dwi police checkpoint

Although Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) is illegal in Texas, checkpoints to determine this violation are considered an illegal search and seizure, as it relates to the Fourth Amendment. Police are allowed to arrest you for drinking and driving, but Texas considers preset checkpoints to be illegal. However, you may run into checkpoints, especially if you travel in any of the other 38 states where these are legal.

Why You Get Stopped

The police must have reasonable cause to stop your vehicle in traffic. In order to reduce your chances of having an encounter with the police while on the road, you should know about common infractions that give them more reason to pull you over:

  • Driving without your headlights at night or if you have one headlight/taillight out
  • Cracked windshield or windows
  • Rolling through a stop sign instead of making a complete stop
  • Speeding
  • Missing or disobeying traffic signs (illegal U-turn, for example)
  • Expired registration or inspection

Make sure your car has all its basic functions and tags and that you follow posted signs and local traffic laws. However, if there were no violations and no evidence of criminal activity yet you get stopped, the stop could be in violation of your constitutional rights and you should seek legal help. 


Police Obligations at Checkpoints

Where DWI checkpoints are legal, you should know how they should be run and how to conduct yourself to get through the process smoothly. Police generally will set up checkpoints near populated venues where there is likely to be a lot of drinking. If you do decide to drink at a venue, make sure you either have a designated driver or that you drink within the legal limit. You tend to make mistakes, minor at first, when even slightly intoxicated.

Where checkpoints occur, police are required to alert the public ahead of time about preset checkpoints to deter alcohol use among drivers. If you are going to a populated venue, check to see if a police checkpoint will be in the area. 

In conducting the checkpoint, the police should follow these criteria:

  • The checkpoint and its procedures are predetermined by supervisor level law enforcement;
  • Vehicles are stopped using a neutral system;
  • Police are clearly identified and the area is located in a well-lit, safe location;
  • The checkpoint should be a brief encounter.

However, if you feel the checkpoint is not run according to these guidelines, do not try to remedy the situation in the moment. Contact the local police offices after you get through the checkpoint if you feel they were not conducted accurately. It is better to avoid a direct confrontation with the police. If you feel your own rights are violated, then contact our office. If the situation occurred out of state, there may still be some recourse and we can direct you to resources to help.


Walter Reaves
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Criminal Defense Attorney Walter Reaves has been practicing law for over 35 years.
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