DUI checkpoints are enforced in most states, leaving no leeway for intoxicated drivers to escape. Law enforcement officers will request drivers to exit their cars at sobriety checkpoints, with the police officer sometimes asking many questions to the person in question.
Most DUI checkpoints are set up during holiday seasons, such as New Year's Eve or Christmas when police officers suspect drivers to be intoxicated on the road. Drivers can politely decline to respond to additional queries; however, what other rights do vehicle owners in Texas have at a DUI checkpoint?
Also, some people wonder if such sobriety checkpoints are even legal in Texas. The truth is that they're not. In fact, the US Supreme Court and Texas court have ruled out such a roadblock as an illegal DUI and DWI checkpoint.
As a result, drivers don't need to stop to answer questions and take a sobriety test, regardless of the holiday season. However, this doesn't mean vehicle owners can drive carelessly and without paying heed to speed limits. Although illegal, many law enforcement officers can and will set up booths across the state to catch reckless drivers.
What Law Enforcement Officers Can Ask You to Do
Knowing driver's rights is crucial when being pulled over at a DUI checkpoint. However, it is also essential to provide police officers with the necessary documents at a sobriety checkpoint. Here are a few things drivers might have to do when held at DUI or DWI checkpoints:
Exit the car when asked to do so by the police officer.
Provide essential documents, such as driver's license, insurance proof, and vehicle registration.
Undergo a breath test if the police officer suspects the driver to be DUI/DWI.
Driver's Rights at DUI Checkpoints
Being pulled over at a sobriety checkpoint doesn't leave vehicle owners at the mercy of law enforcement officers alone.
According to the Texas court and US Supreme Court, DWI checkpoints violate driver's rights and are, therefore, held illegal. Reasonable suspicion and apparent drunk driving can still allow police departments to pull over vehicles to the side. Here are what drivers can do as per their rights when held over at DWI checkpoints:
Speak only when required, and request not to say anything more than needed.
Not allowing the law enforcement officer to access the vehicle for inspection.
Demand an authorized search warrant at the sobriety checkpoint first.
Video or audio record being pulled over at an illegal DWI checkpoint.
Request to speak to a DWI defense attorney before providing any requested information to the law enforcement officer.
Not consent to a blood test at a DWI checkpoint.
Cite the fifth amendment right to stay silent and not respond to any queries asked at an illegal DWI checkpoint.
Not consent to a sobriety test held at DWI roadblocks.
However, not responding according to what law enforcement sets can result in drivers being taken to a police station. Here's what vehicle owners can do when forcefully transferred to a station:
Invoke the fifth amendment right to remain silent again.
Request to contact a criminal defense lawyer or DWI defense attorney before talking to supervising officers.
Recording Ongoing Activities at Sobriety Checkpoints
Drivers are allowed to record current activities at a DWI checkpoint as long as they don't obstruct or interfere with the police departments stalled at DWI checkpoints. However, vehicle owners can invoke their first amendment rights if police officers try to deter or prevent drivers from recording the proceedings at DWI checkpoints.
On top of that, motorists must openly record and take videos or pictures of the ongoing activities if they are to do so. Discreetly capturing images and recording private conversations among officers at DWI checkpoints are forbidden in many states, including Texas.
How to Pass Through a DWI Checkpoint in Texas
Regardless of whether the motorist had been driving while intoxicated or under the influence, there are a few things all drivers must do if they want to pass through DWI checkpoints successfully.
Never Admit to Drinking
DWI checkpoints can be stressful for many, forcing drivers to admit intoxication due to authority pressure. Accepting the truth is the last thing any pulled-over vehicle owner should do.
Motorists who are completely clean and have not been intoxicated can respond to police officers and politely say no. However, those guilty of drinking should invoke their first amendment rights and stay silent. Caving into questions asked and responding with what law officers want to hear is the last thing any driver should do and can result in the driver being charged with a felony DUI.
