The definition of a DWI checkpoint or DWI roadblock under Texas law is a specific location at which police officers set up shop to catch drunk drivers.
Are DWI Checkpoints & DWI Roadblocks Legal in Texas?
No. The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) states that the Texas interpretation of the U.S. Constitution indicates that DWI roadblocks or checkpoints are illegal.
Instead of checkpoints and roadblocks, Texas law enforcement agencies often use no-refusal weekends to catch drunk drivers.
A no-refusal weekend refers to an established period — often a three-day, holiday weekend commonly associated with drinking and driving — during which the police attempt to catch and arrest as many drunk drivers as possible.
“No-refusal” in this context refers to the override of citizen’s legal right to refuse chemical testing for blood alcohol concentration (BAC) in some situations.
During no-refusal weekends, the police will obtain court warrants to take a blood, breath, or urine sample from any suspected drunk driver who refuses to provide a sample upon request. Local jurisdictions provide extra personnel and assistance during this time, to help expedite the process.
Are No-Refusal Weekends Legal in Texas?
Under Texas law, holding a driver’s license means you consent to give a breath, blood, or urine test if law enforcement pulls you over (with reasonable suspicion) and has probable cause to think you were intoxicated. However, you can legally refuse to give a sample, and the officer must respect your decision (unless certain circumstances, such as an accident in which someone has died or will likely die).
During a no-refusal weekend, however, the police typically seek a warrant for every driver who refuses BAC testing to force them to give a sample.
However, even during a no-refusal weekend, the police cannot violate your legal rights. If they do, or if they make any other mistakes in handling your arrest or the subsequent chemical evidence, you may have a valid legal defense.
Reasonable Suspicion & Probable Cause During No-Refusal Weekends
As mentioned above, to make a legal DWI stop, the police must have a reasonable suspicion that you broke the law before pulling your car over. This standard applies even during a no-refusal weekend.
To arrest you or request chemical BAC testing, the police must also establish probable cause that you are legally intoxicated. Typically, an officer will ask you to take a field sobriety test or roadside breathalyzer test to do so.
During no-refusal weekends, the police may compel you to take a BAC test even if they lack reasonable suspicion or probable cause. If you believe this is the case with your arrest, you should consider challenging the legality of your arrest and the validity of any resulting DWI charges.
Even if the prosecutor can demonstrate that the police had reasonable suspicion to stop you and probable cause to place you under arrest, you may have grounds to challenge BAC test results.
Can You Challenge a Texas No-Refusal Weekend Drunk Driving Charge?
If a DWI lawyer can demonstrate that the police violated your legal rights, or if chemical BAC test results were faulty, it could provide a basis for negotiating with the prosecutor for lesser charges or for asking the court to dismiss your case. The most common legal challenges in this situation involve the accuracy of field sobriety testing and the validity of the chemical BAC testing conducted as a result of the traffic stop.
For example, the police must conduct field sobriety testing per the guidelines established by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). If your arresting officer failed to follow these guidelines, any subsequent evidence obtained may be inadmissible in court.
Likewise, chemical testing for BAC must follow established procedures and protocols. If the testing technician or lab failed to follow these guidelines, you may have legal grounds to challenge the results.
You Cannot Be Stopped Without Reasonable Suspicion
Police officers in Texas are not allowed to stop you or to pull your car over without having a valid reason to do so. According to the law in Texas, a police officer cannot stop you for possible intoxicated driving unless they have what the law calls “probable cause” to suspect you of being intoxicated.
The law says, in Art. 2.133 of the Texas Penal Code, that if a police officer stops you and pulls your car over for any reason, they must submit a report that includes:
- A physical description of you as the driver
- Your gender, race, and ethnicity
- The initial reason you were pulled over
- Whether or not there was a search
- The reason for the search, if applicable
- Whether or not you consented to a search
- What was found due to the search
- Whether or not you were subsequently arrested
- The location where you were stopped
- Whether or not you were issued a warning or ticketed
- Whether or not physical force was used
During a stop or subsequent arrest by police, you have certain rights that cannot be violated. If you were stopped at a DWI roadblock, a Texas DWI attorney may go to work to ensure your rights were not violated and to support you in any legal action against you because of that stop.
You Have the Right to Challenge a DWI Arrest
If you are stopped and pulled over because a police officer suspects you of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, you have certain rights. Whether you are stopped at a DWI checkpoint or roadblock or pulled over under other circumstances, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety, you may legally refuse to answer questions without a lawyer present; however, you are required to show the officer your driver’s license if requested, and you may also need to give them your name, address, and date of birth if you are arrested.
Your rights are important, and a violation of your rights could give your lawyer leverage they can use to minimize the damage an arrest could cause. A stop or arrest at a DWI roadblock may not have to result in the suspension of your license and the loss of your driving privileges.
You Have the Right to Refuse to Submit to a Field Sobriety Test
You cannot be forced to submit to a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) test or a field sobriety test. However, if you do agree to take a sobriety test, keep in mind that these tests must meet specific guidelines.
When you are stopped because police suspect you of being under the influence of drugs or alcohol, the officer will use a specific tool to assess your ability to drive. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) guidelines are clear on how field sobriety or other tests that measure your BAC should be conducted. The Standardized Field Sobriety Test (SFST) typically consists of three tests that must be conducted in a specific manner.
- The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) test looks for jerky or unsteady eye movements
- The Walk and Turn test examines your ability to obey simple commands and perform simple movements
- The One-Leg Stand test notes your ability to focus and to maintain physical balance
Police use these simple, non-invasive techniques to assess your alcohol consumption and its impact on your ability to safely operate your vehicle. These tests also help police officers make the decision of whether or not to arrest you for alcohol-impaired driving.
Potential DUI or DWI Penalties
If you are 21 years of age or older, according to Texas Department of Public Safety guidelines, DWI penalties are:
- 72 hours to 6 months in jail with no mandatory minimum amount of jail time for a first offense
- 30 days to one year in jail with a mandatory minimum of 72 hours for a second offense
If you are under the age of 21, you may receive a DUI, which is essentially a complex traffic ticket that includes a 60-day suspension of your driver’s license. You should also be aware that under certain circumstances, you may be charged with the more serious offense of DWI even if you are younger than 21. Review the circumstance of your arrest with a legal professional to learn more about the possible consequences you could be facing.
Learn More About Your Rights Regarding DWI Roadblocks
Being stopped and arrested for DWI can be stressful. The long-term repercussions of a DWI arrest and potential conviction can be even more stressful. It can also have a devastating impact on your career and on your personal and social life. Contact our team to put Randall Isenberg’s 30+ years of experience and his career as a former prosecutor and state district judge on your side.
Can a Texas DWI Lawyer Help You?
Talking to a Texas DWI lawyer can help you determine the legality of your drunk driving charges, no matter what circumstances were involved.
At the Law Offices of Randall B. Isenberg, our breathalyzer and blood test defense lawyer helps clients understand the nature of their charges and explore their options. With more than 30 years of experience in the Texas criminal justice system — including time spent as a felony prosecutor and judge — Randall understands the complexities of these matters and how to build the strongest possible case for your defense.
We offer no-cost, no-obligation consultations for individuals facing Texas DWI charges. Contact us ASAP at 214-696-9253 to schedule your free case evaluation.