Your Rights in a DWI Stop
If you are pulled over and suspected of driving while intoxicated (DWI), do not expect the police officer to fully inform you what your rights are. The officer must have a legal basis for the stop of your vehicle. The officer must also have probable cause for your arrest. In many cases, the officer must read Miranda before interrogating you about the amount of alcohol you consumed. Although you might not be required to answer questions or submit to any test, there might be adverse consequences that attach to a refusal.
When people are not aware of their rights, they have the tendency to do or say things that might increase the chances they are arrested or help secure their conviction later on. By knowing how to act, you may be able to reduce the likelihood of being charged with drunk driving in Texas.
Fort Worth Lawyer Discusses People’s Rights During DWI Stops
If you believe that your rights were possibly violated during a recent arrest for DWI in the greater Tarrant County area, you should immediately seek legal counsel. Townsend, Gebhardt & Eppes, PLLC represents clients in Fort Worth, Weatherford, Arlington, Cleburne, and surrounding communities in North Central Texas.
Our Fort Worth DWI attorneys have more than three decades of experience both defending and prosecuting people accused of drunk driving in Texas. This background gives us a deep knowledge of the best ways to approach these cases, and our lawyers can discuss your options with you during a free consultation when you call 817-502-3600 today.
Overview of Rights at a DWI Stop in Tarrant County
- What should you say when a police officer asks how much you have had to drink?
- How long will a person’s license be suspended for if he or she refuses tests?
- When are police allowed to search your car?
- Where can I learn more about my rights at DWI roadblocks?
Many people are familiar with this part of the Miranda warning that police read when placing alleged offenders under arrest, but you should always exercise your Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. In other words, you are not obligated to answer any questions about where you are driving from, how much you have had to drink, or even whether you have been drinking.
Keep in mind that anything you say to a police officer can and will be used against you if you arrested for DWI. You can simply tell a police officer that you do not want to answer any questions until you have spoken to your attorney—as guaranteed under the Sixth Amendment.
Chapter 724 of the Texas Transportation Code establishes implied consent “to submit to the taking of one or more specimens of the person's breath or blood for analysis to determine the alcohol concentration or the presence in the person's body of a controlled substance, drug, dangerous drug, or other substance.” This essentially means that a person agrees to submit to testing simply by receiving a driver’s license in Texas.
Most tests relating to drunk driving are designed for subjects to fail. Field sobriety tests are inherently flawed to the point that many completely sober drivers have difficulty passing them, and chemical tests can produce false positives if the equipment has not been properly maintained or is improperly operated.
Before an officer requests that an alleged offender submits to the taking of a specimen, he or she must inform the driver orally and in writing that refusal to submit to the taking of the specimen may be admissible in a subsequent prosecution and the alleged offender’s license—regardless of whether he or she is subsequently prosecuted—for at least 180 days. If a person does submit to testing and an analysis of the specimen shows the person had an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or higher, then his or her license will be automatically suspended for at least 90 days.
Despite the automatic suspension for refusal, an alleged offender will have 15 days to request an Administrative License Revocation (ALR) hearing to challenge the suspension of his or her license. More importantly, refusal to provide a specimen will mean there is no evidence of the alleged offender’s alcohol concentration and make it much more difficult for a prosecutor to obtain a conviction.
The Fourth Amendment also prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures. Police officers will frequently attempt to get motorists to give them permission to search their vehicles by implying that refusal means they have something to hide.
Authorities may attempt to exploit a loophole that allows them to search your car—such as claiming there was a detectable scent of marijuana—but an alleged offender should politely say, “I do not consent to any searches.” If a police officer continues an uncomfortable line of questioning or threatens to call a K-9 unit, you should attempt to end the encounter by simply asking, “Are you detaining me or am I free to go?”
It is critical to stay cool, calm, and collected while asserting your rights. Complaining or becoming confrontational or vulgar with law enforcement will be treated as an improper attitude and only give a police officer more reason to take you into custody.
What To Do at a DUI Roadblock | National Motorists Association — The National Motorists Association describes itself as “a grassroots alliance of motorists joined together to protect our rights in the courts, on the streets, and in our vehicles.” This article from its newsletter reviews Michigan Department of State Police v. Sitz, the United States Supreme Court case involving the constitutionality of police sobriety checkpoints, and also discusses how you can assert your rights at a DWI checkpoint. You can also find a list of reported roadblocks and other driving issues on the website.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Texas (ACLUTx) — The ACLU is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization with a mission "to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States." The organization has four chapters in Texas, and you can learn more about the issues it is working on. When it comes to traffic stops for alleged drunk driving, the ACLU has vigorously fought against warrantless blood tests, “no refusal” checkpoints, and other violations of personal privacy.
Find a Lawyer DWI Traffic Stop Rights in Fort Worth, TX
Do you believe that your constitutional rights may have been violated during a recent DWI arrest in Texas? It will be in your best interest to obtain legal representation as soon as possible.
Townsend, Gebhardt & Eppes, PLLC fights to protect the rights of clients all over Parker County, Johnson County, Tarrant County, and surrounding communities in North Central Texas. Our Fort Worth criminal defense attorneys can review your case when you call 817-502-3600 or submit an online form to schedule a free, confidential consultation.