A man was recently arrested, charged, and given a maximum sentence in a case related to DWI, but he was not drunk or driving. Police in Ohio arrested a man for obstructing official police business when they found him carrying and displaying a sign warning drivers about a DWI checkpoint set by the police.
According to reports, the man’s sign warned drivers to “turn now,” because of the DWI checkpoint. The police in the story say they would not have arrested him had the words “turn now” not been on the sign. This is not the first time the man has been in trouble. Once before, he was arrested for holding up a similar sign and carrying knife in his pocket. This time, the judge handed down the maximum sentence for the man – 240 days in jail.
The man’s lawyer is appealing the charges. According to at least one story, the judge is pro-police and sought to make an example out of this man. The man’s attorney feels like the case will win on appeal, and that the judge did not have the authority to sentence him to what he got.
One legal question for the appeal is whether this man’s First Amendment rights were violated. Under the U.S. Constitution, each of has the right to free speech, or expression, without state interference. There are some limits to this right. For example, a person could not yell “fire” in a crowded movie theater when there is no fire. That person would likely face charges for reckless behavior.
This case is different from other situations where speech is regulated. The man was simply holding a sign up on the street that warned drivers about a potential interaction with the police. While it was probably annoying to the police, it is not likely that he violated any real laws in any real ways. A similar case was recently decided by a court who held that an oncoming driver could not be ticketed for flashing his high beams to oncoming drivers to warn them of a speeding trap the police had rigged.
Another question this case raises is whether such DWI checkpoints are legal in the first place. The Supreme Court ruled that they were legal in Michigan v. Sitz, 496 U.S. 444 (1990). In that case the High Court ruled that there are very specific criteria a police force must abide by in establishing a checkpoint, or it could violate important constitutional rights.
If you are charged with DWI in the Dallas area, you have rights. Those include the right to an attorney, a trial, and to be treated reasonably during your interaction with the police. At the Wilder DWI Defense Firm our team of dedicated professionals do all we can under the law to secure and defend those rights. If you are accused of DWI, contact us. We will go over your case with you and help you understand what your legal options are.