DISCLAIMER: This is a fictional story partially based on past client’s experiences going through a DWI case in Harris County, Texas.
It was a typical Monday night in Houston. I had gone out to meet friends for a few beers, something that so many people do every day. On the way home, I was driving on a well-lit busy street. Next thing I know, there were police lights behind me , and I muttered several curse words. Why are they pulling me over? I said to myself.
As the officer approached my car he mentioned that I was being pulled over because my lights were off. How could I do something so stupid? I thought, and apologized to the officer. He then proceeded to ask if I had been drinking. Being the honest person that I am, sometimes to a fault, I said, Yeah, I had a couple of beers. After all, I wasn’t drunk, so what could be the harm?
Next, he had me step out of car and asked if I would do some field sobriety tests. Not a problem, I said. Why not? I knew I wasn’t intoxicated. I did basically everything he asked for field sobriety test, and I felt I did pretty good. The stand on one-foot test was a little bit dicey, but then again I’ve never been good with balance, even without a drop of alcohol in my system. I should have started doing yoga last year like my girlfriend asked me. Then this would be a breeze, I thought to myself.
After a few tests, the officer asked if I would blow into a handheld breathalyzer .
When you live in Texas, it’s kind of hard not to be somewhat aware of the strict laws on the amount of alcohol that can legally be in your system without being considered over the limit. I knew it was something low, maybe a few drinks or something like that. I had no real way of knowing if I was over the limit though, so I told him no. He didn’t seem too happy about that. The officer handcuffed me and told me I was being arrested for DWI. I couldn’t believe it! I felt like the victim of a cop who was angry that I refused to give him a breath sample, and out of spite, he would be taking me in.
They put me in a tiny cell with two other guys that were clearly wasted. One of them had urinated on himself and the stench was overwhelming. The other guy loved to talk and I was his only earpiece. He spent the next hour and a half droning on about how the cop was full it, and how he was going to beat the case. It was hard to take him seriously considering the fact that I could barely understand what he saying with his slurring, and I watched him stumble into the bench several times while pacing around the room. How could the cop that arrested me possibly believe that I looked like this guy?
Thankfully, the officer got me out of the cell and away from these bumbling idiots. He took me into a room where a lady was messing around with a machine. I quickly learned that this was a breathalyzer and they were asking me again if I would give a breath sample. The officer handed me a piece of paper and started reading all this legal mumbo jumbo really fast. He got my attention when he rattled off how long my license would be suspended for 90 days if I failed the test or 180 days if I refused. I didn’t know what to do, so I asked if I could talk to a lawyer. The cop snapped, No! with an annoyed look on his face. I didn’t want to lose my license for that long, but I had heard that it was best not to blow on the radio. I decided to refuse and asked what was next. He told me the next step would be to see the judge in the morning.
The next day, I was taken into a room full of actual criminals where a judge on a TV screen read me my rights and set my bond. The judge also told me what I was facing up to six months in jail and a $2,000 fine! She asked if I would like a court appointed attorney, or if I would be hiring one on my own. I had no idea what attorneys charged for this type of case, but one of my cell mates told me that if I had a decent job the court probably wouldn’t give me a lawyer. I chose to hire one on my own. I returned back to my cell, where they gave me an awful brown bag special of slimy bologna and stale bread. I was also able to make a phone call. Fortunately, I had memorized some important phone numbers in case of emergency. I called my wife, and she was in tears. This hurt me more than anything else. I had disappointed her. Thankfully, she said she would bail me out, but it took her awhile to find the bail bondsman company and handle the paperwork.
I got out early the next morning with a dead cell phone, car impounded, license suspended (or so I thought), and walking into the unknown of living with a DWI on my record in the future. If you’re here reading this, you might be able to relate. Stay tuned, more to come.