Even if you have never been pulled over for DWI, you probably have an idea of how the process usually works, based on what you have seen in movies and on television. Police officers pull over a driver whose driving raises suspicions that he or she is drunk. The police administer field sobriety tests, such as requiring the driver to walk a straight line or recite the alphabet backwards. They often perform a breathalyzer test to determine the driver’s blood alcohol content. Did you know that you have the right to refuse any of these tests, including the breathalyzer? Texas DWI lawyers sometimes advise defendants not to take breathalyzer tests. You might even have seen billboards around Houston that say “Do Not Blow.” Why do they give this advice? How can refusing a breathalyzer test and other sobriety tests help your DWI case?
The Constitutional Rights of Defendants in Criminal Cases
From a legal perspective, DWI charges are very much like any other criminal charges. Therefore, the same rights apply to DWI defendants as to defendants in any other criminal case, no matter how minor or how serious the offense. The Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees defendants the right to refuse to say or do anything that would lead them to incriminate themselves. In the movies, you usually hear defendants invoking the Fifth Amendment when being questioned on the witness stand, but in real life, it has much wider applications than that.
A famous statement of the legal rights of defendants is the Miranda warning, which states that a defendant has the right to remain silent and to refuse questioning until he or she has had the chance to secure legal representation by an attorney. In DWI cases, the right to remain silent includes field sobriety tests and breathalyzers, not just verbal questioning. If you refuse a breathalyzer test, the police can still arrest you. Even if you are arrested, you still have the right to representation with an attorney. Sometimes the best course of action is to refuse the tests, accept the arrest, and wait to straighten things out with your lawyer.
The Trouble with Field Sobriety Tests
Think of how advances in technology have made it easier to prove or disprove a defendant’s guilt. Recording devices can prove what someone actually said. DNA evidence can demonstrate that a defendant was or was not present at the scene of a crime. Think about how much controversy still surrounds DNA-based testimony, despite how sensitive and specific DNA analysis can be. Now think of how much controversy there can, and should be, regarding field sobriety tests as they are currently performed.
To perform well on a field sobriety test, you would have to be in very good physical health, with excellent balance and vision. There are plenty of reasons to do poorly on a field sobriety test besides being drunk. Besides, the interpretation of how well you did is subjective and up to the judgment of the police. Beyond that, being pulled over and made to perform a sobriety test, while armed police officers watch you, is intimidating. Almost anyone would be nervous enough to make mistakes simply because of the intimidation factor.
Contact Madrid Law About DWI Cases
The right to legal representation is your best protection in a DWI case. Contact Madrid Law in Houston about your DWI case.