What To Know If You Are Pulled Over
This advice is provided free of charge by Texas DWI Defense Attorney Carl David Ceder. I own and operate The Law Offices of Carl David Ceder and can be reached at:
- www.DallasDefender.com; or
- or by phone at 214.702.CARL(2275), and also by e-mail at CDC@DFWDefender.com.
The most common question I am usually asked at social events is "What should I do if I'm pulled over and I’ve had some alcohol to drink?" The following is a simple guideline that may help you if you ever find yourself in this situation.
The best overall piece of advice is to exercise responsibility. Use your common sense. If you think you've had too much to drink, you're probably right. Thus, just DON’T DRIVE! It’s that simple.
Many people don't want to pay the fee for a cab when they have their vehicle parked somewhere. It can be a pain to leave it behind. But logically speaking, if you do have to leave your car after you've been drinking, spending a little extra money for a cab is far cheaper than having to pay the price of an attorney, court costs, fines, bonding fees (and it most certainly beats having to spend the night in jail).
All this being said, if you happen to find yourself pulled over after you've consumed alcohol, here a few things to keep in mind. Following these tips may help to prevent an actual conviction for Driving While Intoxicated.
1. First and foremost, if you are drinking alcohol and you know you will have to operate a vehicle, then DO NOT drink in excess. Try to manage to only consume AT MOST one drink per hour. Alcohol generally eliminates from a person’s system at one drink per hour. If you pace yourself and track that you only consume at this pace, then you should not be intoxicated.
2. It is best to say as little as possible to the investigating officer once pulled over. It is wise to politely refuse to answer any questions both before and after the arrest. This prevents the investigating officer from using any of your statements against you when or if you are prosecuted later in court. Even a question you may think is relatively harmless may end up being used as further evidence the state tries to prove that you lost the use of your "mental faculties." The definition of the law for "intoxicated" in Texas is as follows:
- not having the normal use of "mental" or "physical" faculties by reason of the introduction of alcohol (or due to the introduction of a drug); or
- having an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more.
3. People are usually nervous and scared when being investigated for a DWI. It is not uncommon for someone to say something unusual solely based on having the "jitters." Therefore, try and say as little as possible throughout the entirely of the proceeding. Simply tell the officer: "I would like to talk to my attorney, and then do not offer any other information. DO NOT BEG, PLEAD, OR ARGUE WITH THE OFFICER AFTER THE ARREST DECISION IS MADE.
4. The Investigating Officer will likely ask you to submit to performing the Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (SFST’s). These tests are completely voluntary. In most situations if you are asked to perform the SFST’s by an officer, you will likely be arrested and taken to jail anyway. Therefore, it is best to simply invoke your right to refuse. There are no laws requiring you to perform these tests. These tests are designed for failure. They are used in order to gather evidence against you to help the state gain a conviction later in court. Hence, politely refuse to perform the SFST’s.
5. Sometimes people voluntarily submit to a breath or blood test with the mistaken belief that if they pass, they will be able to go home. This is not true. Once you are asked to submit to a chemical test, you are already under arrest. There is no way to be "un-arrested." You have the absolute right to refuse to submit to a chemical test after you are arrested for DWI. If you do refuse, your driver’s license will be subject to a 180-day suspension (as opposed to a 90-day for a chemical test failure). This shorter period of time for a suspension is usually used to entice suspects to submit to a chemical test. DO NOT MAKE THIS MISTAKE. REFUSE. Either way, your driving privileges are subject to a suspension period. However, regardless of the length of suspension, you will be eligible to obtain an occupational driver’s license, which would allow you to drive for "essential needs." It is also better to let the officers go through the process of obtaining a blood search warrant, rather than just allowing them to bypass this step altogether. Often they will not go through the process of obtaining the search warrant because of the length of time involved in doing so. If they do ultimately get a search warrant to obtain your blood, you are in no worse position than had you just consented from the beginning. In addition, often it takes 3-4 hours for the investigating officer to complete the entire process of obtaining the search warrant and then facilitating the blood draw. As such, your BAC could be considerably lower at this point than had you consented to the blood draw from the very beginning, leaving you with more room to argue what the accurate BAC would have been "at the time of driving."
6. Call a family member or friend as soon as you are allowed to do so. This way, you can have a witness to testify regarding your sobriety if the case should proceed to trial.
7. Always be extremely polite to the police officers. Juries, judges, and prosecutors DO NOT like to see disrespectful behavior when viewing the video recording of your arrest. Even if the investigating officer does not reciprocate your politeness, do not respond in a harsh or crude manner.
8. Your entire arrest is likely being video recorded (see #5). As such, always be on your best behavior. Remember that it is highly likely that others will view what transpired later. Always keep this in mind.
9. As soon as possible, write down a narrative of everything that occurred the day/night of your arrest while it's still fresh in your memory. The more clear and accurate the details, the better your case will be. Juries find testimony more truthful if you can recall events with clarity. Try to document everything that transpired in detail, including all of the events prior to your encounter with the police, and during the investigation, arrest, and booking. Make a full written account of where you were consuming alcohol, how many beverages were consumed, over what period of time, any food you had eaten that day, and any other pertinent information relevant to the arrest. Document any sicknesses or medical conditions you may have experienced as well. Having receipts documenting the alcohol consumed is always helpful and convincing for a jury to consider.
10. Hire an attorney who places a specific focus on DWI Defense. Avoid the generalist, and the "Jack-Of-All-Trades and Master-of-None" Attorney. If you needed a serious heart surgery operation, you wouldn't seek out a general surgeon who performs only a few heart surgeries per year. Rightfully so, you would want a devoted and experienced heart surgeon whose medical practice is focused almost exclusively on this procedure. You would want and expect a surgeon who performs heart surgeries on a regular and consistent basis, who knows how to react to unexpected complications, and who is committed to being on the cutting edge of their craft. Thus, do the same when considering whom you will hire to represent you with your charge of DWI.
I have spoken with quite a few attorneys who have conveyed they "dabble" in DWI Defense on occasion. The "dabbler" is a scary proposition, and is a common reality for many of those arrested for DWI. I have personally substituted counsel on many DWI cases for other attorneys that were fired by their clients because they soon realized they had absolutely no idea how to properly defend against a charge of DWI. Usually their attorneys simply advised them to plead "Guilty", most likely because they didn’t know what else to do. I have personally received acquittals and other favorable dispositions after a client has fired their attorney (who advised pleading "Guilty"), and then hired me. Therefore, always try to work with an attorney who devotes the majority of their practice to defending DWI cases. The "dabbler" is likely to miss issues that can mean the difference between a successful or a failing defense.
*And remember, the most effective technique to avoid a DWI arrest and/or a subsequent conviction is simply to NOT DRINK AND DRIVE! Even if you are not "intoxicated" according to the law, the reality is that if an investigating officer smells the odor of alcohol on your breath, often you will be arrested regardless of anything else that occurs. Therefore, the absolute and most sure-way to avoid a DWI arrest and/or conviction is to avoid drinking alcohol whenever you know you will be operating a motor vehicle.
Keep in mind that being arrested for a DWI does not always equal a conviction. If you’re facing a charge of DWI, call The Law Offices of Carl David Ceder at 214.702.CARL(2275) and we will happily explain what options are available given your specific situation. I have a strong track record of success in defending the citizen accused of DWI all across counties in the State of Texas, and am passionate about providing competent and professional legal advice in all intoxication-related offenses. Good luck, and call a cab!