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Winter Holiday DUIs By the Numbers

Since coronavirus lockdowns ended, the number of impaired drivers has increased significantly. During these lockdowns, for the most part, roads emptied, and traffic enforcement ceased. Therefore, many motorists acquired bad habits, such as drinking and driving. DUIs aren’t just a safety issue. These infractions keep police and probation officers busy. For these reasons, authorities are determined to reverse the DUI uptick, especially during the winter holiday season.

When law enforcement officers go out of their way to arrest suspected DUI offenders, they often take illegal shortcuts. These shortcuts often create procedural defenses or evidence problems in court. If that happens, a Fort Worth criminal defense lawyer can often successfully resolve the matter. In many cases, even if the defendant “did it,” an attorney can keep the matter off the defendant’s permanent record. Two key winter holiday DUI statistics highlight these issues.


Alcohol consumption increases by about 25% during the last few weeks of the year. People frequently use alcohol as a celebratory tool, a coping tool, or a little of both. Because of this increase, government-funded STEP (strategic traffic enforcement program) campaigns are common late in the year.

The scope of these programs varies. Some involve DUI checkpoints, which are discussed below. In other cases, supervisors redeploy and reinstruct officers. They send them to specific parts of town to reduce the number of intoxicated drivers.

In both cases, supervisors directly or indirectly pressure officers to make arrests. A high number of arrests justifies the government’s grant.

Redeployment STEP campaigns often involve reasonable suspicion violations. Officers must have an evidence-based hunch before they detain motorists. The pressure of a STEP campaign often causes them to get the cart before the horse.

Assume Officer Tony sees Rick roll through a stop sign. Rick tells Officer Tony he recently left a bar. Tony uses this statement to conduct an investigation, which leads to an arrest. That stop will most likely hold up in court.

Now, assume Officer Tony sees Rick leave a bar. He follows Rick until he rolls through a stop sign. He then orders Rick to perform field sobriety tests and submit to a chemical test. In this case, Officer Tony had a hunch of criminal activity, which he later justified with evidence. In other words, Officer Tony profiled Rick.

30 Seconds

A half-minute is usually the longest time motorists can wait at DUI checkpoints before officers officially detain them. A longer wait time is unreasonably long and could invalidate the arrest.

Other DUI roadblock requirements include pre-checkpoint publicity that gives people a reasonable chance to avoid the area, a well-lit checkpoint that includes instructional signs (e.g. Have Driver’s License and Proof of Insurance Ready), and a neutral detention formula, such as stopping every third or fourth vehicle.

DUI roadblocks suspend the Fourth Amendment’s unreasonable search prohibition. But they don’t suspend the Fifth Amendment’s right to remain silent. When they reach checkpoints, motorists must comply with simple commands. Answering officer questions or even rolling down their windows is optional.

Count on a Tough-Minded Tarrant County DUI Defense Lawyer

Police officers often over-emphasize DUI enforcement during the winter holiday season. For a free consultation with an experienced Fort Worth criminal defense attorney, contact the Law Office of Kyle Whittaker. The sooner you reach out to us, the sooner we start working for you.