The main issue inherent in most Driving With Influence (DWI) charges in almost every state in the U.S is whether the arresting officer had reasonable and probable cause for initiating arrest. While DWI checkpoints are acceptable in Texas to minimize road-related accidents through arresting drivers for DWI of alcohol and other drugs, it remains a controversial issue due to unlawful police stops that happen without any reasonable suspicion of intoxication.
The evidence the arresting officer collects about you at a DWI checkpoint is admissible in court, which means you might be able to challenge your DWI arrest evidence and dismiss the whole case. We invite you to contact Fort Worth DWI Defense Lawyer for legal representation to challenge your DWI arrest on a motion of lack of probable cause and unlawful stop at a DWI checkpoint if you are charged in Fort Worth, Texas.
Understanding Probable Cause and Unlawful Stops
Texas law requires law enforcement officers at a DWI checkpoint to have reasonable suspicion before asking motorists to pull over for a DWI investigation. However, that does not mean every time police officers stop you at a DWI checkpoint is always lawful. When police officers select your car to pull over without reasonable suspicion is unlawful and a violation of your constitutional rights.
When police officers pull you over at a DWI checkpoint after a reasonable suspicious driving behavior, they will require you to conduct sobriety tests like blowing a breathalyzer to determine if you were drunk driving. Before they search your vehicle or arrest you for a DWI charge, they must have probable cause for the search or arrest.
The law defines probable cause as the standard of proof that every law enforcement officer must satisfy before making any search, seizure, or arrest at a DWI checkpoint or any other place. Probable cause in DWI cases requires a higher standard of proof than reasonable suspicion, which a police officer must have before he/she asks you to pull over for DWI investigation.
Reasonable suspicion enables police officers at a DUI checkpoint to select your vehicle and detain you for a short period to determine whether you were drunk driving. However, to continue detaining you further for DWI investigation, they must have probable cause or pieces of evidence to prove that you were DWI or did something else unlawful like a traffic violation.
When it comes to DWI cases, determining whether the arresting officers had the probable cause of the stop and arrest at the DWI checkpoint can make a lot of difference in your alleged DWI charges. Your criminal defense attorney will investigate your case to determine if the arresting officer had a reasonable suspicion to pull you over in the first place before even making the DWI arrest.
If your stop at the DWI checkpoint were unlawful, the judge would dismiss the case based on a lack of evidence for initiating the DWI charges against you. Keep reading this article to know what kind of reasonable suspicion a police officer must have to select your car to pull over at a sobriety/DWI checkpoint.
Common Reasons That Can Warrant a Police Stop at a DWI Checkpoint
Certain behaviors on the road can give a police officer at a DWI checkpoint a reasonable suspicion of you DWI before selecting your car to pull over for a short investigation, for example:
Driving Too Slowly
When police officers at a DWI checkpoint suspect that you are driving slowly unusually, especially at an intersection with traffic lights, they may require you to pull over for an investigation to determine whether you are DWI. Failure to respond to a traffic light at an intersection punctually can give police officers enough reasonable suspicion to ask you to pull over for DWI investigation based on safety hazards to you and other motorists.
Car Equipment Violation
Texas police officers have the authority to ask you to pull over at a DWI checkpoint if you have a car equipment violation. Driving without a car side mirror or number plate can count as a traffic violation. At a DWI checkpoint, a police officer has an articulate suspicion to initiate a traffic stop to investigate whether you were drunk driving because of a car equipment violation.
Remember, even if the arresting police officers claim that you had a car equipment violation during your time of arrest, you might be able to challenge the reasonable suspicion of the police officer conducting your traffic stop. A reliable criminal defense attorney might be able to argue that the stop was unlawful while providing facts of the traffic stop circumstances to prove so.
Weaving or Swerving
When police officers notice that you have difficulty maintaining your lane because of the way you are swerving or weaving, they have the authority to conduct a traffic stop. Swerving or weaving while driving is reasonable suspicion to a conduct traffic stop at a DWI checkpoint because that could mean you are DWI, which is unlawful and a risk to people's safety and health.
When you break excessively on the tarmac, the car wheels are likely to produce some "squeal" sound, which can attract a police officer's attention at a DWI checkpoint. Those squeal sounds from your car wheels when braking gives a police officer enough reasonable suspicion to conduct a traffic stop to investigate whether you have a traffic violation or DWI.
However, even if your arresting officers try to use this evidence to justify your traffic stop at a DWI checkpoint, at Fort Worth DWI Defense Lawyer, we can counter these allegations and argue the stop was unlawful while providing facts to prove so.
Overspeeding or driving above the designated speed limit for particular areas is a crime in Texas as it is in many other states in the U.S. Over speeding your vehicle can justify a police officer's reason to stop you at a DWI checkpoint. In that kind of situation, reasonable suspicion exists because speeding is unlawful and can indicate that you are DWI or have a traffic violation.
