Police have to have reasonable suspicion to make a motor vehicle stop in Texas. Driving eastbound in a westbound lane would certainly provide police with the cause they need to stop a driver on suspicion of DWI. This is precisely what happened to a man in Humble, TX earlier this week.
According to reports, Aaron Abernathy was stopped by police for driving the wrong way down a Harris County highway. Abernathy was questioned by police and asked to perform several field sobriety tests, which he allegedly failed. Chemical testing later showed that Abernathy's blood alcohol concentration was twice the legal limit. He was arrested and charged with a first-time DWI offense.
What is Reasonable Suspicion for a DWI Stop in Texas?
Police can't just stop a driver for suspected DWI without a good reason. You have certain rights, and police are required to respect them. Those rights can only be infringed when police have a minimally-acceptable level of suspicion or cause to do so. For traffic stops, police must have what is known as “reasonable suspicion.”
Reasonable suspicion exists when there is a legitimate belief, based on relevant facts and circumstances, that a person is involved in a punishable crime. An officer must have much more than a hunch to stop a driver suspected of a crime. There must be some specific evidence to support an objective belief that a crime has been committed, is being committed, or will be committed.
Reasonable suspicion for a DWI stop may include:
- Driving recklessly
- Driving the wrong way down a road
- Weaving between lanes
- Failing to stop at an intersection
- Driving far below the speed limit, or
- Violating any other local or state traffic law.
If police officers do not have reasonable suspicion to make a traffic stop, they are prohibited from doing so. Any arrests and charges can be void if based on an illegal stop.
Consequences for Driving With an Elevated BAC
Once police have reasonable suspicion to make a traffic stop, they can begin to determine if a driver is intoxicated. Officers typically ask drivers to provide a sample of their breath or blood for chemical testing. These chemical tests are performed to determine a driver's blood alcohol concentration (BAC). In Texas, it's illegal to operate a motor vehicle if your BAC is at or above the legal limit of .08 percent.
Consequences for DWI can be enhanced when a driver's BAC is extremely elevated. Extremely elevated means that your BAC is at or above .15 percent. Rather than facing charges for a Class B Misdemeanor, first-time DWI offenders will be charged with a Class A Misdemeanor. That's like getting your second DWI the first time you're arrested. Class A Misdemeanors are punishable by mandatory time behind bars, expensive fines, and the possible loss of your license.
If you're facing criminal DWI charges in Harris County, it's important to fight back. One of the best decisions you can make after an arrest is to hire an experienced DWI defense lawyer. Contact the Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C. to find out how our DWI defense lawyer can help you. We offer a free consultation, so call for assistance today.