Understanding “Probable Cause” In The Texas DWI Context

If you have been arrested for DWI in Texas, the arresting officer must have had reasonable suspicion to pull you over and probable cause to make the arrest. Constitutional due process requirements, which guard against unreasonable searches and seizures, demand so. If you choose to fight the charges against you, and hire an experienced Texas attorney, the attorney will surely conduct an examination into whether the arresting officer possessed reasonable suspicion and probable cause. If either was lacking, you may be able to have your DWI charge dismissed. You have a strong interest in not being convicted for DWI, as a conviction will result in substantial fines and surcharges and restriction of your driving privileges, and possibly imprisonment, community service, court ordered alcohol and substance abuse courses, increased insurance rates, difficulty in obtaining employment, and damage to your reputation.

Reasonable Suspicion Is Less Than Probable Cause

To pull you over in the first place to determine if you have been driving while intoxicated, the officer must possess reasonable suspicion. Reasonable suspicion exists when the officer has enough knowledge to believe that criminal activity is happening. A justified belief in the occurrence of criminal activity allows an officer to make a traffic stop at roadside without violating the constitutional rights of the individual being stopped. However, reasonable suspicion is more than just a vague hunch; the arresting officer must be able to cite specific articulable facts justifying the intrusion upon your privacy. In the DWI context, such facts might include swerving, erratic speed, or the sight of an open container in your vehicle.

Probable Cause is Greater Than Reasonable Suspicion

Probable cause exists when the officer that pulled you over in the first place due a to a reasonable suspicion that you were driving while intoxicated then possesses sufficiently trustworthy facts that you have indeed been driving while intoxicated. While intoxication has both subjective and objective features, the law uses an objective standard: Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC). If you have been swerving, driving erratically, been seen with an open container in your vehicle, if the officer smells alcohol on your breath, witnesses other signs of intoxication, the officer will ask you to provide a BAC sample. This sample is most commonly provided via a breathalyzer test. If you provide a BAC sample exceeding the state’s 0.08 limit, you will be arrested for DWI. As with reasonable suspicion, probable cause must be backed up by specific articulable facts. A BAC exceeding BAC is such a fact.

What To Do If You Have Been Arrested For DWI In Texas

A DWI charge is a serious matter. For even a first-time offense, you could be looking at a financial cost in the $5,000 – $10,000, plus other serious penalties and damage to your reputation. You need to act fast to protect your rights. The first step is contacting an experienced Dallas DWI attorney. A skilled attorney will discover any deficiencies in the state’s reasonable suspicion and probable cause requirements, and fight for your rights.