11 Mistakes to Avoid During a DWI Stop in Texas
In 2013, Texas led the nation with 1,337 fatalities due to drunk driving, and there were 15,687 alcohol-related crash injuries, according to statistics from Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD). Drunk driving mistakes for Texas residents are a regular occurrence, as they are within other states.
If you’re arrested for a DWI (driving while intoxicated) in Texas, or anywhere else for that matter, you’re not only endangering yourself and others, but you’re also putting your license at stake. This can mean serious consequences in terms of your livelihood, if you drive for a living or have to drive to get to your job.
It goes without saying that driving while intoxicated, particularly when over the legal limits, is a very serious situation. It’s imperative to get in touch with a good criminal defense lawyer in Texas as soon as you can, if you’ve been stopped for suspected DWI.
In the meantime, read through this Texas DWI checkpoint guide where you can learn about:
- What to do at a DWI checkpoint
- How to pass a DWI checkpoint
- What common mistakes to avoid during a Texas DWI stop
Many people think that you’re automatically convicted if you’re stopped for driving while intoxicated. However, that’s not necessarily true. Depending on the details of your specific situation — and with the right DWI defense like what we can offer you here at Morales & Sparks, you could potentially avoid the license suspension, fines and jail time that accompanies a conviction.
That’s why knowing the most common mistakes to avoid during a Texas DWI stop is crucial. We’ll go over 11 common mistakes in a moment, but first, it’s important for you to know the legal limits for blood alcohol content (BAC) and the penalties for a DWI in Texas.
What Are the Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) Levels for a DWI in Texas?
If you’re unsure what it takes to make you too drunk to legally drive, note that there are very specific blood alcohol content (BAC) levels, which depend upon your age and type of driver, that put you over the legal driving limit.
For a DWI in Texas, your blood alcohol count must be:
- 0.02 or over if you’re under 21.
- 0.08 or over if you’re 21 or older.
- 0.04 or over if you’re a commercial driver.
What Are the Penalties for a DWI in Texas?
If you’re charged with driving while intoxicated at DWI stops in Texas, you can expect the following penalties:
- Minimum jail sentence of between three and 180 days
- Penalties and fines of as much as $2,000, unless a child age 15 or under is in the car
- License suspension of anywhere from 90 to 365 days
- Minimum jail sentence of between 30 days to one year
- Penalties and fines of up to $4,000, unless a child age 15 or under is in the car
- License suspension of 18 days to two years
- Minimum jail sentence of two years
- Penalties and fines of up to $10,000
- License suspension of 180 days to two years
Texas doesn’t have a “lookback” period. This means even if you were charged with DWI 20 years ago, it still counts as a previous offense.
If you refuse to submit to a chemical test in Texas, you’ll get a fine and an automatic suspension of your license:
- 1st offense. 180-day license suspension
- 2nd offense. Two-year license suspension
- 3rd offense. Two-year license suspension
11 Mistakes to Avoid During a DWI Stop
Now that you know the legal limits for driving while intoxicated and the penalties for a DWI in Texas, let’s go over the mistakes you want to avoid when confronted with a DWI checkpoint stop. When you’ve been stopped on suspicion of driving while intoxicated and you’re wondering how to pass a DWI test, how you interact with law enforcement can be vital, especially if the police later go on to charge you with drunk driving.
There are various reasons why the way that you interact with law enforcement officials is so crucial. For example, your behavior can be used as grounds for police to conduct a search on you. It could even be used against you later by prosecutors who are attempting to secure a DWI conviction against you.
With that said, let’s delve into the 11 mistakes to avoid during a Texas DWI stop:
Mistake #1: Not Knowing What Happens at a DWI Roadblock Checkpoint
DWI checkpoints are probably the most common type of roadblock you may encounter in Texas and elsewhere in the U.S. Their main purpose is for the police to detain passing motorists to get a better look. They may check your driver’s license and vehicle plate, look into your car and take a sniff of your breath.
If they suspect that you’ve been drinking, you might be given additional tests that may include:
- Assessing your eyes for drunkenness
- Checking your balance through a walk test
- Counting out loud for 30 seconds
- Standing on one leg
You should know that police officers cannot search you or your car without you agreeing to the search or them having probable cause that you’re driving while intoxicated.
Mistake #2: Failing to Ask Why the Roadblock Was Set up in the First Place
You might not have realized, but states are required by the courts to show that the roadblock placement was reasonable. When you employ an experienced DWI lawyer, after reviewing the details of your arrest, he or she can show you how to make the police disclose information as to why the roadblock was set up in the first place. You can also find out which cops worked it or were present at it as well as gain insight into the conduct of each officer. The police have a duty to comply with your requests.
There are strict guidelines in place as to where, when and why checkpoint roadblocks are placed. Proving that one is an effective form of crime prevention in a certain area can be difficult. This is something that could work out beneficially for you.
Mistake #3: Not Finding out What Types of Procedures Are in Use at the Checkpoint
There are various procedures that are required to be in place by law at a checkpoint. Aspects like safe conditions and adequate lighting are just a few. In addition, there must be a positive and accepted plan in place as to which cars are going to be stopped and for how the routine checks are to be performed. When you have a skilled attorney working for you, he or she can be a successful resource in questioning the fairness and details of a roadblock.
Your DWI defense attorney in Texas knows how things should be done and what aspects have been handled correctly and incorrectly. If the police have deviated in any way from the mandated and accepted policy, your lawyer can use this to your benefit. It’s sometimes possible to entirely dismiss the roadblock evidence if anything was done incorrectly by the arresting officers.
