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Police have historically employed various types of tactics in order to make arrests for Driving While Intoxicated, or DWI. One tactic used is to set up a DWI checkpoint, in which every car is stopped in order to see if the driver has been drinking prior to driving. Some of the most common signs sought by police include the following:

*Odor of alcohol
*Speech that is slurred
*Eyes that are bloodshot
*Open alcohol containers

In the state of Texas, however, there are different laws regarding these types of checkpoints. Many states routinely performed these checkpoints without fear of violating the Constitution prior to a 1990 decision handed down by the Supreme Court, Michigan v. Sitz, 496 US 444 (1990), in which a man argued that police had no right, probable cause, or reasonable suspicion to stop him in Michigan during a DWI checkpoint. The Court to rule against him and said that as long as the State had a reasonable system in place to ensure that all drivers in an area were sober, their system would not violate the Constitution; however, this has now changed.

Following this ruling, DWI checkpoints were challenged in a Texas case called State v. Wagner, 821 SW 2d. 288 (Tex. Ct. App. 1991). A man was arrested and convicted of a DWI following a checkpoint stop in Dallas, with the evidence being used against him having been taken there. The man challenged the legality of these stops because the state legislature didn’t actually have a system in place that authorized law enforcement to use the checkpoints. Even though the local police had their own scheme and system in place, it was determined that the state itself had not actually developed one. Because of this, DWI checkpoints were ruled as being illegal by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.

What this means is that whenever the police pull you over, they must have a good reason for doing so, such as violating a traffic ordinance. Police are not allowed to pull drivers over simply because they hope to be able to arrest someone who may be drunk.

Thank you for visiting the Jarvis, Garcia & Erskine blog, an Austin criminal defense law firm. We write to inform locals about law changes, news and currents events.