Common Mistakes in Fort Worth DWI Cases
The first common mistake in a Fort Worth DWI case happens even before they get arrested, and that is answering questions from law enforcement. We are all brought up in society to be courteous, cooperative, and also submit to authority figures such as the police. So when the police pull us over and they ask for our driver’s license, and insurance, we normally will provide those documentations. Then they ask us if we have been drinking. Almost every person will readily answer that. Most people answer that they have had a couple of drinks. And that is true for a lot of people, but some people who have had more than that, also say they had a couple of drinks. The officer always interprets “two” as more than that.
That is a big mistake because we all have the right to remain silent, known as the Fifth Amendment. We should really invoke that right because once the officer asks the person if they have been drinking, it probably means that the officer suspects so. They will notice something like slurred speech, the smell of alcohol or other factors such as a witness offering their version of the events that transpired. The officer is probably asking that question because they believe that the person has been drinking. If a person had not been drinking, they will answer that question, “No, I haven’t”, then the officer is going to think they are lying. Or if they answered the question, “Yes, I’ve had a couple of drinks”, the officer is going to use that as evidence against the person. They are certainly going to be detained further for investigation of a DWI, and at that time that statement will be used as evidence against them at trial.
Right to Remain Silent
We should all exercise our right to remain silent, but many of us do not. I have represented many attorneys who themselves have been charged with a DWI, and they make this same mistake. Well, the fact that you refuse to answer a question lets you invoke your constitutional right to remain silent, and can never be used against you. It can never be used as evidence in front of a jury during trial. This will not hurt your case or make the case stronger against you, and will not make it more likely that the officer has a legal reason to arrest you. Invoking your right to remain silent will actually make it easier to win your case.
It is always best to exercise your right to remain silent. So as soon as the officer says, “have you been drinking”, the person should say, “I invoke my right to remain silent”. And then the officer cannot detain them further unless the officer really has real facts to believe that that person is actually intoxicated. Whereas if the person admits having something to drink, the officer is going to think that is enough reason to detain the person further.
Giving Police a Reason to Pull You Over
Many people just make the mistake of having some violation of Texas law or the transportation code that allows an officer to pull them over without observing any traffic violations, like an expired registration or no insurance. In Texas, you have to have license plates on your vehicle, and many people do not have a front license plate, it is amazing.
If you do not have your front license plate, you basically put a sign on your car that says, “Stop me anytime you want, you do not have to have a legal reason. I waive my constitutional rights”, and that allows an officer to pull somebody over with no other reason whatsoever. I have had many DWI cases that start with a traffic stop for no front license plate. That is another mistake people make early on.
Taking Field Sobriety Tests
Another mistake people make after they have been detained is when an officer asks you to step out of the car to investigate for driving while intoxicated, and you agree to do so and take the field sobriety tests.
Many people are middle-aged, older, overweight, or they have had some back, leg, knee, or ankle issues, those people are not going to be able to perform those tests satisfactorily to the officer’s eye. It can only make their case worse by submitting to those tests. So what they should tell the officer at that point is, “Well, officer I’ve got this issue”, whatever it is, my age, my weight, my knee and back and leg injuries, “So officer, I just don’t think I can take those tests, so I respectfully refuse to do that”. Another mistake is complying with the horizontal gaze nystagmus test. This is basically a hocus-pocus test where the officer waives a pin or a finger across the field of vision and makes this giant leap conclusion that the person is intoxicated based on what the officer sees in the eyes.
But that test is not admissible in many states because it is scientifically unsound. In fact, the only thing that medical professionals will use that test for is to check for head injury, not for intoxication.
Consenting to a Breath or Blood Test
Another mistake that people make is consenting to a breath or blood test. Once they have consented, then there can be no challenge to whether that test is admissible. If they refuse to take the breath or blood test, then the officer has to obtain a warrant to take a blood test. Oftentimes, that warrant is legally insufficient, and we can challenge that in court, and keep that test from being admissible in court, and brought in front of a jury. That is evidence that is never used against the person.