Drinking and driving is always a terrible idea. While officers can stop drivers whom they suspect of being impaired in the State of Texas, DWI checkpoints – although they are legal in the vast majority of states – are illegal in Texas.
If you like to hit the road and you often cross the state line, you may have encountered a DWI checkpoint along the way. Such checkpoints refer to spots where officers are in place to stop every vehicle and check every driver – or most vehicles and most drivers – who travel through. These roadblocks are often set up on holidays that are closely associated with revelry and increased travel, such as:
- Memorial Day
- Labor Day
- Fourth of July
Because the Supreme Court holds that states have a legitimate interest in preventing drunk driving, police officers in most states are generally allowed to conduct sobriety checkpoints as long they closely adhere to specific procedures. Texas courts, however, have deemed these checkpoints to be in violation of the Fourth Amendment, which protects us from unreasonable search and seizure.
Your Fourth Amendment Rights
The protections provided by the Fourth Amendment relate to unreasonable search and seizure, which here means that an officer must have a reasonable suspicion that you are engaging in some unlawful behavior before he or she can legally pull you over. To make a DWI arrest, however, an officer does not have to suspect you of DWI in the first place. In fact, something as mundane as an officer pulling you over for driving with a broken taillight (or any other traffic violation) can lead to a DWI arrest if the officer finds that you appear impaired after the fact. If you are driving erratically or otherwise irresponsibly, however, the officer is probably justified in pulling you over under suspicion of DWI in the first place. While Texas does not allow DWI checkpoints, the state takes drunk driving seriously, and so should you.
A DWI Conviction
The consequences of a first DWI conviction in Texas are far too serious to ignore, and can include:
- Suspension of your license
- A maximum fine of $4,000 and jail time of up to 1 year (for a class A misdemeanor – blood alcohol content of .15 percent or higher)
- A maximum fine of $2,000 and jail time of from 72 hours to 6 months (for a class B misdemeanor – blood alcohol content under .15 percent)
It is a lot, but there are further consequences that can also apply, such as:
- Community service
- DWI education classes
- Additional license suspensions