Every time I meet with a new client on a DWI case, I am reminded of all the different things I think people should know about DWI, and what they actually know. The State spends a great deal of money to give you the impression that you have no rights or choices when you are suspected of DWI. In reality, every citizen still maintains valuable rights vital to the defense of a DWI charge. Beyond rights, there are a number of things everyone should commit to memory in case they are ever charged with DWI. Think this doesn’t apply to you? Even if you drink responsibly, drive, and get pulled over, more likely than not you will be arrested. Whether the charge sticks is another question, and the following simple rules can go a long way toward making sure it doesn’t. With that in mind, I offer the following top 10 dos and don’ts for DWI cases in Texas:
1. Do - Be polite.
Remember, you are on camera from the moment you see the lights of the patrol car. Every word you utter and action you take is recorded, and will be fodder for the prosecuting attorney. Many of the officers here in Travis and Williamson County are NOT patient, and NOT sensitive to the situation. Make sure any jury that ultimately sees your video identifies with you and not the officer. I can assure you that most jurors have not cussed at, belittled or minimized police officers. First and foremost, make sure you pass the attitude test.
2. Don’t – Ask to be allowed to go home.
“But, I live just right over there. Can I just get a cab?” The answer will always be no. The officer will never get in trouble for arresting you, but absolutely will if he or she lets you go and disaster happens. On top of that, you have to remember that as soon as the officer saw you operating your car in a public place, the offense was committed. They are not making the arrest to prevent a future crime, they are arresting you because they believe the crime already occurred. We have represented clients that were stopped as they were parking their car in a parking space in their own apartment complex. As hard as it may be, resist the urge to ask, because it is not happening.
3. Do – retain all of your rights.
Your rights are valuable, and they are YOURS. When is the last time you were stopped for speeding, but pulled out of the car and interrogated about where you have been, where you are going, what you have had to eat, what you have had to drink, etc., etc? If you hear these questions, it is because you are under suspicion of DWI. Like all instances in which you are under suspicion of criminal activity, you have the right to remain silent. You have the right not to incriminate yourself. If you want the questioning to stop, ask the officer if you are free to leave, and if you are not, stop answering their questions.
4. Don’t – Do field sobriety tests.
Imagine you are in school, and given the opportunity to take a test. The outcome of this test may very well derail your future plans. You then find out that there is no way to pass the test, and there are no correct answers. Now also imagine that if the teacher is giving you this test, his or her training suggests your have most likely already failed. Would you take it? If you have gotten to the point of performing field sobriety tests, more likely than not, you are already going to jail. Do not help them by providing evidence. Do not believe it when the officer says that he “just wants to make sure you are ok to drive.”
5. Do – Request a hearing to save your license.
In Texas, DPS will initiate a separate legal proceeding in an attempt to suspend your license for failing to provide a breath sample or for providing a sample over the legal limit. Suspension of your license is not automatic, and you have the right to a hearing to contest it. Some lawyers may try to suggest that this is not an important aspect of your defense. Some lawyers will waive this hearing. Bad idea. The hearing gives you an opportunity to get copies of the evidence from the State, much of which is the same evidence that will be admissible against you in the DWI prosecution. Also, the officer must make himself available to your lawyer for cross examination, and his testimony is recorded. We have had numerous instances where different copies of police reports materialized, or officers offered testimony contrary to their report. All of this can be used to impeach the officer at trial.
6. Don’t – Fall asleep in the patrol car.
Nothing says drunk like falling asleep on the way to jail. You have be very drunk or very unaffected by being in the back of a police cruiser if you can fall asleep. Neither bodes well for your case. Wake up, man!
7. Do – Take down all your Facebook party pics.
Facebook is not just for you and your friends anymore. Prosecutors and judges have profiles, too. I know that spring break trip was epic, but pictures of you taking shots may very well mean the difference between getting your DWI dismissed or not. While the case is pending, you are being scrutinized. Make sure you give them nothing to hold against you.
8. Don’t - Blow!
This appears to be one of the most widely held correct beliefs about DWI. Nevertheless, we have clients that come in, even with a second or subsequent DWI, and they have provided a sample. There simply is no logical reason to do it. The only way you avoid a license suspension is by providing a breath or blood sample below the legal limit, but even then you are not going to be allowed to go home. By the time you provide your breath sample, you have already been arrested, and nothing will change that. Additionally, the State will likely still prosecute that case with a sample below the legal limit.
9. Do – Be an active participant in your defense.
Your lawyer (hopefully) wasn’t present during your DWI. Make sure you take the time to help prepare your defense. Did you really only have 2 drinks that night? If so, then bring your lawyer your credit card receipts. Bring your buddies from that evening in to be witnesses. Make yourself aware of the State’s evidence, and help your lawyer to identify strengths and weaknesses in the case.
10. Don’t – Go through the process uninformed.
The consequences of a DWI are so extensive, you just simply cannot work your way through the process blindly. For example, are you a pilot? Do you know the consequences of a DWI conviction or license suspension on your pilot's license? Are you aware of surcharges? What if you are a teacher, lawyer, or doctor? The point is that the consequences of a DWI are far reaching. What you need is the ability to explore all of these potential consequences with your lawyer. The last thing you want is to believe you have put the process behind you only to have it haunt you in the future.
We are Austin DWI Lawyers, and we enjoy defending people accused of driving while intoxicated. If you enjoyed this post, please pass it along to others. You may build your own Karma by helping someone else avoid a DWI conviction too!