Holidays, 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.
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.
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;
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.
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.
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.
When facing a charge of driving while intoxicated in Texas, it can sometimes feel like your case is hopeless. Prosecutors may present convincing evidence, such as chemical tests and testimony from the arresting officer and other witnesses. You may be tempted to plead guilty to the charge in order to expedite the process and possibly receive a lighter sentence. However, it is worth your effort to contest your DWI charge instead of resigning yourself to being convicted. There are several consequences to a DWI conviction that you want to avoid if possible:
Sentencing: A first-time DWI offense, which is the most basic offense, can result in as long as 180 days in jail, a fine of as much as $2,000, and a driver’s license suspension for as long as a year. The penalties increase if you have any aggravating factors, such as a DWI charge with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.15 or greater or if someone was injured during the incident. Previous DWI convictions on your record will also raise the level of the charge.
Criminal Record: You can never expunge a DWI conviction from your criminal record. The best you can do is seal your record from the public if you were convicted for a first-time offense with no aggravating factors and you completed your probation. Without sealing your record, your DWI conviction will appear in a background check when you apply for a job or loan. Even if your record is sealed, law enforcement and employers in sensitive industries can still see the conviction.
Driving Privileges: You can continue to drive after a DWI conviction if you receive probation. However, you will likely be required to install an ignition interlock device on any vehicle you drive. You may lose your job if you drive a commercial vehicle. A DWI conviction also suspends a commercial driver’s license, and most employers will not allow you to use an ignition interlock device on their vehicles.
Travel Privileges: Probation often comes with a travel restriction. Texas may require you to receive permission before you leave the state. Some countries may bar you from entry if you have a DWI conviction unless you apply for a special permit.
Contact a San Antonio DWI Defense Lawyer
Before you assume that your case will end in a conviction, you should consult with a San Antonio DWI defense attorney at the Law Offices of Sam H. Lock. There may be details in your case that cast doubt on the prosecution’s evidence or make that evidence inadmissible in court. To schedule a free consultation, call 888-726-5625.
Prescription medications and over-the-counter medicines have side effects that can impede your ability to perform normal tasks. Mixing prescriptions or combining them with alcohol may heighten those symptoms or cause unexpected reactions. It is wise to read the potential side effects when taking a new medication and to see how your body reacts to it before driving. You can be charged with driving while intoxicated if a police officer determines that the effects of a legally prescribed drug impaired your ability to drive.
An arrest for DWI with prescription drugs will likely start the same way as DWI with alcohol. The officer may stop you because you have committed a traffic violation or appear to be driving erratically. During the stop, the officer will look for signs of impairment from your appearance and behavior. Evidence used in cases of DWI with prescription drugs may include:
Officer testimony that the defendant appeared dazed or unresponsive;
The defendant admitting to the use of prescription medicine;
Observations from a field sobriety test; and
The results of a blood test showing the presence of drugs.
You cannot defeat a DWI charge by saying that a physician legally prescribed the drug to you. If a prescription drug causes you to reach the legal definition of intoxication, you may be responsible if you drive in that condition and put yourself and others in danger.
The Law Offices of Sam H. Lock, with offices in San Antonio and Seguin, Texas, provides criminal defense representation for people charged with state and federal crimes throughout Texas and the United States, including San Antonio, Austin, El Paso, Midland, Pecos, Waco, Hondo, New Braunfels, Laredo, Kerrville, San Marcos, Boerne, and Del Rio, Bexar County, Guadalupe County, Comal County, Wilson County, Gonzales County, Kendall County, Bandera County, Caldwell County, Hays County, Travis County, Medina County, Blanco County, Burnet County, Atascosa County, Live Oak County, Nueces County, Uvalde County.