In high traffic areas or during certain holidays law enforcement may try to set up DWI checkpoints. A DWI checkpoint is when several police officers are stationed at a certain area to check for drunk drivers. Many officers do this by numerical value instead of on the grounds of reasonable suspicion. For example, officers may pull over every third car passing through a DWI checkpoint.
DWI checkpoints is a hot topic of discussion between Texas lobbyists, law makers and other entities. Technically, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruled that DWI sobriety checkpoints violated the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution. However, law enforcement agencies do still conduct DWI checkpoints occasionally.
If you or someone you know has been charged with DWI form a sobriety checkpoint, it’s imperative you contact an experienced criminal defense attorney.
Attorney for Sobriety Checkpoints in Houston, Texas
Texas hasn’t implemented any legislation in regarding DWI checkpoints procedures. However, the Court of Criminal Appeals made it unconstitutional to conduct a sobriety checkpoint because it violated constitutional rights. If you or someone you know has been charged with DWI from a suspected checkpoint, it’s important you seek legal representation.
Flood Lewis & Associates, Inc. is familiar with DWI law and the history of sobriety checkpoints in Texas legislation. We can use our experience to crack the prosecution’s case for a better outcome. Call us now at (713) 224-5529 for a free consultation.
Flood Lewis & Associates, Inc. accepts clients throughout the greater Harris County area including Tomball, West University Place, Houston and Bellaire.
Overview of DWI Checkpoints in Texas
- Differences Between DWI Checkpoint and Roadblock
- Legislation Surrounding DWI Checkpoints
- Are DWI Checkpoints Illegal?
- Additional Resources
Differences Between a DWI Checkpoint and a DWI Roadblock
You may hear people interchange the terms DWI checkpoint and DWI roadblock. However, both terms describe different procedures. A DWI roadblock is when law enforcement intentionally blocks off a street. Law enforcement will then stop each driver attempting to pass through to check if they’re under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
DWI checkpoints are much more discreet. Law enforcement will station several police officers at a busy street or intersection. They will then stop certain vehicles to asses if they’re driving impaired on drugs or alcohol. Texas hasn’t passed any laws for DWI checkpoint procedures, so officers tend to pull over vehicles based at their own discretion.
Legislation Surrounding DWI Checkpoints
Texas has a long history with DWI checkpoints. There have been several large profile cases which have gone back and forth on the issue of DWI checkpoints. One of the first famous cases was Brown v. Texas in which the United States Supreme Court established a three-prong test to determine if a DWI checkpoint was constitutional.
The case surrounded a man named Robert B. Brown who wasn’t driving but walking through a DWI roadblock. He and another man walked in opposite directions away from one another in an alley, so police suspected him of dealing or buying drugs.
When an officer approached him asking why he was there and to identify himself Robert refused. Brown stated the officer had no legal right to stop him because he wasn’t violating any laws. The officer then “frisked” Brown and found nothing, but Brown was still arrested.
The United States Court voted in favor of Brown stating all lawful stops must follow the three-prong test, including DWI checkpoints or roadblocks. The test asks if the DWI checkpoint or roadblock is:
- In the interest of the State to decreasing accidents caused by drunk drivers;
- If the DWI checkpoints achieve such a goal; and
- Are the DWI checkpoints intrusive to an individual’s privacy.
Another Supreme Court case has caused a debate among law enforcement and lobbyists. In Michigan Department of State Police v. Sitz local police conducted DWI checkpoints in Saginaw County, Michigan. Several people were detained, and one was arrested for driving under the influence. Respondents then filed a complaint with the Circuit Court of Wayne County asking for relief from DWI checkpoints.
The case slowly circulated up to the Supreme Court. In the end, the Supreme Court stated the charges were permissible because the roadblock detention constituted a “seizure” within the Fourth Amendment’s meaning. They also stated the roadblock was constitutional because it passed the three-prong test enunciated in Brown v. Texas. Many law enforcement and state attorneys have argued this case made DWI checkpoints constitutional.
The most recent high profile case regarding DWI checkpoints is Holt v. State, was held at the Texas Criminal Court of Appeals. Regina H. Holt was charged with DWI after she passed through a DWI checkpoint set up by the Arlington Police Department.
Holt filed a motion to suppress evidence from the checkpoint because it violated her Fourth Amendment rights. She claimed the lack of Texas legislative action statewide around DWI checkpoints made her stop unconstitutional. Since there are no active guidelines for DWI checkpoints, the Court of Appeals stated it was unconstitutional to pull someone over at a DWI checkpoint or roadblock.
Are DWI Checkpoints Illegal in Texas?
The answer is yes. As of 2019, DWI checkpoints are technically unconstitutional because of Holt v. State. Texas hasn’t implemented any legislative action regarding DWI checkpoints or roadblocks. Because of this, law enforcement cannot conduct a sobriety checkpoint in Texas.
This doesn’t mean you are free from being pulled over for suspicion of the DWI. Police officers in Texas have the right to detain you if they have reasonable suspicion. Reasonable suspicion is a legal standard stating the officer was suspicious a crime was or did take place because of specific articulable facts. This means an officer could still pull you over if they have enough reasonable suspicion.
Texas DWI Laws – Visit the official website of the Texas Penal Code to read the active legislation surrounding DWI. Access the statue to learn what a DWI entails, how BAC is measured, the penalties for DWI and other alcohol-related offenses.
Administrative License Revocation Program – Visit the official website of the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) and learn what happens if you refuse chemical testing at a DWI checkpoint. Access the site to learn the suspension periods, ALR hearings and how to get a restricted license.
Lawyer for DWI Checkpoints in Harris County, Texas
If you or someone you know has been charged with DWI at a sobriety checkpoint, you must act now. The Texas Criminal Court of Appeals declared DWI roadblocks and checkpoints to be unconstitutional. It’s imperative you gain legal representation to fight your charges or you could face the full force of the law.
Flood Lewis & Associates, Inc. are experienced criminal defense litigators with a focus in DWI law. We’ll use our knowledge, resources and skills to help you get the outcome your desire. Call (713) 224-5529 to speak to an attorney today.
Flood Lewis & Associates, Inc. represents people accused of DWI throughout the Harris County area including Bellaire, Tomball, Pasadena, and West University Place.
This article was last updated on March 7th, 2019.