Just because you are pulled over by the police in the state of Texas does not mean you are automatically guilty of a crime. Nor does being pulled over automatically mean your rights are suspended.
Every year, hundreds of thousands of people are pulled over by police on Texas roads. These stops are made for a variety of reasons. If you are ever one of these people, you need to remember that you still have rights if you want to avoid problems. This is particularly true where DWIs are concerned.
In this post, we’re going to cover what your rights are in the event you are pulled over by the police and what you should do. Remember that these are rights every single person has — regardless of why you are being pulled over — so it is important you understand them and exercise your rights.
Why Can Police Pull You Over In Texas?
Despite what you may be led to believe, police officers in the state of Texas cannot just pull you over for any reason. For a cop to pull you over, they must have what is called reasonable suspicion.
The textbook definition of reasonable suspicion is that a police officer must be able to cite specific reasons why they suspected a person of being in the commission of a crime or of having recently committed a crime.
Examples of this when it comes to traffic stops would be someone swerving around or otherwise driving erratically to establish drunk driving. Smoke coming out of a car window in a neighborhood known for drugs could constitute reasonable suspicion for the presence of illegal drugs.
At the end of the day, there are many reasons that a police officer can use to justify a traffic stop. So, because it is so easy for them to justify the traffic stop, it’s up to you to know your rights and protect yourself in the event you are pulled over unjustly.
When Can a Texas Police Officer Search Your Car?
In the event you are pulled over unjustly, remember that a police officer does not immediately have the right to search your vehicle. They will need what is known as probable cause before they are legally allowed to do so.
Probable cause could be something like the smell of marijuana in your vehicle. Other instances of probable cause could be the strong smell of alcohol on your breath, bottles of alcohol in your vehicle, or a drug dog alerting the officer to the presence of illicit substances. If an officer does not have probable cause, then you have the legal right to refuse a search of your vehicle.
In the event that an officer does search your vehicle, you have the right — and the strong recommendation — to remain silent. Anything you say can be used later by the arresting officer to help prove their case. An example of this is if you are speaking erratically and slurring your speech. It is better to remain silent and say only what you are required to the officer.
Remember that you also have the right to refuse things like field sobriety tests. In the event that you do refuse, you will be required to sign an evidence sheet stating that you refused. This can be later used to help establish guilt. So, even if you do refuse, remember to remain silent and comply with the officer so that you have a chance of fighting any charges later in court.
By remaining silent you are preventing the police officer in question from collecting any further evidence that can be used against you. This can be incredibly helpful in a wide range of cases, including driving while intoxicated, possession of a controlled substance, weapons charges where you are accused of having an illegal weapon, and so on.
If you remain silent and compliant, it will be much easier to build the strongest possible case. In the event that any of your rights have been violated, you will also stand a much better chance of having your charges dismissed or being found not guilty.
The main thing to remember is that you have rights and it is your responsibility to exercise them. The police will be expecting you to make mistakes. Always remember your rights and always remember to exercise them if you are ever pulled over.
About the Author:
Brandon Fulgham has an in-depth understanding of both Texas law and Texans themselves. Before practicing law here, he received his undergraduate degree from TCU, and his law degree from South Texas College of Law in Houston. After graduation, he worked in District Attorneys’ offices as a prosecutor, building cases designed to put people behind bars. Now, he uses that knowledge to protect the rights of people in and around Fort Worth. He has been recognized for his work by Expertise (Best Criminal Defense Lawyers in Forth Worth and Best DUI Lawyers in Fort Worth, both 2020), The National Trial Lawyers, Fort Worth Magazine, and others.