Traffic stops are encounters between law enforcement officers and individuals operating vehicles on public roadways. They serve multiple purposes such as DWI enforcement.
However, officers can make errors in judgment and procedure when they suspect individuals of driving while intoxicated. These mistakes can potentially lead to unjust outcomes.
Lack of probable cause
One significant mistake is failing to establish probable cause. Probable cause is the reasonable belief that a driver is experiencing impairment based on observable signs such as erratic driving, slurred speech or the odor of alcohol. Without probable cause, a traffic stop may be unlawful, and the court might not admit any evidence gathered at such a stop.
Inaccurate field sobriety tests
Officers commonly use field sobriety tests to assess a driver’s level of impairment. These tests, such as the walk-and-turn or one-leg stand, can be subjective and may yield inaccurate results. An officer’s misinterpretation of a driver’s performance can lead to wrongful arrests.
Faulty breath tests
The purpose of breath tests is to measure a driver’s blood alcohol content. However, errors can occur due to equipment malfunctions, improper calibration or a lack of proper training. A faulty breath test may result in an innocent individual facing DWI charges.
Ignoring Miranda rights
Officers must read Miranda rights to individuals in custody before questioning them. Failing to inform a suspect of their right to remain silent can jeopardize the admissibility of any statements a person makes during the interrogation.
Racial profiling can be subconscious and occurs when an officer targets individuals based on their race or ethnicity rather than evidence of wrongdoing. Engaging in racial profiling not only violates an individual’s rights but can also strain relationships between law enforcement and the public.
Failure to document the stop
From January to March 2023, authorities in Texas made 20,921 arrests for DWI. A complete and accurate record of a DWI stop is important. Officers should document the reason for the stop, the driver’s behavior and any tests.
Officers must exercise caution and respect the rights of individuals when they suspect someone of DWI. This ensures fairness and helps the public trust law enforcement.