Before heading out for a night on the town, you should think about getting home. Whether you pick a designated driver, opt for a ride-hailing service or take public transportation, the slight inconvenience beats an arrest for driving while impaired. If you do find yourself behind the wheel after consuming too much alcohol, though, you may wonder what legal grounds an officer must have before arresting you.
In the Lone Star State, you must have a blood alcohol concentration below 0.08% to operate a motor vehicle. If your BAC is above that limit, you are likely to face a drunk driving arrest during a traffic stop. To check your BAC, officers may request a blood, urine or breath sample. Before they do so, though, they must have probable cause.
To stop your vehicle, officers must have reasonable suspicion that you violated the law. They do not need to think you are driving drunk, though. On the contrary, even minor moving violations are usually sufficient to establish reasonable suspicion. By themselves, though, they probably do not reach the legal threshold for probable cause.
The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution requires officers to have probable cause before arresting you. As such, probable cause is a higher legal standard than reasonable suspicion. Said differently, while moving violations may support reasonable suspicion, probable cause requires more. The following types of conduct may constitute probable cause:
- Reckless driving
- Slurred speech
- Alcohol odors
- Open containers
- Failed or declined field-sobriety tests
The exclusionary rule
Whether an officer has reasonable suspicion to stop your vehicle and probable cause to arrest you matters. If either is not present, you may be able to convince a judge to exclude any evidence officers collected. Naturally, if prosecutors lack evidence, securing a conviction is apt to be exceedingly difficult.
Never driving after consuming too much alcohol is an effective way to avoid a DWI arrest in Texas. Nonetheless, if you ever face drunk driving charges, you should understand both reasonable suspicion and probable cause. Put simply, if officers violate your rights, you may be able to beat a DWI charge.