When it comes to investigating a charge of driving while intoxicated (DWI), the power of the police is not unlimited. They cannot simply pull over a car on a hunch that the driver is intoxicated. That does not mean the police cannot take aggressive steps to pursue drivers they believe are intoxicated.
Some police officers are known to target bars and entertainment venues in an effort to target impaired drivers. These officers will wait outside of a specific venue, follow patrons that leave the bar, and look for a reason to pull them over.
To some people, this might seem unfair. To others, it might even appear like entrapment. According to the law, however, the police are within their right to patrol near these venues. That does not mean witnessing a driver leaving a bar is enough for the police to pull a driver over, however.
Why Entrapment Does Not Apply
There is a common misconception that entrapment involves a police officer “trapping” a citizen committing a crime. However, entrapment only occurs when the police induce a person to commit a crime. In the case of DWI, a police officer would either have to induce the person to become impaired or operate a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol.
In the circumstances described above, merely targeting a venue known for selling alcoholic beverages is not enough to lead to a successful entrapment defense. However, the police do not have the right to pull over a driver simply for exiting a bar. They would need reasonable suspicion of a traffic violation to initiate a traffic stop. Judges and jurors, on the other hand, recognize that targeting patrons leaving a restaurant or bar can lessen the authenticity or credibility of the police officer's stated reason(s) for the initial traffic stop.
The Need for Reasonable Suspicion in a Texas Traffic Stop
Police officers that witness a driver leaving a bar or entertainment venue need more evidence to initiate a traffic stop. To pull over the driver, they must have reasonable suspicion that a crime occurred. This could be anything from a traffic offense to driving while intoxicated.
However, it is possible that what an officer witnesses while viewing a person leave a bar could represent reasonable suspicion. For example, an officer that sees a person leave a bar visibly struggling to walk could be used as evidence of intoxication. If the officer sees that person enter a car and speed away, that could be enough for reasonable suspicion.
When a Police Stop Lacks Reasonable Suspicion in Texas
Whether or not the police had reasonable suspicion at the time of a traffic stop can have an enormous impact on a DWI case. If the police lack reasonable suspicion, any evidence from the traffic stop could be suppressed at trial.
Unlawfully obtained evidence could be barred from use at trial through a motion to suppress. At the suppression hearing, the court will review the evidence and determine if it was obtained illegally. This evidence could include anything from admissions the driver made to the results of a breathalyzer test.
In many cases, a successful motion to suppress could tip the scales in your trial. In fact, prosecutors could even dismiss a case if their most important evidence is suppressed. A dedicated and board-certified Houston DWI defense attorney could help you with challenging an illegal traffic stop in your case.