DWI checkpoints

Holidays such as Christmas, New Year’s Eve, Independence Day, or the upcoming Memorial Day weekend are the times when law enforcement officers are mostly on the lookout for those who are driving while intoxicated (DWI). Over the New Year’s and Christmas period, highway patrol agencies are typically very active in monitoring suspicious driving. They may even resort to planting DWI checkpoints on various parts of the roads to check for intoxicated drivers. When you drive through these checkpoints, the police may stop you and subject you to a sobriety test.

What is a DWI Checkpoint?

DWI checkpoints are designated spots where police officers pull over road users that they suspect to be driving while intoxicated or are committing other traffic violations. Ideally, the police set up a roadblock where they stop every car to check their licenses, insurance, and whether the driver displays alcohol or drug use signs. The law enforcement officers may ask a driver to take a breath or blood tests if:

  • The police officer smells alcohol or drugs.
  • The driver’s speech is slurred, and their eyes bloodshot
  • If there are physical alcohol containers or drug paraphernalia inside the car

States that allow DWI checkpoints argue that they are necessary as a more effective way of catching intoxicated drivers and thus help protect public safety against dangerous drivers.

Do The Police Have Leeway To Set Up DWI Checkpoints In Texas?

Not really. In the state of Texas, courts have ruled that DWI checkpoints are unconstitutional. A 1991 case determined by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruled that checkpoints were unlawful in Texas. Ideally, this means you are not required to do any drug or alcohol test at any DWI checkpoint within Texas State. Texas still maintains a strong view that DWI checkpoints violate the 4th Amendment prohibiting unreasonable seizures. Take note that courts in Texas view stops at DWI checkpoints as unconstitutional seizures.

Expensive Long-Term Consequences

In addition to fines, your car insurance company will require extra care. Most insurance companies increase your premiums. This is because having a DUI charge increases the risk and your liability. Sometimes, the hike in rates can last up to five years.  If you have multiple alcohol-related charges, your company can cancel your policy.

Furthermore, you may experience financial hardship after DUI charges. You can lose your scholarship or financial aid, jeopardizing college enrollment. When it’s time to find a job, employers will see the charge on a basic background check. Employers may pass on hiring you.

What Does The 4th Amendment State About Search And Seizure?

The Fourth Amendment to the US constitution protects people against unlawful searches and seizures. Ideally, this means that it is unlawful for a police officer to stop or seize you without reasonable suspicion of DWI or other offense. Any evidence of DWI obtained after unlawful stop, seizure, or search cannot be used to prosecute your case.

In 1990, the US Supreme Court gave states legal landings to create DWI checkpoints provided there is a reasonable system in place. However, a year later, a Texas Criminal Court of Appeal ruled that DWI checkpoints were illegal in the state as they violated the fourth amendments. In its ruling, the court stated that DWI checkpoints don’t justify the unlawful seizures and drivers’ search.

What are “No Refusal” Checkpoints and “No Refusal” Weekends?

No refusal means that the law enforcement has expedited access to search warrants. In Texas, if you are accused of DUI/DWI, and you refuse a breath or blood test, an arresting officer will have to obtain a warrant. During ‘no refusal weekend,’ the police can obtain the warrant for blood tests much faster. Typically, the law doesn’t change, and you can still refuse to take a test or breathalyzer. In essence, during the no refusal weekend, the officer’s time to obtain a warrant for your blood sample will be lesser. No refusal weekends typically fall on or around holidays when most people are drinking.

What Should I Do If Stopped On A No Refusal Weekend?

If you are stopped at a DWI checkpoint, do not panic or try to flee. Such behaviors can give the law enforcement reasonable suspicion that you are intoxicated. Instead, politely decline any physical test that measures physical impairment or other physical tests. In addition, these machines have potential inaccuracies, and by refusing, the arresting officer will be forced to get a warrant for a sample, which will give you time to seek legal advice from your attorney. It is important to remember in Texas, there is no separate offense for refusing to take the tests.

What Happens If I Refuse A Blood Test After A Warrant Is Issued?

Refusing a BAC after a warrant is used may be considered a crime. You may face both charges of a DWI and refusals of the warrant. If your BAC returns a .08 test, your driver’s licenses will be suspended for 90 days. At this point, you can contact an experienced DWI/DUI attorney who can help you obtain an occupational license after contesting a suspension at an ALR hearing.

What Are Your Options If You Are Arrested At a DWI Checkpoint in Texas?

Some law enforcement departments may conduct DWI checkpoints under the guise of checking valid driver licenses and insurance requirements. Some departments may also use no refusal weekends to obtain quick warranties and force you to a blood test. Drunk or drugged driving allegations related to DWI checkpoints may not be entertained in Texas court as they violate your Fourth Amendment rights. If you are stopped at a DWI checkpoint in Texas, and the law enforcement officers arrest you for a DWI or other related offenses, you should immediately contact an experienced DWI defense attorney well versed with the Texas DWI checkpoint cases.

Are There Apps That Show “Roadside” Inconveniences (Checkpoints)?

There are several apps that allow drivers to upload information regarding police alerts and activities. An example of such an app is the Navigation app Waze. The app allows users the ability to report various “inconveniences” on the road, like checkpoints, speed traps, and crashes. Other popular apps include Checkpoint Wingman, Sobriety Alerts, DUI savor, and Phantom ALERT.

Additionally, Google Maps for iPhone now reports speed traps and DUI checkpoints. However, not even the best apps will include every applicable DUI checkpoint. You should therefore avoid driving when drunk.

Talk to a Texas DWI Defense Attorney about Your Arrest Today

If you believe you were arrested as part of an illegal DWI checkpoint in Texas, contact us as soon as possible and allow our team to handle your case. Our highly experienced DUI lawyers are committed to protecting your rights and defend you during the criminal justice process.

Austin Office
816 Congress Ave, Suite 950
Austin, Texas 78701

San Antonio Office
700 N St Mary’s St, Suite 1457
San Antonio, Texas 78205