Probable cause plays a critical role in every criminal arrest, including when law enforcement charges drivers with drunk driving. Below, we take a look how law enforcement substantiates probable cause during a DWI stop and what can be done following an arrest to challenge the state’s case against you.
What is Probable Cause?
Probable cause is observable evidence that a crime has been committed, is being committed, or is about to be committed. So, for example, if police officers hear gunshots inside a home, they likely will have probable cause to enter that home and respond to the incident even though they do not have a warrant.
When it comes to drunk driving, probable cause can be established in a number of different ways. Sometimes it is established as officers observe an actual vehicle on the road and other times it is established when officers pull over drivers due to other traffic infractions.
Probable cause in a DWI case can include:
- Slurred speech
- The odor of alcohol (or drugs)
- Erratic or reckless driving
- Open containers visible in the car
- Admissions of drinking from the driver
- A traffic accident
Once an officer observes any of these things, they may continue to investigate the driver and ask them to cooperate with a breathalyzer or blood test.
When Probable Cause Is an Issue
There are a very specific protocols officers must follow to establish probable cause and collect evidence during a DWI stop and, when these protocols aren’t followed, it could mean that the traffic stop was unlawful.
For example, a single, minor traffic violation (broken tail light, rolling through a stop sign, etc.) does not give an officer probable cause to investigate a driver for drunk driving.
When there is not sufficient probable cause for a DWI arrest, it means that the driver’s constitutional rights have been violated and evidence against them can be suppressed. That is why it is so critical that, before you accept a guilty plea, you have your case examined by a capable Houston DWI defense attorney familiar with probable cause issues.
Have you been arrested for DWI? If so, we invite you to contact us at Tyler Flood & Associates today. Attorney Flood is a Board Certified Houston DWI lawyer who has dedicated our entire firm to DWI defense. We know what it takes to challenge these charges and ensure that our clients’ rights are protected both in and outside the courtroom.