DWI Roadblocks / Checkpoints

Law enforcement agencies in Texas and throughout the nation often feel tremendous pressure to arrest people suspected of driving while intoxicated (DWI) and remove them from state highways in order to protect innocent people. While state law in Texas does not allow for police departments to set up roadblocks specifically to seek out suspected drunk drivers, law enforcement agencies will occasionally use checkpoints for other supposed purposes—such as driver’s license checks—that end up leading to some individuals being arrested for DWI.

Drunk driving roadblocks and checkpoints have been a recurring issue because such stops are often an affront to an individual’s rights against unreasonable search and seizure under both the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution and Article I, Section 9 of the Texas Constitution. When a person is arrested for DWI as the result of any kind of sobriety checkpoint or roadblock, he or she may be able to have all evidence obtained by authorities during the traffic stop suppressed if the court determines that the roadblock or checkpoint violated his or her constitutional rights.

Attorney for DWI Roadblocks / Checkpoints in Conroe, TX

Were you recently arrested for DWI at any kind of roadblock or checkpoint in the Montgomery County area? You will want to contact Evans & Powell, PLLC as soon as possible for help achieving the most favorable resolution to your case.

Conroe criminal defense lawyers Sean Evans and Frank Powell represent clients accused of driving under the influence (DUI) offenses in communities all over Montgomery County, including Panorama Village, Porter Heights, Oak Ridge North, Cut and Shoot, The Woodlands, Shenandoah, and many others. They can review your case and discuss all of your legal options when you call (936) 622-2000 to schedule a free initial consultation.


Montgomery County DWI Roadblocks / Checkpoints Information Center


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Texas Law on DWI Roadblocks / Checkpoints

A DWI checkpoint or roadblock is typically a high-traffic area that police departments will have multiple officers stop random drivers at to see if they are operating vehicles while intoxicated. Certain alleged offenders may be asked to step out of their vehicles and perform field sobriety tests or submit to chemical tests.

Roadblocks and checkpoints on are not always unconstitutional in Texas, but a number of court decisions over the years have made it difficult for authorities to legally conduct such barricades. The most famous such case is perhaps Brown v. Texas, 443 U.S. 47, 99 S.Ct. 2637, 61 L.Ed.2d 357 (1979), in which the United States Supreme Court enunciated a three-prong test to determine the constitutionality of a roadblock or checkpoint.

The test balances the following factors:

  • The interest of the State in preventing accidents caused by drunk drivers;
  • The effectiveness of DWI roadblocks in achieving such goal; and
  • The level of intrusion on an individual's privacy caused by such roadblocks.

In 1990, the United States Supreme Court ruled in Michigan Department of State Police v. Sitz,___ U.S.___, 110 S.Ct. 2481, 110 L.Ed.2d 412 (1990) that the DWI roadblock in such case did not violate the driver's rights under the Fourth Amendment, restating the principle that a roadblock detention constituted a "seizure" within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment but held that such a seizure was constitutionally permissible because it could pass the three-prong balancing test enunciated in Brown. While law enforcement agencies have argued that Sitz essentially made roadblocks constitutional, it was a highly specific case that may be more the exception than the rule.

In Holt v. State, 887 S.W.2d 16 (Tex. Crim. App. 1994), Regina H. Holt was charged with DWI after she was arrested at a sobriety checkpoint set up by the Arlington Police Department. She filed a motion to suppress evidence seized through the sobriety checkpoint, alleging that the checkpoint violated her rights under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution as well as Article I, Section 9 of the Texas Constitution. 

Holt claimed that the lack of a legislatively-authorized, statewide administrative scheme made sobriety checkpoints unreasonable and, therefore, unconstitutional in Texas, and the trial court granted her motion. The Fort Worth Court of Appeals reversed the trial court, holding that legislative authorization is not required for sobriety checkpoints in Texas, but the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals reversed the Court of Appeals decision, concluding:

Because a governing body in Texas has not authorized a statewide procedure for DWI roadblocks, such roadblocks are unreasonable and unconstitutional under the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution unless and until a politically accountable governing body sees fit to enact constitutional guidelines regarding such roadblocks.


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No Refusal Weekends in Montgomery County

During certain holiday weekends or other major events throughout the year, law enforcement agencies in Texas may announce so-called “No Refusal Weekends.” The implication is that alleged DWI offenders who refuse to submit to a chemical test of their blood, breath, or urine may be forced to submit to a blood draw.

In many cases, police officers have local judges on call prepared to sign warrants authorizing blood draws. Despite the name, motorists still have the right to refuse such tests. Any refusal will trigger an automatic suspension of an alleged offender’s driver’s license, and any failure to comply with a legally authorized blood draw can also result in additional criminal charges.

The United States Supreme Court ruled in Missouri v. McNeely, 569 U.S. ___ (2013) that “the natural dissipation of alcohol in the bloodstream does not constitute an exigency in every case sufficient to justify conducting a blood test without a warrant.” Blood tests administered without valid warrants may violate an alleged offender’s constitutional rights.


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Texas DWI Roadblock / Checkpoint Resources

 

King v. State, 816 S.W.2d 447 (Tex.App. — Dallas, 1991) — Michael Ray King presented nine points of error in the original appeal of his conviction for DWI. The Dallas Court of Appeals sustained King's first and second points of error—in which King contended that the trial court erred when it overruled his motion to suppress evidence seized at the roadblock in question, and that the roadblock violated his rights under the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution and Article I, Section 9 of the Texas Constitution. The Dallas Court of Appeals reversed the trial court's judgment and remanded the case for a new trial after not only concluding that Texas did not have a legislatively developed administrative scheme and the DWI roadblock thus violated King's rights under the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution, but also that because the roadblock in question was found unconstitutional under the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution, it was also found to be unconstitutional under Article I, Section 9 of the Texas Constitution.

State v. Van Natta, 805 S.W.2d 40 (Tex.App. — Fort Worth, 1991) — John Patrick Van Natta moved to suppress the evidence of his intoxication on the grounds that a roadblock stop which resulted in his arrest for DWI violated his rights under both the federal and state constitutions. The State appealed the trial court's order suppressing evidence, but the Fort Worth Court of Appeals affirmed the decision and remanded the case for trial. The Court of Appeals concluded that while the State’s evidence satisfied two of the three prongs of the Brown test, “the State wholly failed to establish the second prong of the Brown balancing test” and “the State's witness expressly disclaimed any knowledge of the efficacy of the roadblock seizure in dealing with the DWI problem.”


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Evans & Powell, PLLC | Conroe DWI Roadblocks / Checkpoints Defense Lawyer

If you were arrested for drinking and driving as the result of a checkpoint or roadblock in the greater Montgomery County area, it will be in your best interest to immediately retain legal counsel. Evans & Powell, PLLC defends individuals in Magnolia, Willis, Woodbranch, Patton Village, Pinehurst, Splendora, and many surrounding areas of Montgomery County.

Sean Evans and Frank Powell are experienced criminal defense attorneys in Conroe who will investigate all of the circumstances surrounding the roadblock or checkpoint and fight to possibly get your criminal charges reduced or dismissed. Call (936) 622-2000 or complete an online contact form to have our lawyers provide an honest and thorough evaluation of your case during a free, confidential consultation.


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