How Does An Affidavit Impact My DUI Case In Texas?
Being arrested for driving under the influence can be a harrowing experience. One way to stay calm throughout the experience is to understand the process through which a DUI moves through the court system.
One of the first steps to prosecution is the law enforcement officer’s affidavit.
What is an affidavit?
An affidavit is a document written by a police officer detailing the clues that led them to feeling there was probable cause to pull someone over. Once the document is signed, it is given to the prosecuting attorney to support the charges.
Since this is a sworn statement, the prosecutor uses it as evidence to support the arrest. This acts as a written witness testimony. Since lying on an affidavit is considered perjury, courts consider it a binding statement.
What is probable cause?
Probable cause is the legal term for “reasonable belief.” Before writing a citation, an officer needs to have a reasonable belief that an illegal activity occurred based on observations.
For example, if a police officer sees a car swerving across multiple lanes with no signal, a reasonable interpretation would be that the person is intoxicated. This observation becomes part of the affidavit.
Probable cause is one of the constitutional protections people have against inappropriate arrest.
This means that a police officer cannot simply stop a car on a “hunch” or for a “gut reaction.” It also helps to protect against racial profiling.
While the rules of probable cause tend to favor law enforcement agencies, several protections exist to help maintain the integrity of the process.
Why is the probable cause affidavit important to a DUI case?
Probable cause is based on the officer’s judgment and conclusion. This means that if the reasons for the police officer stopping someone do not amount to appropriate probable cause, then the arrest may be unlawful.
For example, while someone swerving across lanes can be seen as probable cause, a random pull over on a holiday does not meet that requirement.
If the affidavit indicates any unlawful reason for the police officer stopping the car, any information gathered because of that stop is not admissible.
How can the driver limit the impact of the affidavit before being stopped?
Even before being stopped, a driver needs to remember that anything others can observe about their driving impacts the affidavit process. This means that drivers need to recognize their responsibility in limiting what an officer can observe.
To do this, a person should make sure that their car has working headlights and tail lights. If the lights are out, this is not only legal violation, but something that triggers probable cause.
Drivers should always make sure that their registration is up to date. With the new license plate scanners, a police officer can check the car’s registration status prior to asking the driver to stop.
This is something that would be considered appropriate probable cause when pulling someone over on the suspicion of driving while intoxicated.
How can a driver limit the impact of an affidavit after being stopped?
While an affidavit is used to document probable cause, it also acts as a testimony by the officer about the details of the stop. This means that the driver’s continued interactions with the police officer will be included as part of the affidavit.
As always, being polite and following directions is the best way to keep from having a negative interaction that looks bad on paper. If the driver gets angry or acts belligerently towards the officer, those behaviors will be recorded as part of the affidavit record.
The affidavit is often the first glimpse of a defendant that the prosecution and judge have. This means that the officer’s written interpretations can create a bias for or against the driver prior to the hearings.
Drivers should always remember that from the minute they get behind the wheel of a car, others’ interpretations of their actions and behaviors can be used against them if they are arrested for driving while intoxicated.
Should someone choose to drive while under the influence, they should make sure to be constantly cognizant of this.
Is a lawyer necessary?
Reviewing the affidavit means looking for specific terms and clues to lawful stoppage. Since the legal requirements regarding affidavits can be complex, hiring an attorney to help determine whether the officer’s stop was lawful can be helpful.
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