Can The Police Arrest me for DWI On Private Property?

Posted by Doug Murphy | Jan 15, 2020 | 0 Comments

The typical Houston DWI arrest follows a similar pattern. First, you are pulled over by the police while driving down a public roadway. This can be for any moving violation or suspicion of driving while intoxicated. Next, the police investigate you. If they decide you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol, they will place you under arrest.

What happens if you were never driving on a public roadway in the first place? Unfortunately, in many cases, the police may still arrest you under suspicion of DWI.

DWI Standard in Texas

The charge of DWI is governed by Texas Penal Code § 49.04. According to the statute, a person commits DWI when they operate a motor vehicle in a public place while intoxicated.

The statute does not define what makes a public place. However, years of court decisions have helped narrow down whether or not a person is in public, or whether the general public has access. This is a sticking point for some DWI cases, so discussing it in detail with a Board Certified DWI attorney could be in your best interest.

What Makes A Place Public in Texas DWI Cases?

It is a common misconception that a public place means a public roadway. This is not the case. In fact, the statute specifically distinguishes between public roadways and public places depending on the circumstances.

Because of this misconception, many people believe they cannot be arrested for DWI if they are on private property, like a parking lot or a driveway. The courts have made clear, however, that private ownership is not the determining factor in whether state DWI laws apply. Instead, the courts consider whether or not the public has access to an area.

The most obvious examples are parking lots. These parking lots are typically privately owned, but anyone in the vicinity has easy access to them. Despite the private ownership of a parking lot, it is possible to be arrested for DWI while in one. The same goes for driveways. While driveways are on private property, they are easily accessed by the public. If an intoxicated person backs into a person in their driveway, they could face not only DWI charges but also intoxication assault charges.

The safe bet is to assume that DWI laws apply every time you get behind the wheel. While that might not always be the case, any situation that involves you behind the wheel while illegally intoxicated and with other people nearby could lead to a DWI charge.

Discuss Your Rights with a Houston-Based Board Certified DWI Defense Attorney

If you have been arrested for DWI on private property, it is in your best interest to discuss your options with legal counsel right away. If your attorney can show that you were not in a public place, the prosecutor might be persuaded to drop the charges.

Even if a dismissal does not materialize, this could provide you with a strong defense at trial. If you have questions about your arrest, attorney Doug Murphy is ready to discuss your case. Call the Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C. as soon as possible to learn more.

About the Author

Doug Murphy

Doug Murphy is one of only two Texas lawyers Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, and also in DWI Defense by the National College for DUI Defense, accredited by the American Bar Association and the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.


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