Although police officers are held to a higher moral standard than most civilians are, they are still capable of making mistakes like any other person. For instance, an officer’s bias could affect their decisions if they stop you on suspicion of driving while intoxicated. An officer is required to have reasonable suspicion that you are violating the law in order to stop you and probable cause that you have committed a crime in order to arrest you. This means that the officer should look at the evidence objectively before concluding that you are intoxicated, but some officers have already formed their opinion before they even talk to you. You may be able to defeat a DWI charge against you if you can prove that the officer’s confirmation bias was the reason for your arrest.
What Is Confirmation Bias?
When a police officer already suspects that you are intoxicated, they will pay more attention to evidence that confirms their bias or interpret evidence in a way that supports their bias. This is known as confirmation bias, and there are several ways that an officer may unintentionally use it during a DWI stop:
The officer assumes that any sluggish or unusual behavior is a symptom of intoxication when you may be sick, fatigued, or nervous.
The officer does not consider the many factors other than intoxication that could affect your performance on a field sobriety test, such as physical health issues.
The officer assumes that your refusal to answer questions or agree to a chemical sobriety test means that you are hiding the fact that you are intoxicated.
Confirmation bias is one of the primary reasons you should refuse a field sobriety test, even when you know you are sober. Evaluating your balance or eye movement is completely subjective, and the officer’s interpretation of your performance might be based on an assumption that you are intoxicated.
Many people expected the number of arrests in Texas for driving while intoxicated to decrease this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. There are a couple of factors that seem to logically point towards this:
Many restaurants and bars have been closed, which reduces the number of people driving home after drinking.
People are more likely to stay at home as a precaution to avoid infection.
News reports in the early months of the pandemic suggested that DWI arrest numbers had dropped, but it seems that was only a temporary effect. A recent story on DWI arrests in San Antonio claimed that the number of arrests from Jan. 1 to July 6 was down only four percent from the same period last year – 2,255 arrests in 2019 and 2,168 arrests in 2020.
Reasons Behind the Numbers
Why has the number of DWI arrests in Texas not decreased as people predicted? There are a few possible explanations:
An arrest and conviction for driving while intoxicated will stay on your criminal record long after any court ruling or punishment. You may not realize the effect that a DWI record can have until it shows up during a background check when you are applying for a job. This may be particularly frustrating if you were never convicted of DWI. A DWI arrest and charge remain on your record unless you take steps to expunge them. However, your case must meet specific conditions in order to be eligible for expunction in Texas.
What Is Expunction?
Criminal charges and convictions are normally visible to anyone who conducts a criminal background check on you. With DWI convictions in Texas, you can petition to have your conviction sealed from everyone except for law enforcement and employers in sensitive fields, such as education. Texas allows record sealing for some first-time DWI offenders whose conviction did not include aggravating charges. Expunction removes the charge and conviction from your record so that it does not appear in any searches of official public records (Your arrest may still appear in an internet search if a story about your arrest was published and is archived on a private media company’s website).
Qualifying for Expunction
You cannot expunge a DWI conviction from your criminal record in Texas. Even if you were convicted of a lesser charge, you cannot remove the DWI arrest from your record. If you were a juvenile convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol, your juvenile record may be eligible for expunction if you completed your punishment and do not have any other alcohol-related charges on your record. Otherwise, you can expunge your DWI arrest and charge from your record only if you were not convicted, such as:
Ride-sharing services such as Lyft and Uber often hail themselves for decreasing the number of crashes and arrests involving people who drive while intoxicated. Arranging for transportation through your phone makes it easier for you to get a ride home when you are too drunk to drive. Various studies have shown that metropolitan areas had decreases in DWI arrests after the ride-sharing services entered their market, but the effect is inconsistent across the different cities. Some researchers believe that the effect of ride-sharing services on DWI arrests and crashes may be overstated.
Researchers had a good opportunity to study the relationship between DWI arrests and ride-sharing services when Lyft and Uber temporarily left some major cities a few years ago, including Austin and San Antonio. Cities such as San Antonio did have a noticeable decrease in alcohol-related crashes when the services returned, but other cities saw little or no change. For instance, the number of DWI arrests continued to decrease in Austin after Lyft and Uber ceased operating there. Thus, researchers state that other factors may be responsible when DWI arrests decrease, such as:
Public education campaigns;
Expansions in public transportation; and
Societal attitudes towards drunk driving.
A Fatal Problem
Texas consistently has the highest number of alcohol-related driving fatalities in the country. The fatality total has slightly increased in Texas during recent years – from 1,323 in 2015 to 1,468 in 2017. Ride-sharing services certainly do not seem to be decreasing the number of deaths. The assumption that ride-sharing will greatly prevent drunk driving is flawed in several ways:
The Fourth of July and the accompanying weekend may be the height of summer celebration in the U.S. It is also a time of year that will see an increased number of vehicle crashes and fatalities related to driving while intoxicated. Police will try to prevent the damage by having additional officers on patrol for drivers who may be under the influence of alcohol or drugs. You do not want to ruin your holiday by becoming one of the many people who will be arrested for DWI. Here are three tips for preventing a DWI arrest that may be relevant to your Independence Day:
Have a Transportation Plan: The best way to avoid a DWI charge is to not drink and drive. Even if you think you are safe to drive, police officers will be attentive to any signs that you may be impaired. Whether at a public event or private party, plan ahead for how you will get home if you expect to drink. Have a designated driver or use a ride-share service. Waiting for a ride to show up is better than waiting in the back of a police car or ambulance. If at a private residence, ask your host if you can stay until you sober up or plan on ending your drinking earlier in the night.
Be Careful About Sleeping in Your Car: It may be tempting or even seem responsible to sleep in your car if you feel too drunk to drive. However, police can still arrest you for DWI in this situation if they believe you are operating or have recently operated the vehicle. The evidence could be that you had the key in the ignition in order to run the air conditioning or radio. Sleeping in your car while drunk is a risky decision. If you do so, you should sleep in the back seat with the car turned off.
Understand Your Legal Rights: Being stopped by a police officer on the Fourth of July does not automatically mean you will be arrested or charged. First, the officer must have reasonable suspicion that you are committing a crime to legally stop you. Then, the officer must have probable cause that you are intoxicated to arrest you for DWI. The officer cannot force you to say or do anything that may incriminate yourself, including participating in a field sobriety test. The officer cannot take a blood sample or search your vehicle without a warrant. By remaining calm, you reduce the chance that you will give the officer any evidence of a crime.
Contact a San Antonio DWI Defense Attorney
If you have been charged with DWI, you must act quickly to protect yourself. A San Antonio DWI defense attorney at the Law Offices of Sam H. Lock can work towards the best outcome for you in your case. Schedule a free consultation by calling 888-726-5625.
The Law Offices of Sam H. Lock, with offices in San Antonio and Seguin, Texas, provides criminal defense representation for people charged with state and federal crimes throughout Texas and the United States, including San Antonio, Austin, El Paso, Midland, Pecos, Waco, Hondo, New Braunfels, Laredo, Kerrville, San Marcos, Boerne, and Del Rio, Bexar County, Guadalupe County, Comal County, Wilson County, Gonzales County, Kendall County, Bandera County, Caldwell County, Hays County, Travis County, Medina County, Blanco County, Burnet County, Atascosa County, Live Oak County, Nueces County, Uvalde County.