What do I do when pulled over for a DWI?

Happy Friday, everybody. Hope you’re having a great week. So this week I’m going to cover a question that I get regularly often, and that is people want to know what do I do if I get pulled over and the officer suspects that I have been drinking. So it’s a DWI stop. Now, this is one of those questions where you can go online, you can Google this question and you can probably find 10 different lawyers that are going to give you 10 different things of advice. They they have this great variety in what I consider to be usefulness or accuracy. So I’m just going to go ahead and add to that noise and give you my opinion. So take this or leave it.

So the first thing, and really the most important thing about this video that you should always take away from is, for the love of everything, don’t drink and drive. I mean, it’s completely stupid. It’s irresponsible. You ended up having to pay me a whole lot of money to help you after the fact. With as easy and as cheap as things like Uber and Lyft are, there’s really no need for anybody who ever get behind the wheel if they’ve been drinking. It makes zero sense. So that’s number one.

So that out of the way, now let’s say you have gone out and you’ve had a couple of drinks. You’re behind the wheel. You get pulled over. So what do you do at that point? The first thing that I’ll tell you is in my experience, if an officer pulls you over and the stop gets to the point where they have gotten you out of the car because they suspect you for driving while intoxicated, I’m going to tell you right now, I’m not going to sugar coat it, you’re likely going to jail that night. Period. End of story. So you have to get your head around that fact. There’s very, very little that you’re going to be able to do that does not end in you going to jail.

The reason I say that is because the field sobriety test, everything that those officers are doing are very subjective in terms of two different people can look at a person and say, “I think they’re intoxicated. I don’t think they’re intoxicated.” The officers, nine times out of 10 are going to err on the side of caution and that means err on the side of thinking that you’re intoxicated and taking you in and booking you for DWI. They do that because they’d rather do that and arrest somebody who’s not really intoxicated than they would put somebody back out on the road that is, and they end up getting in a wreck and killing themselves or somebody else. So you’re going to go to jail. Period. End of story. Okay?

That being said, my number one piece of advice is at that point, refuse everything. Refuse to take the field sobriety tests. Refuse to do the portable breathalyzer. Refuse to consent to a breath or a blood sample because by doing so, you create a whole lot of legal roadblocks and legal hurdles that the officers and the prosecutors are going to eventually have to clear in order to convict you of DWI. It becomes exceptionally more difficult if you don’t consent to everything. Once you consent and you do everything. You consent, sure you score some brownie points because you’re very compliant and all that stuff, but you’ve basically waived any and all arguments that your lawyer, me, would have later to object to the blood draw or object to the breathalyzer or object to the field sobriety test because you consented to it.

So just like I’ve put out plenty of videos that talk about if an officer wants to search your car, an officer wants to search your house, you always, always, always say no. Make them get a warrant. Same thing goes here. You have every right in the world to refuse to do those examinations, to refuse to consent to the breath or blood. Now, like I said, you’re going to go to jail that night. Period. You are. But that was likely going to happen anyway. So by refusing that, you’ve given your lawyer at least something more to work with.

Now, it’s important here that when you’re refusing these things, you want to maintain your civility, your respect, your decorum. You want to do it as politely and respectfully as possible because that way you’re not coming across as belligerent or argumentative. You can say, “Officer, I appreciate you’re doing what you need to do. I’m going to refuse to do that test, and based on that refusal, you do what you feel is necessary.” Or whatever, however you want to answer so that you’re answering it in a polite and respectful way, but you’re clearly saying, “You don’t have my consent to do that.” At that point, they will arrest you. They’ll take you to jail. You’ll bond out and then you meet with me and we talk about what your next steps really are.

So there’s really not much more to it than that. I’m not going to go down some here’s the top 10 things you do if you get pulled over. It’s really that simple. It’s maintain civility, maintain politeness, but refuse to consent to anything. Let the officers do their job, conduct their investigation. They’re going to come to the conclusion that you’re intoxicated. They’re going to take you to jail and that’s it. A big thing that people don’t realize is that by doing it that way, especially if you explain very clearly and articulately that you are refusing to consent to these things, one of the things that that does is it demonstrates to a jury or to a judge that you have maintained the normal use of your mental faculties.

You were able to rationalize the situation, understand what’s going on and make an intelligent decision in that moment, because that is a big, big, big thing that I can use later to defend you and say, “Look, this person wasn’t intoxicated. They were able to exactly analyze what was going on, to rationalize what they needed to do and to make an intelligent decision that made sense to them in the moment. That means they had all the normal use of their mental faculties.” So again, hope that helps. I hope that adds a little bit of clarity to the situation. When a lawyer tells you refuse everything, that’s really why we’re doing that.

If you don’t do that, if you’ve been charged the DWI and you’re kicking yourself now because you consented to stuff, not the end of the world. There’s plenty of things that we can still do to try to remedy the situation. But just to log that away, if you’re ever coming home and you know that you’ve been drinking and the officer starts to ask you questions about, “How much you’ve had to drink? Could you step out? I want to make sure you’re okay before I put you back on the road.” My advice is know that that night is going to end in you going to jail, but politely refuse to do all of those tests because I don’t remember any videos that I’ve ever watched where somebody has performed those tests and the officers put them back in the car and let them go home. It’s just not something that liability is going to let them do.

Hope that helps. I know this was a little bit longer of a video, but I felt it was something worth talking about. As always, if you have any questions about this or anything else, or if you have another topic that you’d like me to cover, feel free to reach out to me either via email or a comment down below. I’d be happy to try to tackle some of the questions that you all have. Thank you all. Hope you have a great weekend. Stay safe and I’ll see you next week.

Author Bio

James P. Whalen

James P. Whalen is the managing attorney and founder of Whalen Law Office, a Texas criminal defense firm offering personalized legal representation for various federal criminal charges. With a commitment to providing comfort and guidance during challenging times, Mr. Whalen serves as both an attorney and counselor to his clients, helping them navigate their cases while striving to restore normalcy to their lives.

In an inherently unbalanced criminal justice system, Mr. Whalen takes on cases with unwavering dedication. With decades of legal experience, he offers representation across various criminal charges, including white-collar crimes, violent crimes, drug charges, and more. Mr. Whalen’s numerous accolades, including Super Lawyer recognition and board certification in Criminal Appellate Law and Criminal Law, reflect his unwavering commitment to ethical and high-quality legal representation.

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