However, for the police to continue detaining you for further DWI investigation, they must have probable cause. For instance, evidence of an open alcohol bottle in your vehicle or enough reason to believe you are DWI of alcohol above the legal limit of 0.08% Blood to Alcohol Content (BAC).
Driving Against Traffic
A cautious licensed driver knows that it is wrong to drive against traffic, and it is a safety hazard to you and other motorists. Driving the wrong way or against traffic is a red flag that can warrant a police officer to conduct a traffic stop for DWI investigation because a cautious driver cannot do that unless something is wrong.
Making unsafe turns on the road like U-turn or left-turn is a traffic violation in Texas, which can give a police officer a reasonable suspicion to point out your car to pull over for a quick DWI investigation. Typically, any traffic violation creates a reasonable suspicion to warrant a police officer at a DWI checkpoint to conduct a traffic stop.
The above reasons may warrant a police officer at a sobriety/DWI checkpoint to conduct a traffic stop. However, both your attorney and the arresting officer have a legal obligation to prove to the jury what reasonable suspicion can show a driver was DWI or has a traffic violation. If there weren't a reasonable suspicion before your traffic stop, the court would consider the stop unlawful/illegal and a violation of your constitutional rights.
Because a DWI criminal defense attorney deals with these kinds of cases, often with different clients, he/she can easily be able to determine the legality of your traffic stop to counter the charges. If the judge finds there wasn't reasonable suspicion for your traffic stops before DWI arrest according to your attorney's evidence and facts about the case, he/she will drop your charges based on lack of enough evidence to incriminate you.
What You Need to Know About Every Police Traffic Stop in Texas
DWI/sobriety checkpoints might be legal in Texas, but that does not mean police officers can arrest you for DWI or traffic violation without probable cause. As a U.S citizen, you have your rights that police officers know, but not every police officer will observe these rights during a DWI investigation or arrest.
Sometimes police officers can abuse their authority and make unlawful stops, which can have you facing unnecessary wrongful charges if you don't have a reliable criminal defense attorney in your corner. Therefore, it's imperative to know your rights during any traffic stop and what constitutes an unlawful/illegal stop in Texas. Here some of your rights that you need to beware of during any traffic stop to protect your interests:
The Fourth Amendment
The U.S Fourth Amendment of the constitution gives you the legal right to stay free from unreasonable search and seizure. That means police officers have no right to stop you and conduct any search or seizure in your vehicle during a DWI investigation at a sobriety/DWI checkpoint unless they have a valid search permit to do so.
Therefore, any piece of evidence that the arresting officers collect in your vehicle during DWI investigation without a search permit is a violation of your legal rights according to the fourth amendment of the U.S constitution. That kind of evidence will be inadmissible in court and will not apply to justify the arresting officers' DWI charges against you.
As a U.S citizen who is aware of his/her right, you might want to challenge the arresting officer's reason for selecting your vehicle to pull over at a DWI checkpoint, and that might bring some arguments. The police have no right to arrest you for DWI or traffic violations because you are argumentative during the DWI investigation. However, it is advisable to remain quiet or speak less during this period to avoid saying anything that can incriminate you.
Getting Out of the Car
When the police officers ask you to get out of your car after a traffic stop at a DWI checkpoint, you must cooperate with their orders. After getting out of your car, they may start frisking you if they have a reasonable suspicion to believe that you might be carrying something illegal or a weapon. However, they do not have a right to conduct any search or seizure unless they have a reasonable cause or have a search permit.
After a traffic stop, if the police ask your permission to search your vehicle, you have a right to respond, "NO." Without your permission, any search will be illegal unless they have a reasonable cause or a search permit.
Suppose you suspect that the DWI checkpoint's police officers had no reasonable suspicion to ask you to pull over for DWI or traffic violation investigation. In that case, you might want to record your interaction with them using your smartphone. Recording your interaction with an officer is legal and useful to your attorney as he/she makes an investigation to determine if your traffic stop at the DWI checkpoint was lawful.
Driving Late Night
It is not uncommon for police officers at a DWI checkpoint to ask people to pull over when it’s late in the night because they suspect that you are coming from a drinking spree or club. Driving late at night does not give police a warrant to ask you to pull over because there could be many reasons why you're driving late at night, which has nothing to do with intoxication.
Lastly, but not the least important point, you should not forget your Miranda Rights when traffic police officers at a DWI checkpoint select your car to pull over. Anytime a law enforcement officer arrests you for whichever charges in Texas, they must read your Miranda Rights and confirm if you've understood before proceeding with the arrest process.
Miranda Rights gives you the right to remain silent during a DWI investigation or any other criminal investigation because anything you say at this moment can and will act as evidence against you during prosecution. The less you speak during the DWI investigation, the better because you will not unconsciously give police officers any incriminating information.
