Whether you’ve been drinking or not, knowing what to do when pulled over by the police can mean the difference between going to jail and not going to jail. It’s an intense situation no matter what the particulars are.

At Thiessen Law Firm, we help Texans fight back against illegal traffic stops, the inaccuracies of Texas field sobriety tests, and run-of-the-mill DWIs. Our experiences can help you better understand what to do and what not to do when you’re being pulled over by the police.

Let’s take a few minutes to cover the basics.

1. Know the correct police pull over procedure

The number one thing when it comes to knowing what to do when you’re pulled over by the police is to know the correct pull over procedure. 

Even if you’re obeying the law completely, you are legally obligated to pull over for a police officer. Just because you’re pulling over, does not mean you’re admitting guilt to anything — you’re simply obeying the law. 

Keep in mind, however, that a police officer cannot pull you over just because. Reasonable suspicion is required, and if drinking and driving is believed to be at play, there must be telltale signs of drunk driving. In other words, the police officer must be using facts to come to the reasonable conclusion that you have committed a traffic violation 

When you notice a police officer behind you, here’s what you should do:

  • Whether you’ve had a few drinks or you’re completely sober, find a safe spot to pull over. You should slow down, pull off to the right side of the road, and turn on your hazards. If it’s dark outside, consider turning on your interior lights.
  • If you’re at all concerned about the officer or your personal safety, call 911 as you prepare to stop. Let them know that a police officer is attempting to pull you over, ask them for verification, and allow the operator to walk you through the next steps. 
  • Roll down your window, keep your hands on the steering wheel, and wait for the officer to request documents from you. The goal at this point is to limit movement and to keep the police officer as calm as possible.  

If you’re wondering, “Does a police officer have to tell you why you are being pulled over?” the answer is yes. So once the police officer approaches you, he or she should explain why you’ve been pulled over. If they don’t, ask them and continue to ask them until you receive a clear answer.

2. Say nothing before you say something

Next up on what to do when pulled over by the police is… knowing when to keep your mouth shut. You have the right to remain silent. Never forget this — especially if you’ve had something to drink.

Everyone knows that you can have a drink and potentially still have a BAC level that legally allows for driving. But police officers are fishing for information. If you think you’re being honest and helpful by telling the officer that you’ve had “only one drink,” think again. 

If the officer asks you a question regarding where you were, how many drinks you’ve had, or anything similar, invoke your right to remain silent. Don’t say why. Don’t give excuses. Simply say, “I invoke my right to remain silent.” 

Say it firmly, and repeat it after every question the officer asks you… to a point. 

3. Answer the questions you have to answer

While it is critical to invoke your right to remain silent, one thing you have to know about what to do when you’re pulled over by the police is that you are legally required to answer some questions and provide the proper documentation when asked for. These questions may or may not include information regarding:

  • Your legal name
  • Your driver’s license
  • Your current address
  • Your date of birth

If you fail to provide the correct information or refuse to provide this information all together, you could be arrested and charged with a misdemeanor. 

4. Don’t consent to a search of your vehicle

Police officers can ask you to step outside your vehicle, but if they ask to search your vehicle (or start searching it without asking), make sure to object to it. Police officers are not allowed to search your vehicle without probable cause. If they do so without probable cause, it’s a violation of your rights and could be used in your favor in the future. 

However, no matter what happens, remain calm, and do not forcibly try to prevent the officer from searching your vehicle. Simply state your objection and continue to remain calm and silent.

5. Blow, don’t bleed

To blow or not to blow… that’s no longer a question. Blow. 

When a police officer suspects that you’re intoxicated, they’ll likely ask you to take a breathalyzer test. Many people are under the assumption that they should refuse the breathalyzer and submit to a blood test instead.  That’s a major mistake.

We always tell people to blow before they bleed. But why exactly is “do not blow” bad advice? There are a handful of reasons you should blow before you bleed, but here are the heavy hitters:

  • Blood alcohol level rises over time. In other words, you could become more intoxicated the longer you wait. If you refuse the breathalyzer and submit to a test that takes longer to process, you could end up with a higher BAC level.

  • Breathalyzers can be faulty. To be accurate, breathalyzers require regular maintenance and upkeep — something many police officers have been known to skip. If you choose to take the breathalyzer, lack of maintenance could be a defense tactic later down the line.
  • Jurors believe blood tests are more accurate. Whether or not a blood test is more accurate than a breathalyzer doesn’t matter. What does matter is what the jurors believe if your DWI case goes to trial. Experience tells us that jurors typically believe in the accuracy of blood tests and unless there were technical processing issues, it’s hard to prove otherwise.

Weren’t sure what to do when pulled over by the police? A lawyer can still help. 

Even if you did know what to do when pulled over by the police, that might not save you from being charged with drinking and driving. And if you are taken to jail on suspicion of drinking and driving, your next steps are critical. First and foremost, remember everything you can, remain calm, and do what the officers are asking of you. 

As soon as you are allowed, ask to speak to a lawyer and contact Thiessen Law Firm at 713-864-9000.

Thiessen Law Firm is home to Mark Thiessen, board-certified DWI specialist and board-certified Criminal Lawyer Mark Thiessen of Thiessen Law Firm has won over 100 Not Guilty verdicts and thousands of dismissals. He’s the man you want in your corner when you’re fighting a DUI or DWI charge.

Let us fight to keep the stain of a DWI off your record. Give us a call today or fill out our online contact form.

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Mark Thiessen

Mark Thiessen is an aggressive trial lawyer best known for his devotion to justice for his clients and high rank as a DWI Super Lawyer in Texas.