On your way home from a casual night out with friends, you suddenly notice flashing red and blue lights behind you. You pull over, anxious about what to expect. As the officer approaches your vehicle, you try to think back to what you know about DWI traffic stops and what your rights are.
The penalties of a DWI in Texas can be steep, even if this is your first offense. According to the Texas Department of Transportation, first-time offenders can face fines up to $2,000, up to 180 days in jail, the loss of their driver’s license for up to one year and more. However, your actions both during and after the traffic stop can affect the charges and subsequent penalties you face. Here are three things to know:
1. Think carefully about consenting to field sobriety tests
Police officers conduct field sobriety tests (FSTs), or roadside tests, to initially determine your level of impairment. The standardized FSTs include the walk-and-turn test, the one-leg test and the horizontal gaze nystagmus test. Unfortunately, they rarely accurately determine blood alcohol content (BAC) levels.
Additionally, certain conditions may affect your ability to perform these tests, including eye problems, balance issues, sleep deprivation, nerves and more. Texas law does not require you to consent to performing FSTs. Because the results of these tests can be used as evidence against you, it is often wise to politely decline taking the tests.
2. Consider the repercussions of refusing blood or breath tests
While you may decline field sobriety tests without penalty, declining breath or blood tests can be more problematic. Texas law requires that those who decline a breath or blood test have their license automatically suspended for 180 days. This can be a difficult penalty to overturn. Also, the suspension time could increase with a conviction. While these tests can occasionally have reliability issues, carefully consider whether it is in your best interests to decline the test.
3. You have options to fight the charges against you
Even if your breath or blood tests reveal a BAC level of over 0.08, you have options to fight the charges you face. Whether your arresting officer had no probable cause to originally pull you over, the BAC tests produced inaccurate results due to faulty administration or more, it is worth discussing with an attorney to determine your options to minimize the penalties you face.