Beware of Increased DWI Arrests on Independence DayThe 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

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Failure to Administer Oath Suppresses Evidence from Search WarrantYou have the right to deny a police search until an officer presents you with a search warrant. To obtain a warrant, the officer files an affidavit with a judge, who will approve a warrant if he or she agrees that there is probable cause to conduct a search. Police often use warrants to search residences or vehicles, but a warrant is also required to obtain a blood sample if police suspect you of driving while intoxicated. Police are essentially asking to search your body for evidence of intoxication, which prosecutors can use in a trial. Officers in the field often send their affidavits electronically to a judge in order to expedite the process. In two recent cases, DWI defendants successfully argued that the evidence obtained from their search warrants was inadmissible because the officer who signed the affidavit had not been put under oath.

Purpose of the Oath

The fourth amendment to the U.S. Constitution states that a court shall not issue a warrant without “probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation.” When creating an affidavit, the police officer must swear under oath that the information in the affidavit is truthful, to the best of his or her knowledge. If the officer appeared before a judge to request a warrant, he or she would be sworn in before giving testimony. Two police officers are needed when sending an affidavit electronically:

  • One officer to write and sign the affidavit; and
  • A second officer to place the first officer under oath and sign the affidavit to confirm the oath was administered.

In the two recent cases, both involving the Texas Tech University Police Department, body camera footage showed that the second officer did not verbally administer the oath to the officer creating the affidavit for the blood search warrant. The prosecution argued that the oversight was a technicality that did not discredit the validity of the warrants. However, the court granted the defense’s request to suppress the evidence in both cases. Even if the officers intended to tell the truth, putting them under oath is an important step in protecting defendants against false statements of probable cause.

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Texas Does Not Allow DWI CheckpointsHolidays, such as the recent Memorial Day weekend, are a time when law enforcement steps up its efforts to find people who may be driving while intoxicated. As a result, police often report a higher-than-average number of DWI arrests during these periods. The result occurs because of people’s propensity to drink during holidays and an increased police presence on the roads. Does increased law enforcement activity include DWI checkpoints? Not in Texas, where courts have ruled that such checkpoints are unconstitutional.

What Are Checkpoints?

Normally, DWI stops occur when police officers pull over drivers that they reasonably suspect may be intoxicated or committing a traffic violation. The principle behind DWI checkpoints is that law enforcement sets up a roadblock where all passing drivers are stopped to check for signs of intoxication. States that allow DWI checkpoints have argued that they are both legal and necessary because:

  • They are effective at catching intoxicated drivers;
  • They protect public safety from potentially dangerous drivers; and
  • They cause minimal intrusion on drivers who are not intoxicated.

Unconstitutional in Texas

The fourth amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects people against unlawful searches and seizures. A police officer is unlawfully seizing you if he or she stops you without reasonable suspicion of DWI or another criminal offense. Prosecutors cannot use any evidence of DWI that was obtained after an unlawful stop, effectively ending the case.

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What Signs Are Police Watching For During a DWI Stop?Police suspicion that you may be driving while intoxicated can start from the moment you are pulled over. Erratic driving suggests to them that you might be impaired, and the time of night and proximity to drinking establishments may further their suspicions. However, suspicions and police intuition about your driving are not enough reason to immediately demand a sobriety test or arrest you for DWI. The officer will observe your appearance and behavior to determine whether there is probable cause for an arrest.

Your Appearance

Officers are familiar with the visual cues that a driver may be under the influence of alcohol or drugs, such as:

  • Bloodshot or watery eyes;
  • Dilated pupils;
  • Flushed face;
  • Sweating;
  • An odor of alcohol or drugs; and
  • An unkempt appearance.

A combination of any of these symptoms will raise suspicion, but each one could have an explanation that is unrelated to alcohol or drugs. You may be sweating or have bloodshot eyes if you are sick or tired. While being sick or tired can impair your driving ability, the consequences are not the same as being under the influence of an intoxicating substance. The smell of alcohol or drugs is more difficult to explain. It is possible that the odor could be coming from a current or recent passenger who was drinking or using drugs.

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Why Do Some DWI Defendants Choose Jail Over Probation?A first-time conviction for driving while intoxicated often does not include any jail time for the offender. Texas law does not require jail for a first-time offense, and courts prefer to give probation. However, some people choose to serve jail time instead of accepting the conditions of probation. Why would a defendant reject the chance to avoid jail time? For some, it is a matter of cost, hassle, and the duration of probation.

Hassle

There are several conditions to being on probation, and violating them may result in you going to jail. People on probation for a DWI conviction often must:

  • Regularly report to a probation officer;
  • Abstain from drinking alcohol;
  • Submit to random alcohol breath tests;
  • Install an ignition interlock device on their vehicles;
  • Attend counseling or classes;
  • Perform community service; and
  • Remain in their county of residence, unless they receive court permission.

Some people find these conditions too prohibitive or fear that they will not be able to comply. They would rather serve time in jail and be free of these conditions once they are released.

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