In a recent DWI case coming out of a Texas court, the defendant unsuccessfully appealed her conviction of driving while intoxicated. Originally, the defendant had been found guilty after a police officer stopped her based on a traffic violation. On appeal, the defendant argued that the officer did not actually have reason to conduct the initial traffic stop, and thus the evidence of her intoxication should have been suppressed. The court, considering the circumstances of the stop, disagreed with the defendant and denied her appeal.
Facts of the Case
According to the opinion, the defendant was driving one evening when she passed through a “no through traffic” sign at the edge of a construction zone. A police officer began following her through the construction zone and pulled her over once she had driven from one end of the zone to the other end.
As the officer spoke with the defendant, he smelled alcohol and observed behavior in the defendant that appeared to indicate she was intoxicated. The officer asked the defendant to complete several field sobriety tests, which served as further confirmation that the defendant was intoxicated. The defendant’s blood was drawn pursuant to a search warrant, and her blood alcohol content was .14.
The defendant was charged and convicted of driving while intoxicated. On appeal, one of the defendant’s main arguments was that the trial court should have suppressed the evidence obtained after the traffic stop indicating that she was intoxicated. According to the defendant, the sign reading “no through traffic” still allowed residents of the two-block construction zone to pass through the area. The officer had no idea, said the defendant, that she did not live at one of the houses in the construction zone. It was unreasonable for the officer to assume that the defendant did not live in one of the houses in the zone, thus it was unreasonable for him to conduct the traffic stop in the first place.
The officer presented his own testimony to the court. According to the officer, he had waited to pull the defendant over until she had gone from one end of the construction zone to the other end. The defendant had not stopped at any of the driveways or houses along the way. Therefore, said the officer, it was reasonable for him to assume that the defendant did not live in the two-block construction zone, and he had the right to conduct a traffic stop accordingly.
The court agreed with the officer, ruling the stop was reasonable and constitutional. Thus, the court also concluded that the evidence obtained during the stop was valid. The defendant’s appeal was denied and her conviction was affirmed.
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