A DWI charge seems about as individual of a crime as one can imagine. Someone gets behind the wheel drunk, an accident occurs or police notice erratic driving, and an arrest results. Yet multiple-suspect, group, or mass DWI arrests do happen, including in Texas, as the following example shows. And when they happen, they can raise significant issues of probable cause, leading to potential DWI defenses.
Multiple-Suspect DWI Arrests
For each of the past several years, Harris County has held an annual initiative to discourage street racing. Press report indicates that the county's March 2021 initiative resulted in the arrest of 220 individuals over just a four-day period.
Texas Transportation Code Section 545.420 makes street racing a crime, punishable as anything from a Class B misdemeanor all the way up to a second-degree felony, depending on the circumstances. Obstructing a highway and reckless driving are other Texas crimes associated with street racing.
Harris County prosecutors charged many of the arrested individuals with one of those three street-racing crimes. Yet the report indicates that police also charged fifty-three individuals, nearly one-quarter of those arrested in the enforcement initiative, with DWI crimes.
Multiple-suspect arrests can be an efficient way for local government to address a social problem. But a recent scholarly article parsing Supreme Court case law highlights a problem with group or mass arrests. The Constitution's Fourth Amendment generally requires probable cause for an arrest. And the Supreme Court's United States v Di Re opinion, among other cases, requires police to have particularized suspicion as to each arrested suspect. Just being in the same vehicle or same area as other suspects as to whom police have probable cause is generally not enough. Police need probable cause for each arrest.
The above press report gives no particulars as to the dozens of DWI arrests made at street races or other locations in the enforcement initiative. Police may or may not have observed probable cause to suspect a DWI crime as to each arrested and charged individual. The point is that every one of those DWI defendants has the same constitutional right not to suffer arrest without probable cause. If those DWI defendants raise the proper challenge, then Harris County prosecutors have the burden of showing probable cause for each DWI arrest, not just probable cause for some of the DWI arrests. With the proper advocacy, arrested DWI defendants as to whom the police lacked probable cause may well get their charges dismissed.
Retain Expert Representation to Raise DWI Defenses
Whether your DWI case raises questions of probable cause or other constitutional, statutory, or fact-based defenses, Board Certified DWI Specialist Doug Murphy has the knowledge, skills, and expertise to timely raise and effectively advocate each of your available DWI defenses. Attorney Murphy's aggressive representation can help you beat a Texas DWI charge. You can trust 2021 Houston DWI Lawyer of the Year Doug Murphy with your DWI defense because he is one of only two Texas lawyers holding both DWI Board Certification and Criminal Law Certification. Contact Doug Murphy Law Firm online or at (713) 229-8333 to discuss your case today.
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