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How to Respond When Police Ask if You’ve Been Drinking

How to Respond When Police Ask, “Have You Been Drinking?”

“Have you been drinking?” is a terrifying question to hear as a Texas driver. If you were pulled over by law enforcement in a traffic stop, understanding how to engage with police wisely and respectfully is essential to avoid severe penalties. In some cases, how we interact with police can mean the difference between going home and going to jail after a DWI arrest.

It's normal to feel tense or flustered around law enforcement officials. However, understanding your rights can help you navigate the stress of a DWI stop and make wise decisions to safeguard your future, even in the event of an unexpected traffic stop. In this blog, we’ll review how to respond to questioning by police in a DWI stop.

How to Respond to Police in a Texas DWI Stop

Knowing how to respond to police questioning in a DWI stop ahead of time can help Texas drivers exercise their rights assertively and effectively. It can be difficult to respond confidently and calmly when police ask if you've been drinking, and many drivers hesitate out of fear of giving an "incorrect" answer.

Fortunately, there are sound strategies to help drivers navigate the pressure of a DWI stop after alcohol consumption. Here are some critical tips to keep in mind when pulled over by police:

Be polite, cooperative, and respectful.

Emotions tend to run high in traffic stops. No one likes being pulled over by police. While it’s normal to feel nervous and defensive in a traffic stop, especially if you aren’t sure why the officer is pulling you over, it’s vital to keep your engagement with law enforcement as civil and respectful as possible. Here are some tips to make the traffic stop as civil and courteous as possible:

  • Don't challenge or accuse the officer.
  • Keep your movements slow and smooth.
  • Communicate with the officer before moving or reaching for something.
  • Provide any information requested, such as your license, insurance, and vehicle registration.

In Texas DWI cases, the law enforcement official must have justifiable suspicion for pulling you over. If police ask if you know why they've pulled you over, the safest answer is no. Even if you have a good guess as to why you were stopped, you have no way of knowing the officer’s reasoning, so it isn’t dishonest to say that you aren’t sure. Answering “no” to this question can protect against self-incrimination.

It's okay to admit alcohol consumption.

More than anything, honesty is key in a DWI stop. If a police officer asks if you’ve been drinking, how you choose to answer this question can seriously jeopardize your case. If you haven’t been drinking, you can answer no. If you've been drinking, it’s best to respond in one of two ways:

  1. Tell the truth; or
  2. Invoke your right to remain silent.

Under no circumstances should you lie about consuming alcohol prior to the traffic stop. If any amount of alcohol is detected in your system, even minuscule amounts, the stakes will be much higher for you in criminal court. However, you have some leeway in your response.

For example, you’re also entitled to questions, such as inquiring why the officer wants to know the answer to this question and confirming whether you’re suspected of criminal activity. This might give you a better idea of whether you want to answer the question or invoke your Fifth Amendment right to remain silent.

Invoke your right to an attorney.

If you invoke your Fifth Amendment right to remain silent, be sure to inform the officer that you decline questioning until your lawyer is present. This is especially important if you're uncertain of what happens next. For instance, some law enforcement officials use certain tactics to exude the impression that the driver is being detained or arrested, when the reality is that the driver is free to leave.

Ask if you’re being detained.

While it’s important to remain respectful, courteous, and honest at all times, don’t forget that you have the right to ask questions, too. Asking whether or not you’re being detained can force the law enforcement official to give you a straight answer. If the police officer lacks probable cause, you may very well be allowed to drive away and continue your life as usual.

Defending the Accused in Denton County Since 1998

As a former prosecutor, Attorney Derek A. Adame brings a sharp skillset and invaluable legal knowledge to every case he takes on. With a proven record of results, our criminal defense lawyer is well-equipped to protect your rights in Denton County. Our team has a wealth of experience in a wide range of criminal cases, from drug crimes to probation violations. Whether you made an honest mistake or simply weren’t thinking, you can rely on our Texas attorney to deliver the robust defense you need to safeguard your liberties and hard-earned reputation.

Arrested in Denton County? Call (940) 441-4239 to schedule a free consultation with our seasoned criminal defense lawyer.