Mistake #4: Admitting You’ve Consumed Alcohol
When you’re stopped on suspicion of drunk driving, one of the first things police ask you is whether you’ve had any alcohol to drink before getting behind the wheel. Of course, you don’t want to lie to the police (see mistake #6 below), but by the same token, you don’t want to admit you’ve been drinking and driving either. Under such circumstances, it’s best practice not to answer this question at all. You are within your rights to say something like, “No comment.”
If you’re worried about not answering the police’s questions, remember that you’re only required to disclose your full name by law. You don’t need to say anything else that might incriminate you in the long term or that can be potentially used against you in a court of law. Not knowing this crucial information is one of the biggest DWI mistakes for Texas drivers.
Mistake #5: Taking a Field Sobriety Test When You Know You Can’t Pass
Following up on your right to refuse to answer police questions, you can also legally refuse to submit to field sobriety testing. What will likely happen, though, is that the police may ask you to take a blood alcohol test instead. This is important to take, as if you don’t, you can have your license automatically suspended.
By not submitting to a field sobriety test when you know you’ve a high possibility of failing, you can avoid giving cops and prosecutors further evidence against you if you’re later charged with DWI. Remember that a failed field test can be used to prove that you’ve been driving while drunk.
Mistake #6: Lying to Officers
Lying to the police is a very common and unnecessary mistake people often make during a DWI stop. You need to know that if you’re facing questions you don’t want to answer, you always have the right to remain silent. You only have to tell the cops your full legal name and nothing more. You can also assert your Fifth Amendment right — and it is entirely preferable to do this rather than lying to the police.
Lying does nothing for you in the long run. It only destroys what credibility you have. It can also sometimes lead to additional criminal charges being filed against you.
Mistake #7: Allowing Cops to Search Your Car
Even though you don’t feel you’ve anything to hide, you should never allow the cops to search your vehicle or your other property during a DWI stop. It’s imperative to note that while the police have to ask you for your authorization to conduct a search, they don’t have any legal right whatsoever to search your car or your property without your permission.
It’s never a good idea to give your permission for a search to be carried out. If the cops find other evidence of anything illegal, they can use this to file further charges against you. Because of this, you need to do all you can to limit any potential proof the cops have against you by saying no to these searches, as well as saying as little to them as possible.
Mistake #8: Resisting Arrest
If the police have decided they have sufficient evidence to preliminary charge you with DWI, the next step is to arrest you. Being stopped by police for DWI is a worrying and frightening experience. You may feel backed into a corner and understandably upset. But, no matter how angry and unhappy you feel, you must refrain from resisting arrest. If you do, the cops can file charges for resisting arrest against you in addition to the DWI charges.
Additionally, even if the charges are eventually dropped, the fact that you resisted arrest can be used by the prosecution to make you look guilty later in court.
Mistake #9: Being Found to Be Over the Limit and Deciding to Plead Guilty
It’s quite natural to assume that because your breath or blood test was over the limit that your only choice is to plead guilty. What many people don’t know is that there are various situations in which a test may be inadmissible. This means it can’t be used against you, so basically, it never happened. These are just some of the ways a test can become inadmissible:
- If, when you’re pulled over, the cop had no suitable justification to stop you, every piece of evidence, including the test, is omitted.
- If after you’re stopped, the police officer asks you to take a field sobriety test without any appropriate grounds, this could potentially make the field test and any following chemical test inadmissible.
- If the cop didn’t run the field test correctly, this can nullify it and then make the subsequent chemical test inadmissible.
- If the officer ran the field test correctly, but said you failed when other evidence such as a dashcam video proves you actually passed, the ensuing chemical test is then likely to be considered as inadmissible.
- If the cop arrested you without a field test and other information such as the dashcam footage is revealed to be insufficient, a chemical test will be inadmissible.
- If the police officer conducted everything at the scene properly but administered the chemical test improperly, the result of the test is unreliable, and is, therefore, inadmissible.
- If the chemical test was correctly carried out, but the equipment wasn’t calibrated and maintained properly, the test results are deemed unreliable and are inadmissible.
The above is by no means an exhaustive list and reinforces why it’s essential to hire the best and most experienced Texas defense lawyer who can determine if you have a good argument as to whether your test results should be inadmissible.
Mistake #10: Taking “Legal” Advice From Family and Friends
We all have that friend or family member who has been there and done everything before everyone else. Even if this person is someone who has had many DWIs in the past, it’s naïve to take free advice from someone who isn’t qualified in this specific and specialized area. Taking advice from family members is something for a DWI defendant to avoid.
A criminal case is very serious and can have lifelong consequences. You should never accept advice, no matter how well-meaning, on something as important. This is why you need to give our Morales & Sparks criminal defense attorneys at law team a call today.
Mistake #11: Not Hiring the Services of an Established DUI Defense Lawyer Earlier
Arguably the biggest mistake you can make in relation to a DWI stops is not hiring an experienced DUI lawyer as soon as possible. After you’ve been arrested, you need to defend yourself in a criminal court case as well as in an administrative one with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Therefore, engaging a lawyer who knows the full ins and outs of the law helps you build the solidest possible defense.
Remember, when dealing with a DWI stop, stay calm, know your rights and avoid making the mistakes listed above.
However, the best advice is to not drink and drive, so you never need to worry about a DWI stop.
Get Help for DWI Charge in Texas
Have you or a loved one been charged or arrested with DUI or DWI in Texas? If so, contact us, your Texas DWI defense attorneys at Morales & Sparks for a consultation today. We are your Williamson County criminal defense attorneys representing, Austin, Georgetown and surrounding area residents who are charged for felony or misdemeanor DWI.
Disclaimer: The purpose of this post is to provide general information and is not to be constituted as legal advice. If you need help with a specific issue, please seek the advice of an attorney.