Being stopped for drunk driving

| May 11, 2020 | Firm News

It may take a small number drinks to exceed the legal limit for drunk driving in Texas for some motorists. Drivers who are below the legal limit or unimpaired still increase their odds for arrest and weaken their DWI defense by not taking precautions during a police stop.

Driving while impaired by alcohol or drugs is dangerous, illegal and potentially deadly. In addition to serious injuries, it can lead to criminal penalties such as fines and incarceration, job loss, civil and legal expenses and higher insurance premiums. Each person’s gender and body weight, the amount of food and drink consumed and elapsed time affect  ability to handle alcohol.

Do not drive if you are intoxicated or even slightly buzzed. Give up your car keys, take a rideshare or taxi or seek a ride with someone.

Avoiding stops      

Police need probable cause to stop a vehicle. In addition to erratic driving, probable cause may also include traffic violations such as speeding, failure to signal or driving through a stop sign. Faulty equipment such as burned-out brake lights is another reason.

To help prevent these stops and for safety reasons, drivers should obey all traffic laws. Do not drive above or well below posted speed limits or stop and signal too far in advance. Wear your seatbelt.

Inspect your vehicle every two to three weeks and assure that your license plate light, headlight beams, taillights, clearance lights, brake lights and turn signals are working and properly aimed. Make sure there are no darkly tinted windows, loud exhaust pipes, unrepaired body damage and cracked windows which draw police attraction.

Time and place       

The chances of being stopped increase during the closing times for bars and during special events such as concerts, large weddings, sporting events, holidays and national events such as the Super Bowl.

Limit or stop drinking or avoid driving during these times. Do not drive where police are concentrating such as concert or sporting venues or clubs, bars and restaurants.

Being stopped   

The way you act when you are stopped is important, even when you are not legally impaired. Police are seeking evidence to prosecute you.

When police signal you, immediately pull over to the rights side of the road if possible or another safe place to stop. Turn off the ignition, turn on dome lights and place your hands on the steering wheel where they are visible.

Be courteous but avoid the urge caused by nervousness to talk more than necessary. You do not have to and should not answer any questions about the amount you drank, even if minimal, or anything else such as where you were.

You must provide your license, registration and proof of insurance. These documents should be kept in a readily accessible location. You do not want to have fumble around looking for them or, even worse, not find them.

Police may look in your vehicle from the outside. They cannot search inside unless they have probable cause that you are carrying something illegal. Politely reject any request to search the inside of your car.

If you did not drink or consume any drug and you are not impaired in any way, you may ask police to record the entire traffic stop if they have a video camera. Anything recorded, however, may be used as evidence against you.

Field sobriety test     

You should comply with a police request to step outside your vehicle.

But you may refuse to perform a field sobriety test which is used to gather more evidence against you.  These include physical tests like walking a straight line, touching your hand to nose with arms outstretched or reciting the alphabet backwards.

You may not be penalized for refusing this test. Many sober drivers flunk field sobriety tests because of nervousness, lack of coordination or subjective test application and interpretation.

Blood and alcohol tests 

Under Texas’ implied consent law, a driver who refuses to take a blood or breath test will have their driver’s license automatically suspended for 180 days. A breathalyzer is less accurate.

An attorney can help protect a driver’s rights. They can help assure that improperly seized evidence or invalid tests results are not used.