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Probable Cause In DWI Arrests


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Driving home late one Saturday night, you glance in your rearview mirror and catch a glimpse of the dreaded red and blue flashing lights. The officer comes to your window and asks you to step out of the car. After some field sobriety tests, you're taken to the police station and charged with a DWI. You were out at a party, and your breathalyzer results are just over the legal limit of .08. Looks like case closed for you - right?

It's true; a large portion, even a majority of DWI-related arrests lead to a subsequent conviction in court. With so many laws requiring DWI suspects to submit to test after test, and wide use of breathalyzer devices despite fierce ongoing controversy over its reliability, it's little surprise that many people feel helpless when facing a DWI charge.

Unreasonable Search and Seizure - What it Means for DWI Arrests

The Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution states that: “The right of the people to be secure . . . against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated . . . but upon probable cause. " This simple statement, in fact, is regarded as part of the highest law in the land, which means that it overrides and governs all other laws - including those associated with DWI. So, in short, despite having what appears like “ironclad" evidence in a DWI case, prosecutors cannot obtain a conviction if the initial arrest was made without probable cause.

The probable cause standard means that, in order to pull you over in the first place, a police officer must have a reasonable belief that you have or are committing a crime (driving while intoxicated). In court, a good DWI defense lawyer will question the presence of probable cause. Examples of valid probable cause include:

- Swerving erratically while driving

- Stopping abruptly for no reason

- Drifting between lanes

- Making excessively wide turns

- Driving at extremely high or low speeds

If the police officer cannot present solid justification that he had a good reason to pull you over, the violation of your Constitutional rights immediately voids any evidence against you resulting from the arrest, and your case is likely to be dismissed. For this reason, it is important that you try and note the following details during the arrest:

- Where you were going

- Your own level of intoxication (if any)

- What the police officer gave as the reason for the stop

- What the police officer asked you to do

For more information on individual rights during a DWI arrest, visit the resources provided by Dallas DWI attorney Mark Lassiter at

Joseph Devine


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