Law enforcement in the Lone Star State consistently look for possible DWI offenses on the road. To initiate a DWI arrest, law enforcement officers must follow specific procedures, including establishing probable cause. Today, let’s talk about probable cause in Texas and explore the types of warrants used in the process of a DWI arrest.


What is Probable Cause?

Probable cause is a fundamental legal concept outlined in the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution that plays a crucial role in criminal investigations and arrests. A cornerstone of law enforcement practice, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has defined probable cause as: 


“[W]here police have reasonably trustworthy information, considered as a whole, sufficient to warrant a reasonable person to believe that a particular person has committed or is committing an offense. Probable cause requires more than mere suspicion but far less evidence than that needed to support a conviction…” 


It is the requirement that an officer needs before making an arrest, conducting a search or obtaining a warrant. For a Texas DWI arrest, probable cause might include observations such as failing to maintain a single lane, the odor of alcohol, slurred speech, red bloodshot eyes, or failed field sobriety tests.


The Probable Cause Affidavit

If an officer believes he or she has enough evidence to establish probable cause for a DWI arrest, their observations must be documented in a probable cause affidavit. A probable cause affidavit outlines the facts and circumstances that led the officer to believe that a DWI offense occurred. A DWI probable cause affidavit in Houston, Texas is a key piece of evidence in DWI cases as it is used to justify the arrest and the legal proceedings that follow.  It is typically a summary of what is in the offense report, but in some cases the officer contradicts themselves which can cause problems with the government’s case.


Types of Warrants in Texas

There are several types of warrants that can be issued in Texas, including arrest warrants and search warrants to look for and seize specific items that could be evidence of a crime, such as blood. In some cases, an arrest warrant is not required for a DWI arrest.  If a police officer personally observes a driver committing a DWI offense, he or she can make an arrest without obtaining an arrest warrant beforehand. However, if the officer does not witness the offense but has probable cause to believe it has occurred, he or she may request a warrant from a judge so the suspect can be arrested at a later time.


Search Warrants typically are not used in DWI cases other than to draw blood, but may come into play if law enforcement officers want to search a suspect’s vehicle or residence for evidence related to the DWI offense. These warrants require law enforcement to provide detailed information to a judge, explaining why they believe the search is necessary and what evidence they expect to find.


In cases where a suspected DWI offender refuses a breathalyzer or blood test, the police officer may obtain a blood warrant. This type of warrant allows officers to force the suspect to undergo a blood draw so a sample can be used to determine blood alcohol concentration (BAC) or drug levels (tox screen). Blood warrants are issued by judges and are based on probable cause.


Challenging Probable Cause and Warrants

It is important to note that individuals accused of DWI in Texas have the right to challenge the validity of probable cause and warrants in court. If you believe that law enforcement did not have sufficient evidence to establish probable cause or that the warrant was obtained unlawfully, you should consult with a Texas DWI lawyer who can raise these issues in your defense.  A DWI attorney with experience handling these cases can spot problems that you had no idea where even an issue as well.

If you have been arrested and charged with a DWI in the Houston, Texas area, protect your rights with the help of an experienced Texas DWI criminal defense attorney Collin Evans of Collin Evans Law.  It is crucial to have a knowledgeable and skilled attorney defending you. Mr. Evans will fight for you in your DWI case. Contact Collin Evans Law to discuss the details of your case during a free consultation.