Texas Court Upholds Citizen's Arrest in DWI Case
A Texas appellate court denied a woman’s request to overturn her driving while intoxicated conviction, which she claims was influenced by inadmissible evidence. In her appeal, the woman argued that:
- A private security guard involved in her case was not authorized to make a citizen’s arrest; and
- Without informing her of her Miranda rights, a police officer at the scene questioned her and obtained an incriminating statement, which he mentioned during his testimony.
The appellate court decided that the citizen’s arrest was legal and the self-incriminating statement was not the deciding evidence in the case.
According to testimony, a private security guard for a residential community was on an early morning patrol when he noticed an unfamiliar vehicle stopped in front of a driveway. When he returned to the scene three minutes later, he observed the vehicle moving and driving over a curb before coming to a stop. He approached the vehicle, where he found the driver unresponsive, the car still in drive and her foot on the brake pedal. He put the vehicle in park and removed the keys from the ignition, placing them on the roof. The security guard claims that the woman awoke and was incoherent and disheveled. He called a local police officer to the scene to further investigate the incident. During questioning, the woman admitted that she had drank a bottle of whiskey and a beer a couple of hours earlier. She failed a horizontal gaze test and was taken to central detox, where she also showed signs of intoxication during a walk-and-turn test. The officer then arrested her on suspicion of DWI, including reading her Miranda rights. A test showed her blood alcohol content to be 0.126. She was eventually convicted of a misdemeanor DWI and was sentenced to six days in jail.
During her initial trial, the woman tried to suppress testimony about the citizen’s arrest and statements she made at the scene of the incident, claiming that both were illegal. The lower court rejected the request, and the appellate court upheld that decisions, citing the following reasons:
- Texas law allows a private citizen to make an arrest if he or she observes an offense being committed and has reason to believe that the offender is a danger to the public peace. The security guard claims he saw several indications that the woman was impaired, which would have made her a public danger if she continued to drive.
- The lower court may have erred in allowing the police officer to mention statements that the woman made before being read her Miranda rights. However, the appellate court said that omitting that testimony is unlikely to change a jury’s decision because of the observational evidence of her intoxication and failed sobriety tests.
What to Learn
Whether a police officer or private citizen stops you on suspicion of DWI, you should refrain from providing any evidence that may incriminate you. A San Antonio DWI defense attorney at the Law Offices of Sam H. Lock can represent you in your DWI case. To schedule a free consultation, call 1-888-726-5625.