One of the most common offenses Comal County and other Central Texas prosecutors charge is Driving While Intoxicated (DWI). For this reason, we must know what prosecutors think in a DWI case.
Reasonable Suspicion in a DWI Case
The first thing a prosecutor looks at when reviewing a DWI case is the police officer’s reason for stopping the car. Most people mistakenly believe that an officer needs probable cause to stop a vehicle. The standard of proof required to stop the car for temporary detention is lower than probable cause and easier for an officer to meet.
An officer must have reasonable suspicion to stop a car. To arrest someone, an officer needs probable cause. An officer is allowed to temporarily stop and investigate a person if the officer has reasonable suspicion that some activity out of the ordinary is or has occurred, some suggestion to connect the person with unusual activity, and some indication that the activity is related to crime.
The officer cannot base the stop on a mere hunch. Instead, they must base their suspicion upon facts that the officer can articulate when they make the stop. It is important to note that suspicious activity does not have to be illegal but only out of the ordinary and related to crime.
The question is whether the stop is reasonable based on all the facts. Traffic violations will almost always justify temporary investigative detention. Even if the stop was legal, the officer must have additional reasons to continue investigating, including any request that the driver performs standard field sobriety tests. The detention can become unreasonable if the officer does not have a reason to continue investigating why he made the stop.
Probable Cause in a DWI Case
Next, prosecutors review the case to see if the officer had probable cause to arrest the defendant. Officers will routinely ask if the driver has been drinking and make a note if the officer smells alcohol. The officer is intentionally looking for signs of impairment. Such signs include a driver having trouble finding their driver’s license, slurred speech, red or bloodshot eyes, unsteady balance, using the car to hold onto, and slow answers to questions. Their goal is to document enough evidence to establish probable cause to arrest the person for DWI.
In addition to common signs of intoxication, an officer will use standard field sobriety tests. Police officers use these tests to investigate a person’s coordination, balance, and dexterity, which usually decline as a person becomes intoxicated.
Proof Beyond in a DWI Case
Finally, the prosecutor will review whether the person was intoxicated, which is a lower standard than being drunk. They will determine whether the evidence shows that the defendant lost either the normal use of their mental or physical faculties or had a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 or greater.
Considering all the evidence, the prosecutor needs to determine whether they can prove intoxication beyond a reasonable doubt. If they cannot, they will likely lose at trial.
Burdens of Proof in a DWI Case
The vehicle stop, continued investigation, arrest, and trial all require different burdens of proof. “Buden of proof” is a technical way of talking about the strength of the evidence. The officer needs reasonable suspicion to stop a vehicle and continue investigating, probable cause to arrest, and proof beyond a reasonable doubt to convict. Prosecutors want to review the evidence and ensure that the vehicle stop was legal and that they have enough evidence to secure a conviction.
As you can see, a prosecutor wants to review the evidence and ensure that the vehicle stop was legal and that there is enough proof for a conviction.
Contact me for a free case review if you are charged with Driving While Intoxicated in Comal County or other Central Texas counties such as Hays County, Guadalupe County, Travis County, or Bexar County.