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  • Writer's pictureBrian Foley

The Woodlands DWI Attorney - Was I targeted specifically for DWI? STEP law enforcement program.

The Woodlands DWI Attorney - Brian Foley Board certified in Criminal law.

If you have been arrested for DWI and you feel like you were targeted specifically to see if you were intoxicated and not because of any egregious traffic violation there is a chance that you're right. Officers in Montgomery County and throughout the State of Texas can earn extra money by participating in a program called STEP. It is a federal grant program that pays for additional police presence for Traffic and DWI enforcement. This means that there are police officers who are out patrolling and specifically looking to make DWI arrests.

Texas’ Selective Traffic Enforcement Program (STEP) is a federal grant program that is run through the Traffic Safety Division of the Texas Department of Transportation. All accredited agencies like constables offices, sheriff's offices, or city police departments may apply for federal funds through the STEP program. How much funding they receive is dependent upon the number and type of crashes occurring within their jurisdiction.

Data on this topic is collected by the Texas Crash Reporting Information System (CRIS), and analyzed and plotted by the Texas Department of Public Safety’s Highway Safety Operations Center (HSOC), to develop Enforcement Zones, which are limited in number and size to help magnify the impact of the enforcement efforts on troublesome crash areas.

According to their own documents "Agency performance will be measured by the number of STEP-funded vehicle stops made within the established Enforcement Zones, and by the impact the enforcement has on the jurisdiction’s crash totals." This means the more arrests they make the greater funding potential they have.

The types of arrests measured are as follows:

DWI/DUI - Driving While Intoxicated/Driving Under the Influence

OP - Failure to Use Occupant Restraint, including child-passenger safety seats

ITC - Intersection Traffic Control

SP - Speed Enforcement /Control

DD - Distracted Driving

The program is designed to give a financial incentive through overtime payment to officers through their agency. This can lead to minor traffic violations turning into DWI arrests or investigations at a greater rate than would otherwise occur on an officers normal shift. So if your license plate light was out and an officer would normally let you go because his shift was about to end, and Officer working overtime under the STEP program may use this legitimate traffic stop to initiate a DWI investigation.

The Supreme Court of the United States specifically approved of pretext traffic stops or traffic stops based on otherwise legitimate violations that have nothing to do with the real reason the police are stopping you. Whren v. United States, 517 U.S. 806, (1996)

In the Whren case "[p]lainclothes policemen patrolling a "high drug area" in an unmarked vehicle observed a truck driven by petitioner Brown waiting at a stop sign at an intersection for an unusually long time; the truck then turned suddenly, without signaling, and sped off at an "unreasonable" speed. The officers stopped the vehicle, assertedly to warn the driver about traffic violations, and upon approaching the truck observed plastic bags of crack cocaine in petitioner Whren's hands. Whren v. United States, 517 U.S. 806, (1996).

So if you were thinking that you were being profiled for DWI and that the officers weren't really concerned with you failing to signal a turn. You may be right . . .


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