It would be best if you insist on speaking to your criminal defense attorney before you say anything to protect your legal rights. The police are always waiting for you to say anything that they can use against you on the DWI charges. Your attorney would help you fight the charges before they go any further if the traffic stop was unlawful according to the initial circumstances or events leading to your stop at the DWI checkpoint.
What Police Officers Will Do to Find a Probable Cause for Your DWI Arrest/Charge
When police select your vehicle to make a traffic stop for DWI investigation after a reasonable suspicious behavior on the road, they may require you to undertake a few sobriety tests. The purpose of sobriety tests at a DWI checkpoint is to check your physical and mental ability to drive a car like a cautious sober driver. The sobriety tests the police may require you to undertake to determine your level of intoxication will involve:
Blowing a Breathalyser
The first sobriety test police officers at the DWI checkpoint conduct on a suspect drunk driver is blowing a breathalyzer. A breathalyzer is a piece of special equipment they use to detect the presence of alcohol in your breath vapor after you blow it.
A breathalyzer test result does not necessarily mean you were drunk driving because the law recognizes the presence of alcohol in your mouth could be due to other substances like mouthwash or stomach acid influx. Therefore, your attorney can challenge your breathalyzer tests results with those kinds of facts or argue the equipment was faulty to counter the DWI charges against you.
Field Sobriety Tests
The purpose of field sobriety tests (FSTs) is to check your physical and mental coordination to drive a vehicle as a cautious sober driver would under similar circumstances. There are a variety of field sobriety tests the police will ask you to conduct after reasonable suspicion of drunk driving to find a probable cause for your DWI arrest, that is:
One Leg Stand
The police will ask you to stand with one leg while raising the other leg approximately six feet above the ground to check your physical coordination since any sober person can stand with one leg for about one or two minutes. Suppose the police officers notice that you have a hard time standing with one leg or using your hands to balance yourself. In that case, it will count as probable cause to initiate a DWI arrest for further investigation.
Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test
While nystagmus might be a health condition, it could also be a result of intoxication. Nystagmus is a sight disorder or condition where a person cannot control his/her eye pupil movement and can affect a person's vision and balance. To detect whether you have this nystagmus issue due to intoxication, the police officers will ask you to gauze horizontally to check if you have any involuntary eye pupil movement.
Walk and Turn Test
During a walk and turn test, the police officers will require you to walk in a straight real or imaginary line on the ground while making heel-to-toe steps to notice any signs of impairment and whether you can follow instructions correctly. If you fail to follow the instructions correctly by sticking on the imaginary or real line on the ground while walking, the police officers might use that as a probable cause for your DWI arrest.
NHTSA approves the above sobriety tests as a standard and useful tool for initiating a DWI arrest/charge. However, these sobriety tests' poor performance results at a DWI checkpoint does not accurately indicate a driver was DWI because other underlying health issues can affect a driver’s coordination during these tests.
If there weren't a reasonable suspicion or probable cause for your DWI arrest, all these sobriety tests evidence would not count as incriminating evidence against you, which means the court will dismiss the case.
How to Dismiss Your DWI Charges After an Unlawful Stop
Your attorney will help you file a motion to suppress the police's evidence for the traffic stop if their testimonies do not prove a reasonable suspicion for DWI. During this court proceeding, the judge will require the arresting officer to justify his/her reasons for having reasonable suspicion that you were drunk driving before asking you to pull over at the DWI checkpoint.
Your criminal defense attorney can suppress the evidence the police officers held against you on drunk driving by arguing that the stop was unlawful, which the court considers a violation of your constitutional rights. He/she can prove to the jury that the DWI checkpoint did not meet the right legal requirement. Here are some of the factors that determine the legality of a sobriety/DWI checkpoint in Texas:
- There must be a prior notice to the public about the checkpoint at that particular location
- The checkpoint must be visible and easily identifiable
- Police officers must ask every motorist to pull over on an impartial basis
- Every checkpoint must have proper safety precautions
- The checkpoint supervisor must observe and obey every driver constitutional rights
- The period a police officer can detain a driver at a DWI checkpoint should be short as possible
If any of the above factors weren't evident at the DWI checkpoint during your DWI arrest, it would be right to argue in court that the traffic stop was unlawful for dismissal or reduction of the charges. Also, if there wasn't a reasonable suspicion for your traffic stop according to the evidence your criminal defense attorney presents in court, the judge will dismiss your charges based on a lack of probable cause for your DWI arrest.
Find a DWI Defense Attorney Near Me
If you or a family member receives DWI charges in Fort Worth, Texas, and you believe these charges were because of an unlawful police stop, feel free to contact Fort Worth DWI Defense Lawyer at 817-470-2128. Our reputable attorneys will investigate your case immediately to determine probable cause and unlawful stop evidence to counter the DWI charges against you before they get to trial.