Out of all the errors a person can make behind the wheel of a motor vehicle, driving while intoxicated often is one of the worst lapses in judgment. It can be a costly and humiliating experience, one that often is made worse because drivers don’t know their rights when they have been stopped for an officer for DWI.
Typically, a DWI stop starts with the officer asking you for your license and registration; that much you have to provide. But when he starts asking you questions, you’re under no obligation to answer – if you choose not to speak at all because you’re afraid it might often some indication that you’ve drunk, then it’s your right not to say a word.
Often, if an officer thinks you’ve been drinking, he may ask you to perform field sobriety tests. Again, in most states you have the right to refuse such tests, which often are subjective, offering an officer the opportunity to make a judgment call that you’ve been drinking. Again, don’t do anything that offers any potentially self-incriminating evidence.
At some point, the officer is going to want you to take a Breathalyzer or blood test, and you’re darned if you do, darned if you don’t in this regard. All US States have implied consents laws, which basically state that if you have a driver’s license, you must comply with a request for such tests if an officer deems one necessary. And if you don;t take the test when asked, you still face the possibility of a fine, suspended license, even jail time. In some instances, you’re may be a little better off declining the test, but most of the time, agree to have it done.
So take the test, and one of tow things will happen: Either you’ll be found to not be drunk, or you will be found to be intoxicated and arrested for DWI. Even that, though, doesn’t necessarily mean a conviction – the equipment used to check your level of intoxication varies in its accuracy, and can often be challenged in court. Or perhaps the officer made a procedural error, which could lead to your case being throw out.
How will you know if such errors have been made? Most of the time you won’t, and in the case of a DWI, the old adage “Only a fool acts as his own attorney” has never been truer. if you face a court date for DWI, don’t waste time trying to represent yourself – go find yourself a criminal defense attorney. Don’t take the first one you see in the Yellow Pages; look around a bit, ask others who they can recommend. There are huge differences in the competence of attorneys, and you’ll want the best one you can afford representing you in a court of law.
And one last point: If you’ve been stopped for DWI, hopefully you’ve learned something, whether you’re convicted or not, something that should have been obvious – drinking and driving don’t mix.