A Recent Case Win–.125 BAC DWI Dismissed

214-402-4364 (24 hour jail release)
972-562-7549 (Office)
bo@kalabuslaw.com (email)

The client was parked in her vehicle on the shoulder of the Dallas North Tollway at 2:45 am. My client was assisting her passenger inside the car when a trooper stopped behind them with his overhead lights on. The trooper came up to my client’s window and asked for her driver’s license among numerous other questions. After contact with my client, the officer noticed there was an odor of alcohol in the vehicle, but did not see other signs of intoxication associated with my client. However, the trooper went on to continue his investigation by conducting the field sobriety tests, which ultimately lead to my client’s arrest and subsequent blood draw.

I urged a Motion to Suppress the vehicle stop because my client was not breaking any laws at the time the trooper came up behind her vehicle–it is perfectly legal to be parked on the shoulder of the highway. In fact, after the arrest the trooper left my client’s car in the exact spot he found it so she could come get it the following day after she was released from jail. So, the trooper’s sole reason for the stop was what is called the “community caretaking” rule, which allows officers to stop and investigate whether an individual is in distress or a hazard to themselves or others. The community caretaking function has a very narrow applicability in Texas under Wright v. State, 7S.W.3d 148 (Tex.Crim.App. 1999). Furthermore, a police officer may not properly invoke his community caretaking function if he is primarily motivated by a non-community caretaking purpose, such as detection, investigation, or acquisition of evidence relating to the violation of a criminal statute.

The factors set out by the Court in Wright to determine whether a reasonable person would think help was needed to justify the officer’s reasons for stopping a person are:
(1) the nature and level of the distress exhibited by the individual;
(2) the location of the individual;
(3) whether or not the individual was alone and/or had access to assistance independent of that offered by the officer; and
(4) to what extent the individual-if not assisted-presented a danger to herself or others.
(The first factor, nature and level of the distress exhibited, is given the most weight)

Following the hearing on the issue, the Court found although the trooper may have been concerned for my client’s welfare, she exhibited no signs of distress simply parked on the shoulder when the trooper stopped behind her–her headlights were on, no vehicle damage, no flashers, no occupant was hanging out of the vehicle, etc. The Court went on to hold that that vehicle stop in the case should be suppressed and any evidence in this case was obtained in violation of my client’s constitutional rights. Following the ruling by the Court, the State had no choice but to dismiss the case against my client.

As you can imagine, my client was relieved and very pleased with the result.

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