Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Rules: DWI in Parked Car

One of the more controversial issues that seems to reoccur regarding DWI is when someone gets a DWI when they are not actually driving. Many people wonder how this can be when DWI stands for “driving” while intoxicated. Yet police officers and prosecutors continue to arrest and charge people for DWI even when they are clearly not operating a vehicle.

This kind of a charge could come in a number of scenarios. A person could be parked in a public place, sleeping in a car, or using the car radio or heater. In all of these scenarios a police officer could approach the car, pull the driver out, and arrest him or her for DWI.

There are many reasons why the police could do this. For one, the state statute criminalizing DWI defines driving as operating a vehicle. Another reason is that police officers and prosecutors are eager to find and arrest people and then charge them because that is their job.

Court of Criminal Appeals Takes on DWI Case

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals recently decided a case involving one of the above scenarios. The court was asked to decide whether any reasonable jury could have found that the person involved actually committed DWI.

In that case the police arrested a man who was simply parked in his car with the radio and heater on. The police officer approached the vehicle under the pretense that the man in the car could be involved with the fireworks shop nearby that was recently broken into. The police officer woke the man up, observed an odor of alcohol, and arrested the man on charges of DWI.

The man took his case to trial and was convicted of DWI. He appealed the decision and it was overturned at the first appellate court level. The appeals court said that there was not enough evidence to convict the man on a DWI charge. The main reason the appeals court cited was the fact that the man was simply in his car. But the state of Texas appealed that decision to the Court of Criminal Appeals.

The High Criminal Court reversed the lower opinion, much to the chagrin of the defendant in the case. In its opinion, the court made the following observations:

  • The odor of alcohol and conduct of the man could mean the man was drinking
  • The fact that the man was alone in the car could mean the man drove there when drunk

Based on this reasoning the court determined that it was not important that the man was not actually driving. The circumstances of the investigation and arrest could lead a reasonable jury to conclude that the man was drinking, drove, and did so while intoxicated.

Dallas DWI Defense Firm Ready to Defend You

As you can see from this case, the police, prosecutor, and judges in our criminal justice system are not likely to give a person the benefit of the doubt. Their careers and reputations rest on their ability to make arrests, convictions, and deal out sentences. That is why it is so important that you are ably defended when you face such odds. At The Wilder DW

One of the more controversial issues that seems to reoccur regarding DWI is when someone gets a DWI when they are not actually driving. Many people wonder how this can be when DWI stands for “driving” while intoxicated. Yet police officers and prosecutors continue to arrest and charge people for DWI even when they are clearly not operating a vehicle.

This kind of a charge could come in a number of scenarios. A person could be parked in a public place, sleeping in a car, or using the car radio or heater. In all of these scenarios a police officer could approach the car, pull the driver out, and arrest him or her for DWI.

There are many reasons why the police could do this. For one, the state statute criminalizing DWI defines driving as operating a vehicle. Another reason is that police officers and prosecutors are eager to find and arrest people and then charge them because that is their job.

Court of Criminal Appeals Takes on DWI Case

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals recently decided a case involving one of the above scenarios. The court was asked to decide whether any reasonable jury could have found that the person involved actually committed DWI.

In that case the police arrested a man who was simply parked in his car with the radio and heater on. The police officer approached the vehicle under the pretense that the man in the car could be involved with the fireworks shop nearby that was recently broken into. The police officer woke the man up, observed an odor of alcohol, and arrested the man on charges of DWI.

The man took his case to trial and was convicted of DWI. He appealed the decision and it was overturned at the first appellate court level. The appeals court said that there was not enough evidence to convict the man on a DWI charge. The main reason the appeals court cited was the fact that the man was simply in his car. But the state of Texas appealed that decision to the Court of Criminal Appeals.

The High Criminal Court reversed the lower opinion, much to the chagrin of the defendant in the case. In its opinion, the court made the following observations:

  • The odor of alcohol and conduct of the man could mean the man was drinking
  • The fact that the man was alone in the car could mean the man drove there when drunk

Based on this reasoning the court determined that it was not important that the man was not actually driving. The circumstances of the investigation and arrest could lead a reasonable jury to conclude that the man was drinking, drove, and did so while intoxicated.

Dallas DWI Defense Firm Ready to Defend You

As you can see from this case, the police, prosecutor, and judges in our criminal justice system are not likely to give a person the benefit of the doubt. Their careers and reputations rest on their ability to make arrests, convictions, and deal out sentences. That is why it is so important that you are ably defended when you face such odds.

At The Wilder DWI Defense Firm we know what it takes to defend any DWI case. Contact us so we can go over your case with you and provide you with your legal options.