Statistically, Texas ranks as one of the worst states for accidents caused by drunk driving, but the number of drivers pulled over for impaired driving ranks significantly higher. In an effort to curb accidents caused by impaired drivers, a large DWI / DUI enforcement net has been cast over the citizens of Texas. Current Texas law stipulates a person can be considered intoxicated and driving under the influence if their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is 0.8 percent or higher, or under the influence of any drug. The average person can achieve 0.8 percent by ingesting two or three drinks within an hour, especially for women and younger people.
Over the years, Texas has continued to increase DWI enforcement initiatives and pass legislation with harsh criminal law penalties for DWI/DUI offenses. One example of increased DWI/DUI enforcement occurred in Austin. The police force created a dedicated DWI enforcement unit where officers conduct frequent, sustained, and highly visible impaired driving patrols. The enforcement unit also acquired a bus to serve as a command vehicle, equipped with an Intoxilyzer 5000 and videotaping capabilities.
A controversial, yet effective DWI/DUI enforcement measure being implemented throughout the U.S. is sobriety checkpoints (also called “DUI” checkpoints.) Checkpoints consist of police officers stationed in various locations to check drivers for signs of intoxication and impairment. Many states have implemented sobriety checkpoints; 38 states in the U.S. currently utilize them as part of their DWI/DUI enforcement program. However, they remain controversial and nonexistent in other states due to constitutional issues.
Implementing sobriety checkpoints is a state legislative decision. Some states authorize their use, some forbid them, and some remain silent on the issue. States that have no explicit authority to utilize checkpoints may or may not conduct them, and in many states, the courts have weighed in on whether to uphold or prohibit sobriety checkpoints based on the interpretation of that state’s Constitution or the U.S. Constitution.
The Texas State Legislature is no exception to considering sobriety checkpoints and has joined the fray in considering their use. Bills have been introduced in the state legislature regarding checkpoints since 1995, but have failed passage each time. To date, Texas has remained firm in prohibiting checkpoints, declaring them illegal based on interpretation of the U.S. Constitution. Although advocates on both sides of the issue understand the beneficial significance of deterring drunk drivers with sobriety checkpoints, the constitutional rights of U.S. citizens has trumped the benefit; innocent drivers in Texas have a right not to be improperly detained (without probable cause.)
The more Texas continues to pass stricter DWI/DUI enforcement initiatives and criminal laws with harsh penalties, or implement enforcement directives just shy of an stationery sobriety checkpoint, such as moving command center vehicles, these actions, in combination with the relentless advocates of sobriety checkpoints, the more important it has become that Texas residents are fully aware of their constitutional rights, and how they apply in this area of law.
Criminal defense attorneys in Texas are the experts in ever-changing state legislation, Texas Criminal Code and the state’s DWI/DUI laws in relation to our federal constitutional rights. Seeking their counsel not only provides enhanced knowledge of our constitutional rights, but relevant and appropriate legal advice is available if our rights are infringed upon and need defending.
Contact Carroll Troberman, PLLC today to get the expert legal advice you deserve.