Look Away When Speaking
Law enforcement officers at DWI checkpoints will try to observe drivers when asking questions. Police officers typically look for signs of intoxication when analyzing, such as red eyes, flushed cheeks, slurred speech, etc.
Drivers should also not face the officer when speaking, as authorities might try to sniff for hints of alcohol in every breath.
Don't Consent to a Vehicle Search
Officers at DWI roadblocks can be persistent when it comes to checking vehicles, but drivers should not consent to unreasonable searches. Instead of being rude and coming off as suspicious, motorists should politely say "no" and request to contact a Texas DWI defense attorney first.
Some officials might try to poke into vehicles and use a flashlight to scan the area; however, that is not legal in most states and should not be allowed by the driver. People may kindly tell the officer that they're invading personal space and record if the police officer still intrudes. Vehicle owners can use such evidence to fight their cases if the appeal is brought to trial.
Decline a Field Sobriety Test
Motorists confident of not being intoxicated can go ahead with a field sobriety test. However, drunk drivers should not consent to a breath examination, as any evidence can be used against the vehicle owner if the trial is brought to the court of criminal appeals.
Drivers should make sure to request to call a criminal defense lawyer if officers force them to take a blood test or breath test.
Request to Leave the Blockade
According to the Texas Court, police officials are not allowed to keep vehicle owners stuck at DWI roadblocks or traffic stops for an indefinite period. Motorists can ask to leave once all reasonable questions have been asked and responded to.
Drivers who pass the DWI tests are allowed to leave immediately. Any law enforcer preventing an innocent individual from passing through must be put under the criminal justice process.
Contact an Attorney If Taken to a Station
Law enforcers can arrest individuals from checkpoints if the blood test and breath test show them as intoxicated. Most drivers will be arrested and taken to a police station where they should call the best DWI lawyer in Tarrant County.
It doesn't matter if the person being held was driving while intoxicated or has been wrongfully arrested; contacting a defense lawyer is vital. People should withhold providing additional information to the police departments and invoke the first amendment to stay quiet.
Most police stations will allow the suspect to call an attorney and voice out concerns and help. However, arrested individuals should not admit anything over the phone, even alone in a cell. This is because almost all phones at a police station are wired and bugged. If taken to court, accused motorists can have their lawyers fight for criminal appeals.
Avoiding a DWI Checkpoint Intentionally
The Texas court of criminal appeals ruled out DWI checkpoints as legal in the state. As a result, drivers intentionally avoiding direct contact with a police officer standing by a checkpoint will not be breaking any laws.
However, motorists speeding over the set limits and causing traffic congestion or risk to public safety will be counted as breaking laws. Innocent vehicle owners pulled over solely to avoid unreasonable seizures at DWI checkpoints can ask to leave.
Why Law Enforcers Might Pull Drivers Over
Under the Texas court of criminal law, DUI or DWI checkpoints are not legalized in the state. However, many police officials can still pull automobilists over due to suspected behavior, such as:
Reckless driving, especially at night
Speeding over the limit
Driving with head and tail lights on at night
Not maintaining lanes and switching abruptly
Texting or being on call while driving
What Is a Probable Cause Exception?
No law enforcer can force citizens to undergo a DUI or DWI test at checkpoints. However, suspicious behavior from the motorist can give rise to the probable cause exception and allow officers to inspect further. Also, if the driver is charged with a DUI, they may also be put on DUI probation after the conviction.
After retrieving necessary documents from the rider at sobriety checkpoints, officials can keep individuals from leaving if they suspect:
Incoherent driver's speech
Unnecessary fumbling and fidgeting
Impaired vision and shaky hands
Although ruled illegal in Texas, enforcers can still set up DWI checkpoints and flag automobilists who violate road laws. Suspicious behavior from the person behind the wheel can encourage officers to seek a blood or breath test.
It's important to invoke first amendment rights and stay quiet instead of admitting to drinking. The first thing drivers should do after being pulled over is contact their DWI defense attorney to navigate the situation professionally.