Illegal Traffic Stop Can Sink DWI Charge
Police officers must follow several legal steps when arresting you on suspicion of driving while intoxicated. A mistake at any point in the process can result in the DWI charges being dropped. For instance, a police officer must have a legal reason to stop you leading up to your DWI arrest. If the officer performs an illegal stop, evidence of your alleged DWI may be inadmissible in court, including blood alcohol content and field sobriety tests. Without this key evidence, you can petition to have your DWI charge dismissed.
Because most DWI arrests do not involve warrants, a police officer must have some cause to pull over a driver. Unfortunately for DWI defendants, Texas allows DWI traffic stops based on the broadly defined standard of reasonable suspicion. Unlike probable cause, reasonable suspicion only requires that an officer have some reason to believe that the driver committed a traffic violation or was driving dangerously. The officer can be mistaken but still justified in performing the stop if it was based on a reasonable belief. Valid reasons for DWI traffic stops include:
- Violating a traffic law;
- Reasonable suspicion that the driver was involved in a criminal activity;
- Driving in a manner that endangers the suspect or others;
- A well-being check of a vehicle occupant who appears to be in immediate danger;
- Reports from witnesses; and
- Anonymous tips with credible information.
The severity of the traffic violation does not matter, as long as there is a violation that authorizes an officer to make a traffic stop.
Illegal Traffic Stop
Though uncommon, a court may grant the defendant’s request to suppress DWI evidence because the traffic stop was unlawful. An officer cannot legally pull over a suspect based on a hunch, even if the hunch ends up being right. Officers sometimes stop drivers because of suspicious behavior that is not an actual traffic violation, such as:
- Weaving in their own lanes;
- Revving engines;
- Squealing tires; or
- Driving too slowly.
A driver's odd behavior may be due to his or her intoxication. However, a court may decide that the behavior was not enough reason to justify a traffic stop if it did not pose a threat to anyone.
Seemingly innocent traffic stops can result in DWI charges. A conviction may mean prison time, fines and a loss of driving privileges. A San Antonio DWI defense attorney at the Law Offices of Sam H. Lock will study your case to determine if there are any grounds to dismiss the charges. For a free consultation, call 888-726-5625.