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San Antonio DWI defense lawyersThroughout the year, police departments across the U.S. use initiatives that increase awareness and enforcement of the laws against driving while intoxicated. Some enforcement methods are illegal in Texas, even though they are legal in other parts of the country. For instance, Texas does not allow sobriety checkpoints. Another term you may hear police departments use is “saturation patrols.” The goal of saturation patrols is the same as sobriety checkpoints, but police implement saturation patrols in a way that gets around the legal controversy of checkpoints.

Defining Saturation Patrols

A saturation patrol is an increased presence of police officers at targeted times and places for the purpose of discouraging DWI incidents and catching alleged drunk drivers. For instance, a police department may have more officers patrolling high traffic areas during holiday weekends because there are typically more drunk drivers on the road during a special occasion when people are attending parties and celebrating. Announcing the time of a saturation patrol in advance and the number of resulting arrests afterward is part of the strategy in hopes that it will discourage people from drinking and driving.

How Are Saturation Patrols Different from DWI Checkpoints?

Texas courts have ruled that sobriety checkpoints violate a driver’s constitutional protection against unwarranted stops. A police officer must have reasonable suspicion that a driver has violated the law before they can stop the driver. All drivers going through a sobriety checkpoint are stopped, regardless of whether they have done anything to raise suspicion.

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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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