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Texas DWI stops: Why the officer isn't just making small talk

You had a drink or two while spending some time with friends, family or co-workers, and then you headed home. As you traveled, you heard the patrol car's sirens before you looked into your rear-view mirror and saw the lights.

You pulled your vehicle over, and the officer began talking to you through your driver's side window. After requesting that you step out of the vehicle, they starting asking you questions that seemed like small talk. At first, you may have been grateful that the officer was trying to be nice, but as the questions intensified, you realized that there may be another motive.

It wasn't just small talk

The officer may have been trying to put you at ease, but not for the reason you thought. In fact, the officer's intent was most likely to get you to make admissions that could provide probable cause for a DWI arrest.

Police officers receive training on how to ask questions in a certain way. For example, they don't use inquiries that call for a simple "yes" or "no" answer. Instead, they ask questions that require you to provide prolonged responses. Officers may use a strategy in which you speak about 80 percent of the time while the officer only speaks about 20 percent. The theory is that the more you talk the more cooperative you will be. You may hesitate to provide information at first, but the more you talk, the more likely you are to reveal information that could incriminate you.

Since most officers have dashboard cameras, body cameras or both, the more amicable the officer sounds, the more credibility a jury gives the officer. After all, you gave the information willingly. Right?

The types of questions you may hear

Below are some of the questions an officer may ask you during a DUI traffic stop after informing you that he or she suspects you of drinking and driving:

  • Where were you tonight?
  • Where are you going now?
  • What did you have to drink?
  • What time did you get on the road?
  • Do you suffer from any condition that might affect your driving?

The officer's tone might make them sound interested, conversational and friendly. They may even sound genuinely concerned for your safety without any judgment. In all likelihood, the entire interaction is designed to get you to voluntarily give up your right to remain silent. Should you find yourself stopped by police under suspicion of drunk driving, remember the above information and politely refuse to answer the questions. It may not prevent an arrest, but it could keep you from helping the officer justify it.

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