Collin County DWI Charge Process, part 1
In every DWI case, to get a conviction, the State must prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt: (1) Defendant, (2) on or about a certain date, (3) in Collin County, Texas (4) Operated a Motor Vehicle, (5) in a Public Place, (6) while Intoxicated.
To prove intoxication, the State must show you do not have the normal use of your mental or physical faculties due to alcohol, drugs, some combination of substances, or any other substance, or that you had an alcohol concentration of a .08 or higher at the time of driving. But before a trial or plea ever takes place, the police must develop probable cause to place you under arrest for DWI. Police officers follow a predictable pattern when developing probable cause. If you understand that pattern, you will be armed with the knowledge to protect your rights.
The Traffic Stop
DWI investigations typically begin as the result of a traffic stop. Under the traffic stop scenario, the officer either observes a traffic violation, discovers registration is expired or license is suspended, or observes a number of facts that support a reasonable suspicion of DWI.
When the officer makes contact with you at your window, he or she will be looking for various signs of intoxication. Some of thes signs include bloodshot and watery eyes, the odor of alcohol, slurred speech, geographic confusion, admission to drinking, fumbling through your wallet for your driver’s license, open alcoholic beverages in the car, and a disheveled appearance. If the officer observes enough of these signs of intoxication, he or she will be justified in having you exit your vehicle to perform standardized field sobriety tests. If the officer does not gather enough facts during the initial contact phase of the DWI investigation, they may not be legally justified in having you exit the vehicle to perform these tests.
The Premier Defense for your DWI
At Andor, Goheen, O’Toole, Wadas and Gonzalez, P.L.L.C. we believe the best defense against a charge of Driving While Intoxicated is to refrain from driving after consuming alcohol or drugs. Your best decision is to not drink and drive. Nevertheless, if you are investigated for even the suspicion of Driving While Intoxicated, here are some tips you can use to minimize the evidence an officer will be able to use against you during the initial contact phase of the DWI investigation.
- Take a few deep breaths and relax. Know an arrest for DWI does not equal a conviction. Officers frequently site a nervous appearance as a sign of potential intoxication, so do your best to remain calm.
- Remove your driver’s license and proof of insurance from your wallet or purse. You do not want to duck and dig around too much because an officer will note that as a furtive movement, suggesting that you are trying to conceal evidence of drug possession or something similar. But if you can calmly place your wallet or purse in your lap and retrieve those items, you will not give the officer the opportunity to say you were fumbling for them.
- Do not drive with an open container. It is unlawful in Texas, officers will look for condensation on the container to show recent drinking, and they will look at the amount left to suggest how much alcohol you have consumed.
- Gather your thoughts about where you are coming from and where you are going. Officers look for inconsistencies to show intoxication. They also look to see if you are going in the opposite direction of your reported destination. Do your best to give consistent and concise answers to these geographical questions.
The Initial Investigation
Officers will ask how many drinks you have consumed multiple times during their investigation. They are looking for you to give inconsistent answers, which they will again note as a sign of intoxication. If an officer asks you what time your last drink was if you don't kow do not speculate and give an answer. Say that you do not know. The State has to prove not only that you were intoxicated, but that you were intoxicated at the time of driving. Typically blood or breath specimens are given one to two hours after the officer first stopped you. The State must have an expert use a technique called retrograde extrapolation to calculate your likely concentration of alcohol at the time you were driving. The time of the last drink is the most important piece of the retrograde extrapolation equation. Without it, the expert can only say that the alcohol concentration might have been higher, lower, or the same at the time of driving. You are not required to give them that piece of the equation, and most people are not keeping a close tabs on how much they've had to drink.
If you are arrested for DWI, the officer will then read you the statutory warning and ask for you to consent to provide a specimen of your breath or blood. If you refuse, the officer may seek a search warrant for your blood. Some police agencies will proceed to submit an affidavit for a search warrant to obtain a sample of your blood. Other agencies will not. If the officer requests a search warrant, they will have to file an affidavit containing enough facts to show probable cause that you were driving while intoxicated. If you have not given the officer enough facts, there is a chance a judge will refuse to sign the warrant or your attorney will be able to have the warrant invalidated and your blood results ruled inadmissible. If the officer does not request a search warrant, then by refusing to perform the field sobriety tests, you will have left the State will little evidence to prosecute your case.
The Sleeping Scenario
An officer may observe someone asleep in a vehicle at a suspicious place or time of night. They may lawfully knock on your vehicle’s window at any time and make contact with you. To investigate a DWI in this scenario, the officer will follow the same procedure listed above. But there is one critical difference – the State must prove you were operating a motor vehicle. Courts have held operating is not the same as driving. There are certain factors, the presence or absence of which can skew a jury or judge in favor of or against believing the operating element beyond a reasonable doubt. Here are some steps you can take to make it difficult for the officer to develop probable cause and for the State to prove the operating element:
First, sleep in one of the passenger seats, not the driver’s seat. Second, if you can, do not put the keys in the ignition and do not leave the engine running. Third, make sure the vehicle is in park. Then, if you are seated in the front seat, be sure you do not have a foot on the brake or accelerator. Do not turn on the headlights. Keep your hands off the steering wheel, and position your vehicle in a parking spot as opposed to an area where it looks like you had to drive to get there. If you can do these things, you will make it very difficult for an officer to arrest you for DWI and even more difficult for the State to convict you.
Contact a premier Collin County Criminal Defense Attorney to Represent You
DWI charges can have severe consequences, and you should not try to face them without a Collin County criminal defense attorney. Even if this is your second or third DWI arrest there are a variety of ways, depending on your individual facts and circumstances, to prevent the State from using or proving the existence of your prior convictions.
Andor, Goheen, O'Toole, Wadas & Gonzalez, P.L.L.C. offers free initial consultations to discuss your criminal charges and what options are available to you. Contact our office at 972-548-7167