Pulled over for a DWI? Know your constitutional rights!


If you’re ever pulled over under suspicion of driving while intoxicated (DWI), remember that you have Constitutional rights that must be honored. Even in these high-pressure moments, knowing what the law allows and restricts can significantly affect the situation’s outcome.

This article discusses your rights during a DWI stop. By actively using this information, you could achieve a more positive result in a DWI charge.

The Legal Basis for Traffic Stops

Law enforcement must have probable cause or a reasonable suspicion to initiate a DWI stop. “Probable cause” means the officer has a factual basis to believe you've violated the law, such as observing erratic driving or traffic violations. “Reasonable suspicion” is a lower standard, allowing officers to stop you if they believe you’ve committed a crime.

If the stop is unjustified, any evidence the officers find during the stop could be inadmissible in your case. Make sure your attorney takes a close look at the circumstances surrounding your case. They may be able to spot an unjustified stop and use this information to your benefit.

Immediate Rights at the Point of Stop

Once stopped, you have specific rights you can exercise, such as:

  • The right to remain silent
  • The right to refuse consent to a vehicle search unless the officer has a warrant or there is criminal evidence in plain view

Refusing Field Sobriety and Breathalyzer Tests

When suspected of DWI, you may be asked to perform field sobriety tests or submit to a breathalyzer. You can refuse these tests, but doing so comes with consequences.

Texas has “implied consent” laws. These laws state that by driving on public roads, you've agreed to submit to lawfully requested tests. Refusal can lead to immediate administrative penalties, such as license suspension. Be very careful when you refuse this testing. Doing so can have a significant impact on your case and driving privileges.

Chemical Test Rights and Obligations

You may be asked to submit to chemical tests, such as blood, breath, or urine tests. You have the right to be informed of the consequences of refusing these tests, and in some cases, you may have the right to choose between the types of tests offered.

As with field sobriety tests, refusing chemical tests can lead to immediate penalties. You must weigh your refusal very carefully. On one hand, refusing chemical tests can cause more legal woes. On the other hand, these tests are generally accurate, and they could incriminate you in a DWI case.

Detention and Arrest Procedures

Detention and arrest are different procedures, and all citizens should understand those differences.

Detention is a temporary hold during an investigation, and arrest is a formal criminal accusation. To arrest you, an officer must have probable cause to believe you've committed the DWI offense. If the officer has gathered enough evidence, such as failed sobriety tests or chemical test results, you may be placed under arrest.

Miranda Rights and DWI

Miranda rights inform you of your right to remain silent and your right to an attorney. In the context of a DWI, police must read your Miranda rights at the time of arrest before starting any custodial interrogation. If the police question you without first reading your Miranda rights, any statements you make may be inadmissible in court.

The right to remain silent during a DWI stop is immensely important. This right protects you from incriminating yourself. Choosing to stay silent helps you maintain some control over the situation. You do not have to answer any questions related to where you have been, where you are going, whether you consumed alcohol, or any other invasive inquiries.

Remember, police are building a case against you in a DWI stop. Any innocent statement you make could be taken out of context and used against you.

The Right to an Attorney

Your right to an attorney is critical when you are facing DWI charges. Having an attorney is vital, as they can guide you through the complexities of the legal system, advise you on your rights, and help you mount a defense. An experienced lawyer can scrutinize the details of your stop and arrest, potentially identifying errors or violations that could impact your case. Don’t attempt to fight DWI charges alone. Make sure you have a professional on your side.

Winters & Chidester is here to help fight your DWI allegations. To meet with our team, you can call our office at (512) 961-4555 or contact us online.

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