Top 10 (and 1) DWI Questions
- Should I blow (take a breath test)?
- Do I have to do field sobriety tests?
- Should I tell the officer if I have been drinking?
- Will my license be suspended?
- Am I going to go to jail?
- Do I have to tell my work?
- What will happen to my insurance?
- Will the cop be mad if I refuse to take the breath test?
- Will I have to go to court?
- What’s the difference between a DWI and a DUI?
- Do I need a lawyer?
1. Should I blow (take a breath test)?
The easiest answer here is no, do not take a breath test if you have been arrested for a DWI. If you think you are close to the legal limit then you are most likely over the legal limit. I have had many clients sit in my office and say they thought they were absolutely alright to drive and then they blew over the legal limit. I also recommend asking for a lawyer prior to refusing the breath test because the officer has to give you time to try to contact an attorney and if he does not then your license cannot be suspended.
2. Do I have to do field sobriety tests?
No, field sobriety tests are optional, even if the officer makes it sounds like they are not. You do not have to participate in any field sobriety tests, whether it is verbal such as the alphabet or counting, or if it is physical such as the walk and turn or one leg stand. If you think you are alright then you may want to participate in the tests because it is the best way to not being arrested, but pay close attention to every instruction the officer tells you and follow them exactly. If you know you should not have been driving, then it is best to not perform the tests because it will only be additional evidence against you in your case.
3. Should I tell the officer if I have been drinking?
No, do not admit drinking to the officer. The officer will believe you have been drinking, but will not believe the amount you tell him you have had to drink. Do not make the officer’s job easier by making admissions. Let him do his investigation and make that determination himself. This is another example of limiting the evidence against yourself.
4. Will my license be suspended?
Your license can be suspended in two ways: first, if you take a breath test and the result is over the legal limit of 0.08%; and second, if you refuse to take a chemical test. For first time offenders, the suspension for blowing over the legal limit is 90 days, and the suspension for refusing to take a chemical test is one year. Both suspensions have options for restricted driving privileges to drive for work-related purposes. Most importantly, either of the above suspensions can, and should, be challenged. For a breath test suspension, the challenge must be filed within 15 days of the arrest, and for a refusal suspension the challenge must be filed within 30 days of the arrest.
5. Am I going to go to jail?
There is almost no chance of going to jail for a first time DWI without any aggravating factors. Repeat DWI offenders face an increased chance of jail time with each subsequent DWI. Once someone is on their third offense or more, then there is mandatory jail time. It is always important to have a good DWI lawyer handling the case, but especially when there is a real chance of jail time.
6. Do I have to tell my work?
There is no legal requirement to tell your employer if you have been arrested or charged with a DWI. However, it is important to know your company’s specific policies about reporting arrests or criminal cases. If there is no policy, then it is most likely in your best interest not to tell anyone at your job about the case.
7. What will happen to my insurance?
This question is difficult because there are so many variables that can affect a person’s insurance. Insurance companies generally look at a person’s driving record to determine rates, so anything from a DWI arrest that goes on the driving record will be taken into account by the insurance company. A license suspension or a DWI conviction are the most likely things to appear on a driving record from a DWI case. It is important to try to keep your driving record as clean as possible to keep insurance rates as low as possible.
8. Will the cop be mad if I refuse to take the breath test?
Who cares? The cop is not your friend, he is there for his own agenda. The most important thing is to protect yourself. Do not say or do anything just because you may be afraid of upsetting the cop. Always be polite and respectful, but know your rights and assert those rights.
9. Will I have to go to court?
Yes, your appearance will almost certainly be required at some point in the case, but a lawyer can make the majority of the court appearances on your behalf. When you do have to appear in court, a good DWI lawyer will make sure you know why you are appearing and what to expect from the court appearance.
10. What is the difference between a DWI and a DUI?
In practice there is no difference between a DWI and a DUI. Generally, the terminology comes from what the laws of the state call drunk driving. In Missouri it is Driving While Intoxicated (DWI). In Illinois it is Driving Under the Influence (DUI). Some states even use Operated Vehicle While Intoxicated (OVI). All of these different terms all refer to the same thing, which is drunk driving.
11. Do I need a lawyer for a DWI Case?
Yes, DWI cases are very technical and the results can hinge on small facts in the case. It is important to not only hire a lawyer, but to hire a DWI lawyer specifically. Hiring a DWI lawyer will improve your chances of a good outcome to your case, such as possibly avoiding a driver’s license suspension, and/or keeping a DWI conviction off of your criminal record.