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.
The preferred strategy when you have been charged with driving while intoxicated is to try to receive a “not guilty” verdict or to get the charge dismissed. In some cases, your best strategy is to minimize the penalties you receive. When a conviction seems unavoidable, your DWI defense attorney can negotiate a plea bargain with prosecutors, in which you agree to plead guilty in exchange for a lesser charge or lesser penalty. Plea bargaining should be a last resort after evaluating your case and determining how you can contest the charge. A plea bargain can still result in severe consequences.
The Reality of Plea Bargains
Your best-case scenario in plea bargaining with prosecutors would be to get your DWI charge reduced to reckless driving, obstruction of a highway or public intoxication. These charges could allow you to avoid jail time and a driver’s license suspension. However, prosecutors are more likely to offer lesser penalties in exchange for pleading guilty to DWI. When deciding whether to offer a plea bargain, prosecutors will consider:
Your previous criminal record, or lack thereof;
How much greater they claim your blood alcohol concentration was than the 0.08 legal limit;
Whether there was a crash or injuries involved in the incident; and
The conduct of yourself and the police officer during your arrest.
A first-time DWI conviction in Texas is a class B misdemeanor, with a minimum of 72 hours in jail and a driver’s license suspension of at least 90 days.
Your character is on trial when you are charged with driving while intoxicated. Arguments in a DWI case often come down to whether you seem reliable when you deny having been impaired or intoxicated during your arrest. Your behavior after your arrest and leading up to your court appearance should not contradict your efforts to present yourself as a responsible person. The court is more likely to believe that you decided to drink and drive if you show continued poor judgment. There are four actions that can undermine your DWI defense:
Talking About Your Case on Social Media: You speak more candidly when having a private conversation with friends than you would in court. You may tell your friends about how much you had to drink and how you felt on the night of your arrest. People mistakenly believe that their social media conversations are private. Anything you write on social media is a digital record that may become public. Prosecutors are monitoring your social media accounts to see if you post anything that may incriminate yourself. If they find something, they will try to present it in court as evidence of your guilt.
Partying and Drinking: Public drunken behavior will feed the prosecution’s depiction of you as an irresponsible drinker. You are telling the court that you do not respect the seriousness of the DWI charge against you. You also risk being arrested again for an alcohol-related offense, such as public intoxication. You should avoid social outings that include drinking. Even if you do not drink, a picture of you on social media with a group of drunken friends looks bad.
Driving on a Suspended License: Texas will suspend your driver’s license after your DWI arrest. This is a civil procedure that is independent of the outcome of your criminal case. Police will arrest you if they catch you driving while your license is still suspended. Unlike with a DWI charge, driving with a suspended license is straightforward and difficult to contest.
Missing Your Court Date: The court may issue a warrant for your arrest if you fail to appear for your scheduled court hearing. You are giving the impression that you are trying to evade your charges, which implies guilt. If your absence was unintentional, you still appear to be irresponsible and disrespectful towards the court and the charge against you.
Your public appearance during your DWI case will help people form their opinions about your character. A San Antonio DWI defense attorney at the Law Offices of Sam H. Lock can coach you on how to behave. 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.