DWIs and Probable Cause

In order to lawfully arrest an individual for committing a DWI offense, an officer must have probable cause to arrest the driver. Law enforcement officers have probable cause when the apparent facts discovered through logical inquiry could lead a reasonably intelligent and prudent person to believe that an accused person has committed a crime or that a cause of action has accrued.

The Apparent Facts

In the case of a possible DWI offense, an arresting officer must look to whether the driver has violated the relevant DWI statute. Under Texas law, a person commits a DWI when he or she is intoxicated while operating a motor vehicle in a public place.

Therefore, the apparent facts must show that the driver was intoxicated, operating a motor vehicle, and was doing so in a public place.

Discovery Through Logical Inquiry

The arresting officer’s observation of the “apparent facts” surrounding the arrest must be discovered through logical inquiry. In Texas, the level of a driver’s intoxication may be determined through a blood test, breathalyzer test, or through sobriety field-testing procedures. The protocols taken must be lawful in order to considered logical and so the driver must be informed of the process of such testing and must also be aware of his or her right to refuse such testing.

The arresting officer must observe that the driver is operating a motor vehicle, defined as a device, in, on, or by which a person or property is or may be transported or drawn on a highway.

Lastly, the officer must logically observe that the driver’s conduct occurred in a public place, as opposed to a private place.

The Reasonable Person

The last element of probable cause is that a reasonably intelligent and prudent person would believe that the accused person has committed the crime therein. In other words, if the police officer had a reasonable belief that the alleged DWI offender had committed the crime, a reasonable person of relatively normal intelligence and prudence must also be able to conclude that the offender committed a DWI. The officer must not base his or her belief that the driver has committed a DWI based on a mere guess or assumption, but instead must be able to reach such a conclusion reasonably when taking into account all of the facts of the situation.

If the driver has shown a blood alcohol content level that exceeds the limitations for a DWI or has otherwise exhibited intoxication through a lack of normal use of his or her mental and physical faculties, a reasonable person may reasonably conclude that the driver is intoxicated.

If the driver was found to have been operating a device that a reasonable person would believe to be a motor vehicle, it would be reasonable to believe that he or she was operating a motor vehicle.

Lastly, if the driver was found to be operating a motor vehicle, while intoxicated, in a place that a reasonable person would believe to be a public place, then it may be reasonable to conclude that it was a public place.

Did Your Arresting Officer Have Probable Cause?

If you have been arrested and charged with a DWI offense, it is important to ensure that your arresting officer made a lawful arrest by following appropriate protocols and procedures. Whether or not an officer had probable cause is an issue that is often challenged in DWI actions and if you believe that your office lacked probable cause to arrest you it is important that you seek a strong legal defense. Probable cause involves both complex United States Constitutional law and state statutes that require ample expertise and knowledge in DWI defense to be appropriately challenged. The Wilder DWI Defense Firm is equipped with the highly skilled trial attorneys needed to tackle the probable cause issue of a DWI arrest. Contact our firm today to schedule your free consultation.

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