Are DWI Checkpoints Legal in the Lone Star State?

There is never a good time to drink and drive. After all, if you have a blood alcohol concentration over Texas’s 0.08% legal limit before getting behind the wheel, you are apt to face a variety of legal and life consequences. While police officers commonly stop specific vehicles when enforcing the state’s DWI laws, you may wonder if sobriety checkpoints are legal in Texas. 

If you regularly drive outside the state, you may have encountered a DWI checkpoint. With these checkpoints, officers stop all or many vehicles that approach a specific stretch of roadway. While sobriety roadblocks are legal in 38 states, courts have held them to be unconstitutional in Texas. This fact may influence the way you defend yourself against DWI charges. 

Sobriety checkpoints 

The U.S. Supreme Court has held that states have an interest in stopping drunk driving. Accordingly, provided they follow certain procedures, police officers may generally conduct sobriety checkpoints. In Texas, however, the courts have decided these checkpoints violate the Fourth Amendment. Therefore, if officers arrest you on suspicion of DWI in Texas, you may have grounds to attack the legality of your arrest. 

The Fourth Amendment 

In general terms, the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects you from unreasonable searches and seizures. That is, before officers can legally stop your vehicle, they must have reasonable suspicion that you are engaging in some type of unlawful behavior. For a DWI arrest, though, officers do not necessarily have to suspect you are driving drunk. On the contrary, if officers notice you violating ordinary traffic laws, they have sufficient suspicion to stop your vehicle. Furthermore, if you are driving erratically, unpredictably or irresponsibly, your behavior probably satisfies the legal standard. 

A DWI conviction may follow you for the rest of your life. As such, it is critical to aggressively defend yourself. By understanding how the law involving both reasonable suspicion and DWI checkpoints, you can better assert your legal rights. 

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