There is a lot of misinformation out there about DWIs. In reality, a DWI is a major road bump, but not the end of the world. Most first and second offense DWIs are misdemeanor offenses that do not carry “truly life-changing” consequences for most people. Higher-level DWIs are felonies, but a qualified attorney can do things to manage the severity and consequences. The Gouner Law Office has represented people facing these charges for nearly 20 years. With the rare exception, very few of our clients have had to serve jail time.
The first step?
Don’t get arrested. That goes without saying. If you don’t drink and drive, it is very hard for the cops to cite you with a DWI. If you have had too much to drink, avoid driving at all costs.
If you do find yourself in a situation where you have had a few too many to drink, you have no obligation to help the police convict you. That starts with the initial interview on the side of the road. The police officer will usually ask where you were coming from and where you were going. If the answer is from a local bar, it’s best not to answer the question. You have no obligation to answer any of the questions. Be polite, but do not give incriminating information.
You also have a right to refuse the field sobriety tests. You do not even have to give an answer as to why you are not taking the test. Whether you are drunk or not–most attorneys will recommend declining the roadside test. Very few people do well on them. Most folks just look bad taking them.
The police officer will tell you that if you refuse the tests, he will take you into the station for a breath test. That is true. He will also take you into the station if you perform poorly on the test (as just about everyone does). In Louisiana, you have an absolute right to refuse the breath test as well. Unless you are certain you will pass, that is a right you should assert.
Another thing they don’t want you to know is the cop is not your friend. He has a quota of DWI arrests to make, and as they say on TV, “Anything you say can and will be used against you…” by that officer. Keep the chitchat with the police to a minimum. An experienced officer will constantly steer the conversation back to where you were coming from and how many drinks you had. Be polite, but remember–the police officer’s role is to arrest you, not to help.
Most importantly, make sure you get legal counsel to help with the DWI. There are strict time periods to apply for a license hearing. Without prompt action, you could be waiving some of your rights.
–Written By Greg Gouner