An arrest for driving while intoxicated in Texas starts with the police officer having reasonable suspicion that the driver has broken the law, either while monitoring passing traffic or when responding to an accident. An officer is legally allowed to stop a driver if the driver has committed a traffic violation or is driving in a manner that suggests impairment. The officer may also conduct a background check on drivers by entering their license plate numbers into a database, which may indicate that the driver has an outstanding warrant or the vehicle is not confirmed to have liability insurance. During the stop, the officer can arrest the driver for DWI if there is probable cause to believe that the driver is intoxicated.
Precedent in Texas
A 2017 Texas appellate court ruling confirmed that a police officer is legally allowed to stop a vehicle that a database flagged for not having insurance, even if the database was inaccurate. In 2015, an officer was entering plate numbers of passing vehicles when one was listed for “unconfirmed insurance,” which could mean that the insurance on the vehicle had lapsed. He stopped the vehicle to check for proof of insurance and eventually arrested the driver on suspicion of DWI.
The defendant was convicted for the DWI charge but appealed the decision, saying that the traffic stop was not legal because his vehicle was insured at the time. Despite the inaccuracy in the database, the appellate court confirmed the conviction:
When you have regained your driving privileges after a charge of driving while intoxicated, you must reassess your driving habits that led to the initial arrest. Most DWI arrests occur because drivers commit traffic violations or are involved in accidents. Once a police officer suspects you may be impaired, you are at risk of being charged with DWI. Avoiding drinking and driving is the most important step you can take to prevent a DWI arrest. However, there are other driving tips that will keep you safe and help you avoid police attention.
Being Aware of Impairment
There are conditions other than intoxication that can impair your driving skills. You may be sick, emotionally upset or experiencing an adverse side effect from a medication. However, the most common driving impairment is drowsiness. Whether due to lack of sleep or overworking yourself, being tired slows down the mental responsiveness you need to be a safe driver. Police can also confuse the symptoms of drowsiness with the symptoms of intoxication. To avoid impaired driving, you should:
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:
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.