While DWI checkpoints are used in many states across the U.S., they are currently not legal in Texas. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruled in the 1994 case of Holt v. State that DWI checkpoints violate the Texas Constitution's prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures. Therefore, any evidence obtained from a DWI checkpoint is not admissible in court.
However, this does not mean that Texas law enforcement agencies have no means to combat drunk driving. They often conduct "no refusal" weekends or holidays, where they can quickly obtain warrants to test suspected drunk drivers. Law enforcement may also establish driver’s license checkpoints to check for valid licenses, where they may also investigate for DWI if they suspect a driver is intoxicated.
What Is a DWI Checkpoint?
In the states that allow them, Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) checkpoints—also known as sobriety checkpoints—are temporary installations set up by law enforcement agencies to check drivers for signs of intoxication and impairment. These checkpoints are typically set up in locations where drunk driving is considered a problem. They are designed to deter people from driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs and reduce the number of alcohol-related accidents and fatalities.
At these checkpoints, officers stop vehicles on a specific mathematical sequence, such as every third or fifth vehicle, to avoid claims of bias. They then observe the driver for signs of intoxication, which may include slurred speech, the smell of alcohol, or erratic behavior. If an officer suspects a driver is under the influence, they may administer field sobriety tests or a breathalyzer test.
Texas State Laws on DWI Checkpoints
As per the Texas Transportation Code, a police officer can stop a vehicle if they have reasonable suspicion that the driver is intoxicated. This means that while DWI checkpoints are not legal, an officer can stop a vehicle if they observe signs of impaired driving, such as swerving, speeding, or other erratic behavior.
In addition, Texas has "implied consent" laws, which mean that anyone who holds a Texas driver's license has already consented to take a breath or blood test if they are arrested for DWI. Refusal to take a test can lead to a license suspension and other penalties.
Legal Penalties for DWI in Texas
The legal penalties for DWI in Texas are severe and can include fines, jail time, license suspension, and mandatory alcohol education programs. For a first offense, a driver can face a fine of up to $2,000, jail time between 3 days and 180 days, and license suspension for up to a year. The penalties increase for subsequent offenses or if the DWI resulted in an accident or injury.
It's also important to note that Texas has a "zero tolerance" policy for underage drinking and driving. This means that any detectable amount of alcohol in drivers under 21 is a crime.
Your Rights During a DWI Checkpoint Stop
During any law enforcement stop, you have certain rights that are protected by the Constitution. You have the right to remain silent and not incriminate yourself. You also have the right to refuse a search of your vehicle unless the officer has probable cause or a search warrant.
If you are arrested, you have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford one, the court will appoint one for you. It's important to exercise these rights to protect yourself during a DWI checkpoint stop.
When to Consult a Lawyer After a DWI Checkpoint Stop
If you are arrested at a DWI checkpoint, it's crucial to consult a lawyer as soon as possible. A lawyer can help you understand your rights, navigate the legal process, and develop a strong defense strategy. They can also challenge the legality of the checkpoint and the evidence obtained during the stop.
At Rodriguez & Gimbert, P.L.L.C., we specialize in DWI defense and are committed to protecting the rights of our clients. We have extensive experience in Texas DWI laws and can provide you with the legal representation you need.
If you were arrested for DWI, don't hesitate to contact us for a consultation.