DWI (Driving While Intoxicated) checkpoints are roadblocks set up by the police to check the sobriety of every driver or random drivers who pass by the checkpoint.
Checkpoints are often set up during dates and times when it is well known that drivers may be driving while drunk. Some of these well-known times are New Year’s Eve and the 4th of July.
The checkpoints do need to comply with one important formality. The location and time of the checkpoint must be communicated to the media so they can make the public aware of the checkpoints.
Checkpoints are not meant to be traps. They are meant to get drunk drivers off the roads. The police should also set up warnings so that people know a checkpoint is coming up. As a practical matter, a sober driver will understand the warning while an intoxicated may not even see the warning.
AT DWI checkpoints, the roadblocks allow the police to take a breath test of anyone they reasonably suspect is intoxicated.
Reasonable suspicion includes bloodshot eyes, the smell of alcohol, watery eyes, and, slurred speech). Usually, the police officer will ask the driver to submit to several field sobriety tests that test balance and coordination before asking the driver to submit to a breath test.
The Validity of DWI Checkpoints in Texas
The legality of DWI checkpoints has been challenged on the basis that if violates the Fourth Amendment. The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures.
A stop at a DWI checkpoint is a seizure. Without any reason to believe you committed a traffic violation, such as speeding, or that the way you drove your car or truck was irregular; the police don’t normally have the right to stop you – because the seizure is unreasonable.
Some states allow DWI checkpoints because of concern that public safety outweighs any individual rights. Courts have approved checkpoints if:
- The state shows an interest in protecting the driving public from drunk drivers
- The state can show the sobriety checkpoints do work to ensure public safety
- The amount of the intrusion is as minimal as possible.
Many state courts have approved DWI checkpoints. The state of Texas has NOT approved DWI checkpoints. In Texas, DWI roadblocks are unconstitutional.
The controlling cases is Holt v. State 887 S.W. 2d. 16 (1994). This means if you were charged with driving while intoxicated because you were stopped at a roadblock, our Texas DWI attorneys can challenge the criminal charge.
The Reasonable Suspicion Exception
The police in Texas can still detain you and give you a breath test if they have reason to believe you were committing a traffic offense or were driving while intoxicated.
If the police then suspect you were drinking because of your eyes, speech, etc., and you failed the field sobriety tests – then you will have to take a breath test or blood test. If you refuse to submit to the chemical test, the failure can be used against you in the criminal trial.
Additionally, turning around and driving away from the checkpoint may constitute reasonable suspicion – so it may be more advantageous to allow the police to stop you and then challenge the stop in court with our help.
Make an Appointment with an Experienced Criminal Defense Lawyer
If you or someone you know was charged with DWI because you failed a breath test or refused to take a breath test at a roadside checkpoint, the law office of Scott M. Brown and Associates, will challenge the legality of the stop and the arrest.
Unless the police had a reasonable suspicion to stop your car or to give you a breath test, our defense team will challenge the constitutionality of the arrest. Illegal charges should be dismissed.
For answers to your question and strong guidance, please phone us at 979-849-8526 schedule an appointment. Our firm has locations in Angleton, Webster and Pearland.