You’re at happy hour with your coworkers. You only had three drinks and you decide to drive home. Out of nowhere, you see a police officer’s car light up behind you. You’re being pulled over.
The officer smells the odor of alcohol on your breath and wants to know if you are over the legal limit of blood alcohol concentration and asks you to submit to a breath test. You’re tempted to refuse, but unsure of what happens if you do. If this happens to you, it is crucial to know your rights and the law about breath and blood alcohol testing to avoid making a costly mistake.
What implied consent laws mean for you
Driving a car in Texas is considered a legal privilege, not a legal right. When you obtain a Texas driver’s license, you give your implied consent to follow certain laws and regulations in exchange for the State granting you the privilege to drive on the roads. Specifically, in a DWI investigation, implied consent means that if an officer requests that you take a breath or blood test, you agree, in advance, to submit to testing. Should you refuse to provide a sample of your breath or blood for testing, the State could use that fact against you as evidence of your guilt during your trial.
What happens if you refuse a breath or blood test?
In addition to being used as evidence against you at trial, if you refuse to take a breath or blood test you will receive a suspension of your driver’s license for a minimum of 180 days. When you’re released from jail, depending on the facts of your case, you may receive a temporary license. You will have 15 days to decide if you want a hearing on your license suspension. If you’re later convicted of DWI, you may receive a sentence of up to 180 days in jail. Penalties for second and third DWI offenses go up from there.
Can I refuse field sobriety tests?
Yes you may. The police say these “tests” are to see if you are ok to drive. In reality, the State uses both the video recording and officer’s observations of your performance on these “tests” to show you were intoxicated at the time of driving. Chances are, once the officer suspects you have been drinking, they have already made the decision to arrest you. Everything they do from this point until they place you in handcuffs is designed to gain as much evidence against you as possible.
Do I have to talk to the police?
Yes and no. Yes you have to identify yourself and provide proof of insurance. You don’t have to answer questions about where you are going or where you are coming from. Questions like those don’t have anything to do with why you got pulled over. They are designed to get you to give the police information to help the State prove you were intoxicated. They vast majority of citizens that get convicted of DWI are convicted because of what they told the police, not what the police witnessed on their own.
DWI penalties in Texas
If you’re convicted of a first offense DWI in Texas, you might face the following penalties:
- Up to $2,000 in fines
- Jail time ranging from three to 180 days
- Loss of driver’s license for up to one year
If you’re charged with driving while intoxicated, it is crucial to contact an experienced criminal law attorney. An attorney can help to protect your rights and reduce the possible penalties if you’re convicted.