Was Your DWI Traffic Stop Legal?
Determining whether you were stopped legally before a DWI arrest is extremely important because if the arresting officer did not have a reason compelling enough to pull you over before your arrest, the DWI charges and any other violations you incurred after the stop could all be inadmissible in Court. That means the charges against you would be dropped or the case would be dismissed. Either way, you could walk away without a scratch on your criminal record.
To determine if you were stopped legally prior to your DWI arrest, first you need to know how Texas law defines a legal traffic stop and what is required before an officer pulls you over. If you have been arrested for DWI or DUI in Fort Worth, Arlington, Grapevine or in the surrounding cities of Tarrant County, it is likely that you were initially stopped after a police officer noticed something suspicious about your driving or about your vehicle that caused him to initiate a traffic stop.
Probably Cause vs. Reasonable Suspicion
It is a common misconception to think that a police officer needs probable cause to make a traffic stop. In reality, Texas law merely requires reasonable suspicion of criminal activity based upon articulable facts (usually provided by a police officer) for the police officer to initiate a traffic stop.
For example, if a police officer pulls you over and ends up charging you with DWI, but the basis for the traffic stop is merely a hunch, an unfounded suspicion, or curiosity as to what you were doing, the stop will be deemed illegal and any evidence collected after the stop will be prohibited from being used against you.
What Legal Reasons Can Police Pull You Over for in a DWI Stop?
- Expired Inspection Sticker
- Broken Headlight
- Expired Registration
- Failing to Indicate with Turn Signals
- Running Your Plates & Finding Active Warrants
- Running a Red Light
- Driving Recklessly
- Broken Brake Light or Tail Light
Any violation of traffic laws or issues with your car that create a safety concern can warrant a legal stop.
What Is The Most Common Trigger for a Legal Stop Before DWI Arrest?
The most common reason a police officer establishes reasonable suspicion to make a DWI traffic stop is a traffic violation. If you were speeding, running a red light or changing lanes without using a turn signal, the police officer will always be justified in making a traffic stop. Additionally, if you were driving with an expired inspection sticker, a broken tail light or any other minor infraction (that may or may not be an actual crime), the police officer will legally be permitted to make a traffic stop.
Although it would appear that a police officer would be able to justify any DWI stop under the current law, there are limitations upon when a traffic stop would be justifiable under the law.
Examples of Illegal DWI Traffic Stops Under Texas Law
Weaving within one’s lane of traffic is one example of an illegal DWI stop. A common reason for officers to pull someone over is an observation of the driver weaving within their lane while driving. If the officer merely observed the citizen weaving within their own lane, as opposed to weaving into other lanes of traffic, the officer will be required to explain how weaving within one’s own lane of traffic resulted in unsafe driving. If weaving within one’s own lane of traffic was the sole basis for the traffic stop and the police officer is unable to establish that the citizen’s driving was unsafe, it is highly likely that the stop will be determined to be illegal.
Another example of an illegal DWI traffic stop in Texas is a police officer watching you leave a bar or nightclub at closing time and pulling you over. Walking out of a bar does not amount to reasonable suspicion either, and this is an illegal stop. Any evidence or other charges that follow after an illegal stop can be thrown out, deemed inadmissible by the Courts if proven illegal.
These examples emphasize the point that if you have been arrested and charged with a DWI in Fort Worth, Arlington, Grapevine or in the surrounding cities of Tarrant County, it is important to retain a DWI law firm that will take the time to ensure your stop was legal and supported by Texas case law.
Contact Our Attorneys for Help with an Illegal DWI Stop
At The Hampton Law Firm, the DWI trial team will carefully review the facts of your case and determine if your DWI traffic stop was legal. Call 817-435-2909 now to schedule a free case evaluation with our defense lawyers. We have tried over 100 DWI jury trials in Tarrant County. When you’re facing drunk driving charges and think the police arrested you illegally, you need experienced illegal DWI traffic stop lawyers like ours.