Perhaps dumb is too harsh. You don’t have to be dumb to do dumb things. Avoiding unnecessary harm is often easily avoidable. Try not to do the dumb things for your own sake (and your dependents’).
Most people don’t think about being suspected of committing a crime. Most of my DWI clients certainly didn’t think in advance they’d be facing a cop who thinks they should go to jail for DWI. In Hidalgo County, however, you stand a MUCH higher chance of being arrested than in other parts of Texas. Hidalgo County routinely reports DWI arrests at a much greater rate than most counties. In Laredo or Brownsville, you may be more likely to encounter police who think you have illegal drugs or are transporting illegal immigrants. In all cases, try to avoid dumb mistakes.
When faced with possible arrest, you mind will begin to race with fear. Fear frequently leads to bad decisions. Bad decisions about your case can harm your chances to avoid conviction. Remain as calm as you can.
YOU MUST BE DEFENSIVE when faced with a police officer who is considering whether you have committed a crime.
Dumb thing #1: Talk to cops
I don’t mean you literally say nothing, although that is okay. You are almost certainly going to need to provide proof of lawful driving and identify yourself. Courts will routinely require you to identify yourself after a traffic stop. You’ll need to produce your driver license and proof of insurance. Talking to cops beyond that is one of the worst things you can do.
This is the time to politely decline to answer questions and to ask to be on your way. If you aren’t allowed to leave, do NOT spontaneously share information. If asked questions, this is the time to verbally inform the officer you wish to have an attorney available for further detention. Assert your right to remain silent.
This advice isn’t limited to DWI cases. If cops don’t suspect you before talking to you, talking to them may give them reason. If they have any suspicion about you, nothing you say will dispel their suspicions.
Dumb Thing #2: Cooperate With Cops/Give Cops Evidence
Agreeing to provide evidence is a bad idea. Government must prove you committed a crime. The reason they want you to give them evidence or cooperate is to make it easy to convict you. It makes no sense to voluntarily provide the rope to your hanging.
Countless people voluntarily lose their cases from the beginning by confessing and providing damning evidence against themselves. This happens even when there is literally no evidence they’ve done anything at all wrong.
They cooperate by consenting to search. They give cops evidence by blurting out something incriminating. They cooperate by answering whatever cops ask, rather than asking for a lawyer. They cooperate by answering questions even after a cop hands them a piece of paper which specifically says no questions have to be answered!
Please have the courage to assert your rights. For that short amount of time, you are all you have, so no one else can do it for you.
Assert the right to remain silent by saying so. After that, actually remain silent. Assert the right to have a lawyer present at all stages. You will be fearful. You will also be in a better position in the future.
Dumb Thing #3: Talk to non-lawyers about their cases
People talk to lots of people about their cases and give all the gory details. Family members, friends, co-workers, and people who work at the courthouse, among many others. Don’t. None of these people are able to help you. Only a few have the possibility of “privilege”.
Privilege means what you say to a person with privilege cannot be used against you. What you say to everyone else is not privileged and can be used against you. Keep your mouth shut until you talk to a lawyer in private because that conversation IS privileged.
Dumb Thing #4 : Hire The Cheapest/First Lawyer You Hear From
The first lawyer you hear from will know more about the law than you do. Even the very worst lawyers you can find will know more than you. Don’t make a snap decision. Take your time. Hiring a lawyer based solely on who is first is a terrible way to make the decision.
You may not be able to afford every attorney. The one you truly want may be out of your ability to pay. You may not be able to afford the attorney you truly want. You owe it to yourself to at least ask about fees and find out what is possible. Many people make calls to a list of lawyers and ask one question: how much will my case cost. Based on that one question, they narrow the list to the lowest price. You already know that’s a bad idea. You have to know. Don’t make that mistake.
It’s not easy choosing an attorney to help you. Take your time to talk to several. Compare them. Listen to what they have to say. Compare and contrast what they tell you. Some lawyers know a great deal more than others about certain cases, such as Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) cases.
Try not to be dumb. Even the smartest people can be dumb under your circumstances.