How Does DWI Enforcement Affect Tarrant County Criminal Prosecutions?

| Nov 1, 2019 |

How Does DWI Enforcement Affect Tarrant County Criminal Prosecutions?In the early and mid-1990s, peace officers substantially increased the number of drunk driving arrests. Today, there are over 1.4 million DWI arrests every year. That’s almost 1 percent of the licensed drivers in the United States. In certain situations, peace officers are even more aggressive than normal in this area.

Police officers sometimes take illegal shortcuts during these periods. Enhanced enforcement programs are costly, and officers are pressured to make as many arrests as possible in order to justify these costs. These shortcuts often create opportunities for Fort Worth DWI lawyers. If the state’s case has any weaknesses, it is easier to successfully resolve a DWI prosecution.

STEP Patrol

Generally, state government grants fund Selective Traffic Enforcement Programs. These initiatives often have catchy names, such as “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over.” Well, that name is at least somewhat catchy. Usually, officers receive overtime pay to patrol certain areas of town and write as many citations as possible. There are two big issues here.

First, many officers on STEP patrol are not normally patrol officers. So, they are less familiar with traffic laws and other reasonable suspicion issues. If there is no reasonable suspicion for the stop, the subsequent arrest is illegal as well, under the fruit of the poisonous tree doctrine.

Second, as mentioned, these campaigns are expensive. So, officers must make many DWI arrests to justify the costs. This pressure sometimes affects the probable cause element. Officers must have more than a “gut feeling” before they make a DWI arrest. During STEP patrols, some officers do not collect evidence as diligently as they should.

STEP patrols are also often controversial from a policy standpoint. For example, some police departments run DWI STEP campaigns in predominantly black neighborhoods, although most of these defendants are white.

DWI Roadblocks

This section is very short. Sobriety checkpoints are generally illegal in the Lone Star State. The Texas Legislature has never authorized them, and legislative permission is a critical element of a roadblock’s legality.

This environment may change soon. In most states, DWI roadblocks are quite common around New Year’s Eve and other holidays commonly associated with drinking and driving.

No-Refusal Chemical Test Weekends

In 2016’s Birchfield v. North Dakota, the United States Supreme Court ruled that officers must obtain search warrants before they extract blood samples from DWI defendants. Normally, police officers do not take this extra step, so blood draws are rare.

However, during a no-refusal weekend, the county has criminal judges on standby who are ready to issue warrants.

These warrants must be based on probable cause, which usually comes from the field sobriety tests. If the defendant refuses to perform some or all of these tests, the judge may not have enough evidence to sign a warrant. If the judge authorizes the warrant anyway, that authorization does not make it legal.

Search warrants must also meet some technical requirements. Verbal permission may not be enough. If the prosecutor cannot produce a written warrant in court, according to the best evidence rule, the subsequent blood draw may be inadmissible.

Strong-arm enforcement often makes DWI cases harder to prove in court. For a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney in Fort Worth, contact Herreth Law. Home and jail visits are available.