DWI and DUI checkpoints have been controversial since they were first introduced in the United States in 1990. These roadblocks are set up by police to check all the drivers who go by to see if they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol. While controversial, they continue to be used in different states, especially during holidays linked to excessive partying (ex. New Year’s Eve). Are DUI checkpoints legal in Texas? Currently, the state of Texas currently rules that DUI checkpoints are illegal.
The loadstar case was decided just one year after the Supreme Court ruling. A man in Texas was arrested of a DUI after being stopped at a checkpoint near Dallas. The evidence gathered there was used against him initially, despite Texas legislature not having a system in place for checkpoints at the time. Only the city of Dallas had one in place, and because of that, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals had no option other than to rule these checkpoints as illegal.
Due to this ruling, a person can only be pulled over in the state of Texas if they have a valid reason. If there is suspicion that a law was broken or a traffic ordinance was violated, law enforcement has the right to pull someone over.
Navigating Reasonable Suspicion
The term “reasonable suspicion” is very controversial, simply because a lot of it is left up to the discretion of law enforcement. While law enforcement can’t legally have a DUI checkpoint in the state of Texas, they can monitor drivers on a stretch of road and look for any type of reasonable suspicion to pull someone over. There have been numerous claims throughout the years that officers have abused that leeway they have, pulling people over just in the hopes of catching them drunk.
Valid reasons for suspicion include slurring of speech, blood shot eyes, drug/alcohol odors coming from the vehicle and more. If the police feel as though a person is under the influence of something, they can detain a citizen and issue a breath or blood test. Refusal to do so can in turn be used against a person during a criminal trial, which is almost always bad news for the defendant.
There is always going to be that gray area when it comes to being pulled over in the state of Texas. Depending on the specifics of a situation, the exact breakdown of being pulled over initially can be used by the defendant and their legal team in court.
Why are checkpoints used in so many other states?
Despite being illegal in Texas, the majority of states still allow for DUI and DWI checkpoints. They have been labeled by some as nothing more than traps to catch people, but they are designed to keep the roads safer in general.
Supporters of checkpoints state that according to most laws, a public announcement must be made to inform people about a checkpoint beforehand. Couple that with signs on the road, and it is relatively easy to avoid a checkpoint if a person is sober.
Another thing supporters point out is the fact that checkpoints are usually only set up during days of the year that are connected to heavier drug and alcohol use. New Year’s Eve is always a popular night for DUI checkpoints. They are not set up on a very consistent basis, trying to pick off and waste a lot of time for sober drivers on the road just going about their day in general.
What should I do if I’m charged with a DUI in Texas?
If you are charged with a DUI in Texas, it is strongly recommended to secure legal representation. A strong legal team that works in the industry will be able to examine the case and see if there is anything that can be challenged about the legality of not only the stop, but the arrest.
The police can only pull a driver over in Texas if they have reasonable suspicion. They must do everything by the book, or the case should be dismissed.
Most people opt to go with a legal team that is very local to their particular area. For out of state drivers who get a DUI in the state of Texas, they have the option to seek legal advice closer to their home or in the Lone Star State. The advantage of a lawyer close to home is communication is easier, but they might not be as well versed on the laws in Texas.