Court Rules Breath Mints Can be Evidence of DWI


In August 2010, a driver was stopped after he changed lanes without signaling. The law enforcement officer who stopped him was a Texas Department of Public Safety trooper. The trooper arrested the man, who was driving a Chevy Tahoe, and the driver was convicted of driving while intoxicated. The driver appealed the conviction, arguing that the trooper had violated his constitutional rights. Now, several years later, the Appellate Court has finally heard the appeal and ruled on the case. 

Our Texas DWI attorneys know that law enforcement cannot pull your vehicle over nor can law enforcement force you to submit to sobriety tests unless there is reasonable cause. The appeal of the Chevy Tahoe driver was based on the premise that there was no reasonable cause to conduct the search.  The appeals court, however, took a broad approach in this case in deciding what constituted probable cause for a search.

Breath Mints Can Create a Suspicion of DWI

According to The, the trooper pulled over the Chevy Tahoe because the Tahoe almost hit a motorcycle that was pulled over. The trooper had been issuing a citation for speeding to the motorcycle rider when the Tahoe changed lanes without looking and nearly caused a collision. The trooper later claimed that he believed before he pulled him over that the driver of the Tahoe may have been intoxicated. This trooper said he believed this because of the bad driving.

Upon pulling the Tahoe driver over, the trooper said that he smelled alcohol right away and that the driver appeared to be nervous. The trooper was just going to give him a warning, despite these signs. However, when the trooper returned to the Tahoe with a warning notice, he smelled what he described as an “overwhelming” odor of mints.

The trooper asked the driver if he had taken a mint and the driver said yes. Based on this, the trooper order the driver out of the car, and the driver was subsequently arrested for drunk driving. The driver, however, indicated that the traffic stop ended when the trooper had given him back his license and his warning. He argued that anything that occurred after that would constitute an illegal detention in violation of constitutional protections.

The court acknowledged that after a traffic stop is over, law enforcement doesn’t have the right to go on a “fishing expedition” to try to find other wrongdoing. In this case, however, the court said that the use of the breath mint combined with the other signs of potential intoxication by the officer all came together to provide a reasonable suspicion that the driver was drunk. This wasn’t a fishing expedition, according to the court, but instead there was sufficient probable cause, and the driver’s Fourth Amendment rights were not violated since the search was justified.

The outcome of this case, which essentially indicates that use of a breath mint can be considered related to or evidence of a DWI, shows just how important it is to be careful if you have ever been charged with DWI or arrested for driving drunk.

If you need an experienced, aggressive Texas DWI lawyer.  Call 1-800-395-5951  today for your free consultation. More than 20 years experience.

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