Does the state of Texas have DWI checkpoints? Here’s how state courts ruled in the past

Not all states allow DWI checkpoints, a place where an officer catches those driving impaired at a certain location.

During those checkpoints, which are set up to curb intoxicated driving, a police officer stationed at a roadblock may pull you over, check for signs of intoxication and test your sobriety. They may set them up during holidays like Christmas, New Year’s Eve and the Fourth of July, when drivers are more likely to be drunk. Law enforcement usually warns the public before setting them up.

Texas is one of 13 states that does not permit DWI checkpoints, declaring them unconstitutional and unlawful. That’s due to a ruling stating that the measure violates the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution, which prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures made without probable cause, according to the Shapiro Law Firm in Plano.

Texas courts have also held that DWI checkpoints Article 1, Section 9 of the Constitution of Texas, stating that every person has the right to be protected from unreasonable searches and seizures, per Fort Worth DWI defense lawyer Andrew Deegan.

Texas’ position is contrary to that of the Supreme Court, which has been adopted by 37 states where the checkpoints are legal. In the 1990 case Michigan State Department of Police vs Sitz, the Supreme Court held that DWI checkpoints are reasonable seizures because their purpose is to promote public safety.

State v. Wagner

In 1991, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruled in State v. Wagner that sobriety checkpoints violated a Texan’s Fourth Amendment rights and were therefore unconstitutional.

In its opinion, the court states that: “Texas has no administrative scheme providing authority for the police to engage in the collection of evidence at sobriety checkpoints.”

DWI checkpoints can occur only if the Texas Legislature establishes guidelines to do so, according to the Law Offices of Richard C. McConathy located throughout Dallas-Fort Worth.

Holt v. State

Regina H. Holt vs the State of Texas is a landmark case that determined in 1994 why DWI checkpoints are considered to be illegal. The Arlington Police Department had set up a checkpoint where Holt was arrested for drunk driving, and Holt filed a motion to exclude the checkpoint evidence because it violated the Fourth Amendment and Article 1 of the State Constitution. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals sided with Holt, declaring the checkpoints unconstitutional and unlawful.

“Because a governing body in Texas has not authorized a statewide procedure for DWI roadblocks, such roadblocks are unreasonable and unconstitutional under the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution unless and until a politically accountable governing body sees fit to enact constitutional guidelines regarding such roadblocks,” the opinion stated.

Probable Cause Exception

Texas courts can however admit DWI checkpoint evidence in particular circumstances, according to Deegan, so law enforcement may still set them up.

Checkpoint evidence can be admissible in court if the prosecution proves that the police officer pulled the driver over while having a probable cause, Deegan says. They additionally must prove that the checkpoint was conducted in the right manner.

“If you are pulled over at a DWI checkpoint remember to remain calm and respectful to the officer. DWI checkpoints are technically legal in Texas, however refusing to cooperate with law enforcement may result in an arrest or other actions taken against you,” writes Peveto Law, a Plano criminal defense attorney. “Be prepared with your license, registration and proof of insurance when asked. You can also request to speak with a lawyer before agreeing to any roadside tests.”

Although Texans shouldn’t face sobriety checkpoints, law enforcement officers still assess whether travelers are driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Intoxication is shown if a breath test shows a blood alcohol level of 0.08% or greater, and consequences include fines and jail time.

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