Just when a man accused of DWI thought he was in the clear and the charges against him dropped, an appellate court reversed the trial court’s decision and now he is on the hook again. The recently-decided case discussed several important and interesting parts of DWI and criminal law.
This case began in July 2014 when a reserve police officer clocked a driver of a black Ford pickup driving 39 m.p.h. in a 30 m.p.h. zone. As part of his duties as a reserve police officer, he was required to spend 24 hours a month acting as a police officer. As a result, he turned the lights of his patrol car on and pulled the man over.
As soon as the police officer approached the car, he could smell the odor of alcohol. That is when his DWI investigation began. Even though he had not performed a DWI investigation in nearly 10 years, he began by questioning the man about whether he had anything to drink. The man answered that yes, he had three beers. The officer then ran his plates and noticed that they were expired and should not have been on the truck.
It was at this point the man was required to get out of the pickup truck, and after several field sobriety tests, he was arrested on suspicion of DWI. The case went to court, and the judge ruled that there was not enough evidence to establish probable cause that the man was drunk while driving, and so suppressed the evidence. But the prosecution appealed that ruling on a loophole in the law.
Probable Cause to Make an Arrest
The loophole in the law was that while there was not probable cause to make the arrest for DWI, the fact the man had expired licence plates gave the officer probable cause to make an arrest. In an interesting twist in the court’s opinion, they noted that it does not matter what the police are thinking at the time of an arrest, as long as there is probable cause of some kind to make an arrest, then it will be validated in court.
While this rule of law is validated by a Supreme Court decision from 2004, it seems unfair when looked at from a defendant’s point of view. Why would the police get credit for making an arrest if the arrest was completely wrong and based on a false sense of probable cause. In this case, for example, the reasons why this man is going to be tried for DWI is not because the police had enough reason to believe he committed DWI, but because he had expired license plates.
As soon as you are charged with DWI in the state of Texas you are fighting an uphill battle. We are constantly barraged in the television and other media with campaigns decrying DWI, and there are entire police squads dedicated to eradicating DWI charges. Of course it is bad to drink while driving, we can all agree on that, but what happens when the police make mistakes, overstep their constitutional limits, or make a wrong arrest? In those instances you need the right legal team fighting for your rights.
At The Wilder DWI Defense Firm you can contact us for a free case evaluation and we will help you understand what your legal options are. Our practice is dedicated to defending the rights of every person accused of DWI.