Being arrested for a DWI can have serious consequences, including hefty fines, license suspension, and even jail time. However, it's important to remember that law enforcement officers must have reasonable suspicion and probable cause to make a DWI arrest.
The Role of Reasonable Suspicion in a DWI Arrest
Reasonable suspicion is the lower standard required to initiate a brief investigatory stop or detention. To establish reasonable suspicion for a DWI stop, an officer must have specific and articulable facts that lead them to believe that a driver is possibly engaged in illegal activity, such as impaired driving.
The officer may observe certain driving behaviors that raise reasonable suspicion, such as swerving, erratic lane changes, running red lights or stop signs, driving too slowly or too fast, or almost colliding with other vehicles. Additionally, if the driver commits a traffic violation, such as speeding, driving without headlights, or illegal turns, it can contribute to the establishment of reasonable suspicion.
Proving Probable Cause for a DWI Arrest
Probable cause is a higher standard of proof than reasonable suspicion and is necessary for more intrusive actions, such as arrests and searches. It requires sufficient evidence to lead a reasonable person to believe that a crime has been committed and that the individual to be arrested or the place to be searched is connected to the criminal activity.
Common ways to establish probable cause include:
- Field sobriety tests (FSTs): After reasonable suspicion is established, an officer may conduct field sobriety tests, such as the horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) test, walk-and-turn test, or one-leg stand test. If the driver performs poorly on these tests, it can contribute to establishing probable cause.
- Breathalyzer or chemical tests: If the driver fails the field sobriety tests or refuses to take them, the officer may request a breathalyzer or chemical test to measure the driver's blood alcohol concentration (BAC). A BAC above the legal limit (typically 0.08% in the United States) can provide strong probable cause for arrest.
- Officer's observations: The officer's observations during the traffic stop, such as the driver's physical appearance, behavior, and responses to questions, can contribute to the establishment of probable cause.
- Additional evidence: Other evidence, such as the presence of alcohol containers in the vehicle, the driver's statements or admissions, or the odor of alcohol or drugs, can further support probable cause.
Establishing reasonable suspicion and probable cause is crucial in a DWI arrest. By understanding your rights and the potential flaws in the arrest process, you can effectively challenge the charges against you.
If you find yourself facing a DWI arrest in Texas, The Law Offices of George A. Scharmen is here to provide expert guidance and representation. We have a deep understanding of Texas DWI laws and can help you build a strong defense.
Contact us today to schedule a free consultation and protect your rights.