As the 2023 holiday season unfolds in Texas, you might be joining thousands of other residents as they carry out various tasks and festivities, such as shopping for gifts, dining out, attending parties, religious services and more. This likely means that you may be driving more often than usual.
That, in turn, means you might get stuck at a DUI checkpoint. It’s important to understand DUI laws ahead of time, so that you know what to do and how to defend your rights if police ask you to step out of your vehicle, or worse, if they take you into custody for suspected drunk driving.
DUI checkpoints are illegal in Texas
Under the state of Texas interpretation of the U.S. Constitution, sobriety checkpoints violate your Fourth Amendment rights against unlawful searches and seizures. If police pull you over in traffic, they are detaining you. Detainment is a type of seizure. Police must have reasonable cause to stop you while driving, such as witnessing you speeding or noticing that a headlight is not working properly, etc., or that your car is swerving out of its lane.
In a DUI checkpoint, police stop vehicles at random, asking the drivers questions and sometimes requesting people to take breath tests or field sobriety tests. If a police officer asks you to take such tests, you are not under obligation to comply. It is your constitutional right to refuse to take a breath test or field sobriety test. You cannot receive a penalty for refusing.
What is no-refusal DUI checkpoint weekend?
If a Texas police officer asks you to take a breath test at a DUI checkpoint, and you refuse, the officer needs a warrant to take you into custody to require you to take a chemical breath test or blood test at the police station. At certain times during the year, such as the holidays, Texas officers have no-refusal weekends, which expedites the process of obtaining a warrant. You still do not have to take a field test or preliminary screening test on a no-refusal weekend.
In fact, if you refuse, the officer must obtain the warrant, and you will have time to wait before he or she can require you to give a blood sample or take a Breathalyzer. Most people use this intermittent time to request legal counsel.
Facing DUI charges in Texas
Texas police, as well as those in other states, increase their presence and efforts during the holidays to make DUI arrests. Even if you imbibe in a small glass of wine at a holiday party, you could find yourself in the back of a patrol car if you take a breath test at a checkpoint.
Remember that state law has determined that DUI checkpoints are unlawful because they violate your Fourth Amendment rights. Always be respectful during a traffic stop, but also be prepared to exercise and defend your rights, especially if an arrest occurs.