Imagine that you’re driving along a Texas highway, and you glance in your rearview mirror. The first thing you see are flashing lights atop a police car. You pull over. The officer approaches and, after offering a brief greeting, asks, “Have you had any alcohol to drink tonight?” What should you do? Do you have to answer such questions during a DWI stop?
If a police officer is asking a question like that, it’s clear that he or she suspects you of drunk driving. The officer might even say, “Please step out of your vehicle.” There are several things you must do during a traffic stop, and one of them is to exit the vehicle if the officer instructs you to do so. However, you do not have to answer questions about alcohol.
License, insurance and registration are all you need to show in a DWI stop
Whether an officer has pulled you over for speeding, a broken taillight or suspected drunk driving, the patrol officer making the stop will ask to see your driver’s license, proof of insurance and vehicle registration. You must produce these documents. You must also confirm your name and address. Anything beyond that (meaning other questions) is not obligatory.
A police officer can ask anything he or she wants during a DWI stop, such as where you were earlier or who you were with. The officer might ask questions in such a way that it appears he or she has already assumed, like asking, “How much have you had to drink?” rather than “Were you drinking?” No matter what the question is, you do not have to answer it. You may invoke your right to remain silent under the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
Invoking Fifth Amendment rights during a DWI stop
When a Texas police officer detains you under suspicion of DWI, he or she immediately begins trying to establish probable cause to make an arrest. If you admit that you consumed alcohol before getting behind the wheel, it will compel the officer to try even harder to establish probable cause to make an arrest. You also don’t want to lie if you did imbibe before driving.
A driver may simply state, “I am invoking my Fifth Amendment right to remain silent.” You can also say, “I choose to not answer the question.” Silence is in no way an admission of guilt. If you choose to answer the officer’s question about alcohol, be aware that whatever you say can and will be used to try to incriminate you in court if you wind up facing DWI charges in Texas.