Posted on 7/25/16

Statistics show that violent crime in Dallas is up in 2016. Violent crime has seen a 30% increase with murder increasing by 32% and aggravated assault increasing by 48%. With an increase in crime comes an increase in suspicion. In particular, police are more likely to arrest a person on “reasonable suspicion” grounds during a period that sees a spate of crime.

Reasonable Suspicion Standard

In determining a reasonable suspicion standard, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals stated that a “totality of the circumstances” test is used. In the case Foster v. State, an Austin police officer, in an unmarked car, noticed Foster at about 1:30 a.m. While the officer waited at a red light, Foster’s truck lurched to a stop closely behind the officer’s car. The officer thought Foster might have wanted to change lanes but had left insufficient space to do so. Meanwhile, a second officer pulled his marked car into the lane alongside Foster. The first officer, with experience of detecting intoxicated drivers, believing that Foster’s driving was unsafe due to the location and time of night and concerned that the driver might be impaired, approached Foster. The officers smelled alcohol on him, removed him from his truck, and a third officer performed field sobriety tests. They arrested Foster for DWI. Foster sought to suppress evidence of the sobriety test, claiming that the police lacked reasonable suspicion to perform the test.

Upon appeal to the Court of Criminal Appeals, the Court ruled that the police had reasonable suspicion to arrest Foster. Specifically, the Court pointed to the “time of night, the location, [the officer’s] training and experience, and Foster’s aggressive driving, it was rational for [the officer] to have inferred that [Foster] may have been intoxicated.”

In other words, based on the totality of the circumstances, including time, place, and level of police expertise, the police had reasonable suspicion to approach and arrest Foster.

Similarly, in another Texas DWI case appealed to the Court of Criminal Appeals, Derichsweiler v. State, the Court applied the same test. One evening a man pulled his car alongside a couple’s car while they waited in a McDonald’s drive-through. He lingered for over 30 seconds while looking right at the couple and grinning. When the couple pulled forward, the man drove in front of them, grinning and staring for another 15 to 20 seconds. Next, he circled around the restaurant and pulled up behind their car to the left side, all but blocking them in. Again, he stared and grinned at them. The couple, feeling threatened and intimidated, called 911 as the man drove off to the adjacent Wal-Mart parking lot and pulled alongside two parked cars. The couple relayed what they saw and told the dispatcher that the man’s behavior was suspicious. As instructed, the couple provided contact information and remained at the scene.

The dispatched officer knew only the description of the vehicle, that it was circling Wal-Mart, and that a citizen had reported it as a suspicious vehicle. When the officer approached the car and the driver opened the window, he noticed a strong smell of alcoholic beverage and, ultimately, arrested Derichsweiler for DWI. Derichsweiler sought to suppress evidence of alcohol consumption for lack of reasonable suspicion. Like Foster, the Court of Criminal Appeals ruled that reasonable suspicion existed based on the totality of the circumstances.

In this environment of heightened violent crime, coupled with the liberal reasonable suspicion standard in Texas, police are likely to make more arrests. If you have been arrested on suspicion of a crime, especially a serious crime, it is imperative that you hire a lawyer that will fight to protect your rights. You should contact the law office of Christopher Abel, a seasoned attorney with the experience and tenacity to protect your rights.

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