Being stopped for a suspected DWI (Driving While Intoxicated) can be a stressful and daunting experience. You may feel fear, confusion, and perhaps even anger. While serious, this situation can be managed with clarity, calmness, and a better knowledge of your rights and responsibilities.
The Legal Consequences of a DWI in San Antonio
In San Antonio, the legal consequences of a DWI are significant and often multifaceted. If convicted, a first-time offender can face penalties ranging from a fine of up to $2,000, a jail sentence between 3 days to 180 days, a loss of driver's license for up to a year, and an annual fee of $1,000 or $2,000 for three years to retain your driver license.
However, penalties can escalate with subsequent offenses. A second-time offender may face a fine of up to $4,000, a jail sentence between one month to a year, a loss of driver's license for up to two years, and an annual fee of $1,000, $1,500, or $2,000 for three years to retain your driver’s license. A third offense can lead to a $10,000 fine, two to ten years in prison, a loss of your driver's license for up to two years, and an annual fee of $1,000, $1,500, or $2,000 for three years to retain your driver's license.
It is also important to note that a DWI conviction can bring additional consequences beyond legal penalties. These may include increased insurance premiums, difficulties in employment opportunities, and potential strain on personal relationships and reputation.
Knowing Your Rights During a DWI Stop
One of your most essential rights during a DWI stop is the right to remain silent. Any information you provide could potentially be used against you in court. It's important to remember that while you should be polite and cooperative with law enforcement, you are not obligated to provide any additional information beyond your basic identification.
Another fundamental right is to refuse consent to a search of your vehicle. Law enforcement has no right to search your vehicle without your consent or “probable cause.” However, if an officer claims to smell alcohol or see open containers, this could potentially provide the probable cause needed for a search.
Here are some additional rights you should be aware of:
- Your Fifth Amendment Rights mean you do not need to make any admission of guilt to a police officer, including admitting to consuming alcohol.
- If you are arrested, you have the right to an attorney. You can invoke this right immediately upon arrest.
- You have the right to refuse field sobriety tests. These tests are voluntary and can often be subjective and difficult to pass.
- You have the right to refuse to take a breath or blood test, even though it may amount to an Administrative Driver’s License Suspension. Refusing the test may ultimately help a criminal case, even if your license does end up getting suspended.
Steps to Take After Being Stopped for DWI
After being stopped for a suspected DWI, the first step is to stay calm. Switch off your engine, roll down your window, and place your hands on the steering wheel. It's important to show that you are cooperative and pose no threat to law enforcement. Maintain polite communication, but remember your rights and limit the details you provide about your activities and consumption.
Next, if asked to step out of the vehicle, do so slowly, keeping your hands visible at all times. Do not make any sudden movements that may be misinterpreted as aggressive or suspicious. If you're asked to perform field sobriety tests, remember you have the right to refuse. However, refusal can lead to arrest but may limit the evidence against you.
Finally, if you are arrested, it is time to invoke your right to an attorney. You should consider contacting a criminal defense attorney who handles many DWI cases.
Here is a quick list of what you should do:
- Invoke your right to an attorney immediately upon arrest
- Do not resist arrest, even if you believe it to be unjust
- Do not discuss your case with anyone until you have consulted with your attorney
- Remember the details of your arrest, as they can be beneficial for your defense
- Follow your attorney's advice and cooperate fully
How Field Sobriety Tests Work
Field sobriety tests are usually conducted to determine impairment and are often one of the first tools officers use at a DWI stop. These tests involve a series of physical and cognitive tasks designed to gauge a driver's balance, attention, and other faculties that can be affected by intoxication. However, these tests are subjective by nature and can be influenced by various factors outside of intoxication, such as nervousness, physical conditions, and even the weather.
Here are the most common field sobriety tests:
- Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN): This test involves an officer moving an object or a finger from side to side in front of a driver's face to watch for involuntary jerking of the eyes, a possible indication of impairment.
- Walk-and-Turn: The individual is asked to take nine steps, heel-to-toe, along a straight line, turn on one foot, and return in the same manner. This test asks for the ability to perform tasks with divided attention, which could be impaired if intoxicated.
- One-Leg Stand: In this test, the driver must stand with one foot approximately six inches off the ground and count aloud until instructed to put the foot down. It tests balance and attention.
After an arrest, documentation will typically be sent within a few days outlining your charges and the next steps. It's crucial to review this documentation carefully and follow all court instructions. If you've hired a DWI attorney, they will guide you through the process. It's also important to remember that a DWI charge or arrest does not necessarily equate to a conviction; many defenses can be used to challenge the validity of the stop, the tests conducted, or the way evidence was handled. Your attorney can evaluate your case and determine the best defense strategy.
How We Can Help
At the Law Office of Roberto Ambrosino, PLLC, we provide robust, personalized defense for individuals facing DWI charges. We understand the intricacies of DWI law and are dedicated to protecting your rights and freedoms. We thoroughly examine every aspect of your case, from the initial stop to the administration of sobriety tests, to identify any potential irregularities or violations of procedure that could strengthen your defense.
We believe every client deserves a fair shot at justice and strive to offer the highest quality legal representation. We work closely with you to understand the details of your case, educating you about the legal process and potential outcomes. We leverage our knowledge, experience, and strategic insight to craft a defense plan tailored to your unique circumstances. With Ambrosino Law Group by your side, you can navigate the complexities of a DWI charge with confidence and peace of mind.
If you have been stopped for a DWI and are facing DWI charges, call us at (210) 201-7622 or reach out to us online to schedule a consultation.