If you’ve been picked up for a DWI in Texas, identifying the probable cause for your DWI arrest is important. This critical piece of information can potentially help you build a better defense strategy with your Houston DWI lawyer.

But first, what is “probable cause” and how does it differ from “reasonable suspicion?” Before we dive into examples of probable cause for DWI arrest, let’s cover the difference between probable cause and reasonable suspicion.

Probable cause for DWI arrests vs. reasonable suspicion

To be stopped by a police officer, reasonable suspicion is required. To be arrested by a police officer, probable cause is required. This is the simplest way to remember the difference between probable cause and reasonable suspicion. 

As you can imagine, probable cause requires more evidence or facts than reasonable suspicion. For example, let’s say you momentarily swerve into another lane. The officer behind you may notice this behavior and use it as reasonable suspicion to pull you over for drunk driving.

When the officer approaches your vehicle and asks why you swerved into another lane, you inform the officer that you accidentally swerved when you reached into the backseat to calm your young child. Upon further observation, the officer notices the upset child, as well as your controlled demeanor and does not see any evidence of drinking and driving. Therefore, the officer does not have probable cause to arrest you for DWI.

Whether or not you were in fact drinking and driving is never the issue. The issue is: Does the police officer have enough evidence to support the notion that you were drinking and driving?

Examples of probable cause for DWI arrests

Now that you better understand what probable cause is, let’s take a look at what could be considered probable cause for DWI arrests.  

1. Breathalyzer tests

While there is a lot of controversy surrounding breathalyzer tests and flawed BAC tests, breathalyzers are still considered a suitable determination of blood alcohol content. If you take a breathalyzer test and fail it, that’s enough for probable cause for a DWI arrest. 

Nevertheless, “do not blow” is bad advice. If it’s between a blood test and a breathalyzer, choose the breathalyzer. A skilled DWI lawyer can use the issues surrounding breathalyzers as a solid defense strategy.

2. Bad driving and traffic violations

We gave an example earlier of bad driving that resulted in reasonable suspicion. However, bad driving can also lead to probable cause. In some cases, if your driving is reckless and dangerous to others, this can be enough of a probable cause for a DWI arrest. 

Reckless driving can include:

  • Ignoring traffic signs
  • Driving the wrong way
  • Continuous swerving
  • Driving dangerously fast or slow
  • Traffic accidents

While these signs of drunk driving aren’t enough to result in a DWI conviction, it isn’t beyond police officers to use these examples as a means to detain you (or, at the very least, to request a BAC test).

3. Behavior and physical appearance

From the moment a police officer approaches you for a suspected DWI, they will be paying attention to everything you do and looking for signs of intoxication. They are on the lookout for anything that indicates drinking and driving. This can include:

  • Slurred speech
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Confusion
  • Sleepiness
  • Problems maintaining eye contact
  • Smell
  • Balance issues

Whether or not you’ve been drinking, do your best to stay alert during a traffic stop, especially if they conduct a Texas field sobriety test. Remain calm and respectful and listen carefully to everything the officer says. Do not give them any additional reasons to suspect that you were drinking and driving.

4. Environmental observations

On top of how you look, the officer will likely try to get a peek inside your vehicle to see how it looks, as well. If they see anything relating to drugs or alcohol, they may not use it just as probable cause for a DWI arrest, but also as probable cause to search your vehicle. 

This being said, even if you are completely sober and driving with alcohol in your vehicle, keep it as far away from you and out of sight as possible. 

What happens if you’re arrested without probable cause?

If you were picked up with a lack of probable cause for a DWI arrest, that may ultimately work out in your favor. With the right lawyer, you can fight back against DWI charges due to lack of evidence, as well as a possible violation of your constitutional rights under the 4th amendment.

On top of this, the majority of these examples are not enough on their own to convict you of a DWI, and a good lawyer can use this to your advantage.

At Thiessen Law Firm, you won’t have just a good lawyer in your corner, but an excellent one. Mark Thiessen is Triple Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, DWI Defense Law by the National College for DWI Defense, and DWI Law by the DWI Defense Lawyers Association, one of only a handful of DWI lawyers in Texas to receive all three distinctions. With over a 100 Not Guilty verdicts and thousands of dismissals, Mark and our team at Thiessen Law Firm can help you overcome a DWI charge. 

Give us a call at 713-864-9000 or fill out our online contact form to schedule your free DWI consultation today.

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Mark Thiessen is an aggressive trial lawyer best known for his devotion to justice for his clients and high rank as a DWI Super Lawyer in Texas.