Contact the Best DWI Defense Attorney in Houston to Discuss your DWI Case
Mistakes like driving while intoxicated happen every day. The consequences you will face after being charged with a DWI are already steep; following bad advice or believing common misconceptions about DWI law can only make things worse. For those reasons, it is critical to discuss your case with an experienced DWI defense attorney as soon as possible.
If you have been charged with DWI in the Houston area, Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C. has the experience and expertise to clear up any misconceptions about your DWI case. Doug Murphy is an experienced trial attorney that is one of only two attorneys in the State of Texas to be Board Certified as an expert in both criminal defense and DWI defense law. To discuss your case, contact the Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C. today for your free consultation.