This weekend, many people in Texas and throughout the country will be hosting or attending parties in honor of the new year ahead. As you celebrate and ring in the new year, you might decide to imbibe in champagne or some other alcoholic beverage. It’s best to schedule transportation for yourself if that’s the case. It’s also wise to make sure you know your rights, especially if police detain you at a DWI checkpoint.
In Texas, police technically cannot set up a sobriety (DWI) checkpoint. Such checkpoints are illegal in this state. However, it’s perfectly lawful for police to create roadblocks for other reasons, such as checking drivers randomly to see if they have valid drivers’ licenses in their possession.
You can refuse a preliminary alcohol screening test at a DWI checkpoint
If you’re pulled over at a Texas police checkpoint and are suspected of drunk driving, the officer in charge may ask you to exit your vehicle and submit to a breath test or field sobriety test. You can refuse. If the police have arrested you, it’s a different story.
Under implied consent laws, you agreed to take a chemical Breathalyzer, urine or blood test if a Texas police officer takes you into custody. You implied this consent when you signed your driver’s license. If you refuse chemical testing following a DWI arrest, there will be penalties.
Why sobriety checkpoints are not legal in Texas
For police in any state to detain you, they must have a justifiable reason for doing so. For example, if an officer witnesses you traveling at excessive speed, it justifies a traffic stop. Since DWI checkpoints are random, state law interprets this as a violation of your Fourth Amendment rights against unlawful search or seizure.
When a police officer detains you, it is a type of seizure. Because DWI checkpoints target drivers passing through a particular area, state courts have consistently ruled that there is no justifiable reason for stopping drivers in such circumstances.
Cooperate with police, but also exercise your rights
Stopping your vehicle is better than trying to evade a roadblock. If a Texas police officer asks you to submit to a sobriety test, you can refuse. You may also refuse to answer questions regarding your whereabouts prior to the stop or whether you’ve been drinking alcohol. Declining to answer is your right under the Fifth Amendment.
Texas police typically make more traffic stops and DWI arrests during the holidays, including New Year’s Eve. To avoid legal problems, it’s always best (and safest) to arrange transportation, either by asking a friend or family member to act as your chauffeur or by ordering a ride from a transportation company. If you are a driver who was recently arrested and charged with DWI, it is wise to secure legal support before your case is adjudicated.