State Supreme Court on DWI Arrests Outside Police Jurisdiction

The worlds of police power, jurisdiction, and legality of action collided in an opinion rendered by a neighboring state’s supreme court. That case, Zilke v. The State, asked the question of whether a campus police officer can make a stop and arrest for DWI outside the perimeters of the campus.

To understand what was happening in this case, it is important to know where police officers get their authority in the first place. States have the power to create law enforcement agencies that are responsible for enforcing state laws. To that end, all states have drafted and passed legislation authorizing different groups and organizations to create police forces.

In most cases, police officers are granted their authority after a state authorizes a city, township, or other municipal corporation to train, hire, and retain a police force. Typically, those forces are limited in what they can do by where they are. For example, a Dallas police officer does not walk the beat in Houston because he would be out of his jurisdiction.

There are other police forces that work independently from typical municipal forces, including university police forces. But these police officers are even more limited in where they can enforce laws. For example, in Georgia the law creating university police forces limits them to enforcing the law on the property controlled by the university, and this was the law in question before the Georgia Supreme Court recently.

What Happened in This Case

In mid-2013, a university police officer noticed that a driver was driving down the street erratically. The police officer observed this several hundred yards from the boundaries of the university, but made the stop and arrest anyways. During the stop, the man admitted to having drunk a couple of beers, and a breathalyzer test revealed that he had been drinking.

At trial, however, the suspect’s attorney asked the court to throw out the evidence collected against him. The reason? Because the police officer did not have the legal authority to make the stop. While there is an appeals court decision from the 1980’s that seemed to allow any police officer to make an arrest as long as the illegal act happened in front of them, the court overturned that ruling. The High Court ruled that police officers are strictly bound by the authority granted to them by the legislature.

Understanding and Protecting Your Rights

This case is another example of how important it is for those accused of DWI to understand that they have rights. These rights are designed to protect everyone from abuses by the state and an over prosecution or trampling of those rights. They can come from the U.S. or Texas State Constitutions, and they must be aggressively defended to be of any use at all.

If you are accused of DWI contact us. At The Wilder DWI Defense Firm we know what rights you have to defend those charges, and provide you with the defense your case deserves. We will go over your case with you for free, and help you understand what your legal options are.

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