Houston DWI Attorney Explains Your Rights During a DWI Stop
According to a Texas news outlet, a Bexar County teenager was arrested and charged with DWI and felony evading arrest following a 2014 traffic stop.
According to reports, the teen was pulled over, asked to exit her vehicle, and was immediately handcuffed. While handcuff the teen was subjected to several field sobriety tests. Additionally, she was denied a breathalyzer test, a test which screens for the presence and concentration of alcohol, because she was under the age of 21.
After being released on bond 6 hours following the arrest, the teen went to a private lab for drug and alcohol testing. The results confirmed she was not under the influence of any drugs or alcohol.
The criminal charges were eventually dismissed and the Texas teen filed a civil law suit for false arrest. While the aforementioned case produced relatively positive results, it illuminates how little the average person knows about their rights and options during a DWI stop.
If you are stopped or arrested for driving while intoxicated (DWI) anywhere in the Houston area or the surrounding areas of The Woodlands or Sugar Land, it is important to understand your rights under Texas law.
The officer must have a lawful reason for the stop
In order to make a traffic stop, the law enforcement office must have reasonable suspicion. Reasonable suspicion requires articulable facts that criminal activity is afoot. This means a police officer may not arbitrarily stop every driver on the road (with the exception of temporary road blocks or checkpoints).
Commonly, the following behaviors will give an officer reasonable suspicion for a DWI stop:
- Swerving or inability to stay in a lane
- Driving considerably below the speed limit
Like in the above mentioned case, the reasonable suspicion requirement does not prevent an officer from unlawfully pulling over drivers. If you are arrested for DWI, it is important to remember all of the details and relay this information to your attorney. Depending on the facts, it may be possible for the attorney to have the DWI charges dismissed, because the initial stop was unlawful.
You have the right to a breathalyzer test (at any age)
Texas is an implied consent state. This means by virtue of driving on Texas’ roads or highways, a driver gives law enforcement permission to conduct chemical testing, including blood, urine, or breathalyzer testing, for alcohol.
A driver has the right to refuse chemical testing; however, such refusal could result in automatic driver’s license suspension.
While some individuals want to avoid chemical testing because they have, in fact, consumed alcohol before or while operating a motor vehicle, others may want to consent to chemical testing to show they have not consumed any drugs or alcohol.
Those drivers have the right to submit to chemical testing, no matter the age of the driver. In the case of the Bexar County teen, she was told by law enforcement that she could not take a breathalyzer test, because she was under the age of 21. That is not true.
Minors or individuals under the age of 21 cannot legally consume alcohol. As a result, a minor can be charged with DWI if chemical testing shows he or she had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.02 or higher.
Because of the low BAC requirement, minimal amounts of alcohol or drugs in the system could result in a drunk driving charge. Individuals age 21 or older may face DWI charges if he or she is found in operation of a motor vehicle with a BAC of 0.08 or higher.
You do not have to submit to a field sobriety test
The field sobriety test, especially the walk-and-turn, is widely associated with a DWI stop. Many drivers submit to the field sobriety tests, because they mistakenly believe the test is legally required.
Common types of field sobriety tests include the following:
- The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) Test- During the HGN test the officer takes a small object, usually a pen or flashlight, and moves the item slowly from left to right. The officer performs this test to gauge eye movement and observe the presence of a nystagmus, which is involuntary eye twitching that is exaggerated by alcohol impairment.
- Walk-and-Turn Test- During the walk-and-turn test, the officer requires the driver to walk nine steps, foot to heel, along a straight line. After the nine steps the driver must pivot and return in the same manner.
- One-Leg Stand Test- During the one-leg stand, the officer will request the driver lift one leg approximately six inches off the ground with both hands by his or her side for 30 seconds.
Field sobriety tests are not legally required. A driver may refuse a field sobriety test.
You should contact an attorney immediately following the arrest
Following a DWI arrest, it is important to remain silent and contact an experienced DWI attorney immediately. An experienced DWI attorney can thoroughly explain all of your legal options, which may include a release on bond, dismissal of the criminal charges, or diversion.
Matt Horak of Horak Law is an experienced DWI defense attorney based in the Greater Houston Area. He strongly advocates on behalf of all his clients facing criminal charges, including First DWI, Felony DWI, Underage DWI, Intoxication Assault and Manslaughter, DWI with a Child Passenger, and more.
With offices in Houston and The Woodlands, Horak Law Firm represents clients throughout Texas, including Harris County, Montgomery County, Fort Bend County, Brazoria County, Galveston County, Liberty County, Waller County, and surrounding areas.
Contact Horak Law at (713) 225-8000 for a confidential review of your case.