The rules in this area are very complex and they do not always make sense. So, it’s very easy to see why people are confused as to their rights when officers pull them over.
It is very important to exercise all your rights in these situations. Even the best attorney on earth cannot turn back the clock and give people second chances to flex their legal muscles. Also, in so doing, it is also very important not to antagonize police officers. They are just doing their jobs, and they certainly do not deserve disrespect.
What You Must Do
Everyone must identify themselves when asked. That almost always means producing a drivers’ license. Note, however, that you do not have to say anything. Presenting the license for inspection is enough.
Furthermore, drivers must also produce proof of insurance on demand. This requirement is part of Texas’ mandatory auto insurance law. Once again, however, drivers only need to produce the document for inspection. If the officer asks questions, you do not have to answer them.
Drivers must also comply with directional commands, like “step out of the car” or “wait here for me to return.” Technically, the officer may or may not have the authority to give such orders. But, it is usually best to respect them. Flaunting or ignoring such commands could lead to an altercation which could end very, very badly for the driver.
Finally, you must be ready to face the consequences for refusing to answer questions. These consequences almost always include arrest for DWI. That could mean drivers’ license suspension as well.
What You Must (Or Should) Refuse to Do
When asserting your right to remain silent, there is no need to make a big production out of it. There’s also no need to give the officer the silent treatment. Just politely refuse to answer questions.
Your Fifth Amendment right to remain silent does not just apply to questions. You may also refuse to perform field sobriety tests. Doing so deprives the prosecutor of evidence at court. Without the FSTs or a chemical test, prosecutors must prove intoxication with items like bloodshot eyes and erratic driving. That is a Herculean task, given the high burden of proof in criminal cases.
Generally, you also have the right to refuse a chemical test. You may face additional drivers’ license suspension if you refuse. However, if you took the test and failed it, the state would suspend your license anyway. If the officer has a search warrant for a blood test, you do not have the right to refuse. You may note your refusal to the officer and ask to see the warrant, but that is all.
Circumstantial DWI evidence is rather easy to challenge in court. For a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney in Fort Worth, contact Herreth Law. Mr. Herreth is a former prosecutor who now works for you.