What to Know Before Being Pulled Over for a DWI

By Brock Benjamin
Founding Attorney

Drunk driving is a serious offense that can lead to severe penalties. These penalties can affect the offender for years, even a lifetime. Before getting pulled over for a DWI in Texas, it’s important to know what your rights are and how to best handle the situation. What you say and do from the time you are pulled over to the time you are in court can make a big difference in your case’s outcome. 

Irrespective of the driver’s age, circumstances, or history, anyone facing a DWI charge should contact a skilled attorney with experience in DWI defense to minimize the future effects of the charge and fight for the best possible outcome. El Paso’s Benjamin Law Firm has a robust DWI defense practice with an experienced team of tenacious, relentless litigators who are prepared to start fighting for you today.

  1. Do Not Drink and Drive

The best way to avoid the penalties of a DWI is to avoid drinking and driving altogether. If you have been drinking any significant amount, it’s best practice to find an alternate way home, such as calling a friend, a taxi, or an Uber or Lyft. There is no science to how much alcohol you can consume before safely driving and the length of time your body takes to metabolize that alcohol can vary greatly. 

Moreover, in Texas, even if your blood alcohol content does not exceed the legal limit, you can still be charged with a DWI if an officer believes you are not exhibiting “normal” use of mental or physical faculties. If you have any uncertainty about your ability to drive, it’s best not to chance it. DWI penalties can be incredibly harsh and can have a lasting impact on your future. DWI charges can also be incredibly costly.

  1. Pull Over Calmly and Safely

While seeing flashing lights and sirens behind you under any circumstance can be nerve-wracking, if you are being pulled over, it’s best practice to slow down, put on your turn signal to show the officer you’re complying, locate the nearest safe place to pull over such as a shoulder or a parking lot, and pull over calmly. Attempting to evade police can add to the penalties you face, aggravate the situation, and make your defense more difficult.

  1. Be Polite and Compliant

Do not exit your vehicle unless the officer instructs you to do so. It’s likely the exchange will begin with the officer asking for your license, registration, and proof of insurance. If you have them on hand, you may provide them to the officer. If you need to reach for them or exit the vehicle to retrieve them, ask the officer before doing so and then proceed if they consent. It’s best not to make sudden movements without letting the officer know beforehand for your safety. 

If you are rude, belligerent, unreasonable, or combative with the officer, the situation could escalate and the officer may suspect that alcohol contributed to your behavior. Remember that it is likely you are being recorded throughout the interaction on the officer’s body worn camera or their vehicle’s dashboard camera. You also have an absolute right to record the interaction, even if the officer says otherwise.

  1. Be Mindful of What You Say

Behaving politely and being compliant of the officer’s requests doesn’t mean you have to – or should – answer all of their questions. While it is never advisable to lie to the police, you can decline to answer their questions and invoke your right to remain silent. They will most likely ask you if you know why they pulled you over, and you should always respectfully tell them you don’t, as answering the question can be used against you. An officer needs reasonable suspicion to initiate a traffic stop, and if you admit that you violated traffic laws, you’re giving the officer the suspicion they need. 

If the officer asks you if you’ve been drinking, it’s best not to answer because even if you haven’t behaved in a way that made the officer think you were drinking, admitting that can lead to a DWI investigation. It’s well within your rights to refuse to answer questions, but it’s advisable to do so as politely as possible.

  1. You are Not Required to Take Any Tests

You are not legally required to take any tests which ascertain your intoxication level, such as field sobriety tests, breath tests, or blood tests. Field sobriety tests are extremely stressful and can be failed due to anxiety alone, so it may be good practice not to take them if you’re not confident you’ll pass. If you decline to take the test, you should do so respectfully and politely, as this footage could be examined if your case goes to legal proceedings. 

While you do not have any legal obligation to undergo a blood test or breathalyzer test to determine your blood alcohol content, refusing those two tests can have its own consequences. Under Texas’ implied consent laws, if you refuse such testing, you can face license suspension under the Administrative License Revocation program. Your license can also be suspended if you submit to the testing and your blood alcohol content is found to be above the legal limit. However, an experienced lawyer can help you fight the suspension.

  1. Contact an Experienced Attorney Immediately

DWI charges carry harsh penalties in Texas, with fines up to $20,000 and up to ten years of jail time for subsequent convictions. While it is much easier to achieve a positive outcome in first or second DWI offenses, all hope is not lost for subsequent offenses with the help of a zealous, skilled attorney. These penalties can be more severe under certain circumstances. 

In the state of Texas, drunk driving charges can be significantly more serious if the driver was under the age of 21. Because it is illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to consume alcohol, there is an additional charge, called a DUI, that drunk drivers under the age of 21 can face in addition to a DWI. Texas is a zero-tolerance state, which means if a driver under 21 is found to have even trace amounts of alcohol in their system, they can be charged with a DUI. It is especially important to contact an experienced attorney if the driver facing the charges is under the age of 21.

Similarly, other circumstances can increase the penalties you may face for a DWI. If someone is injured or killed as a result of drunk driving, the driver can be charged with intoxication assault or intoxication manslaughter. If a minor child was present in the car with a drunk driver, the driver can face an additional charge of a DWI with child passenger. That charge will not only make the penalty the driver faces much more severe, but it can be used against the driver in any custody proceedings. In cases involving any secondary charges related to the DWI, it’s critical that you seek the assistance of an experienced attorney who can help mitigate the impact of these charges on your future.

El Paso DWI Defense Lawyer

If you or a loved one has been pulled over for alleged drunk driving or are facing a DWI charge in Texas, contact the Benjamin Law Firm today. We know that everyone accused of driving while intoxicated is innocent until proven guilty and we are committed to providing a tenacious defense while being a compassionate advocate. Let us protect you, your rights, and your future. También estamos listos para ayudarte en español.

About the Author
Brock Benjamin is board-certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.  His practice is primarily state and federal criminal law and appeals.Brock 

Posted in: DWI