San Diego DUI Law Center

San Diego DUI attorneys have heard it all.  Pennies, gum, mouthwash…now mints.

Mints?  Texas now says breath mints can be evidence of DUI or drunk driving.

Here’s a case where the DUI cop smells a little alcohol, asks if drinking to
which everyone in the car says “no,” tells the driver he’s gonna write him
up for a ticket, comes back, asks about the mint, and decides to conduct
a drunk driving conviction, San Diego California lawyers say.

Richardson v. Texas
(Texas Court of Appeals, 4/18/2013) found “Breath Mints Are Evidence Of DUI.”

The Texas Appeals Court upholds DUI conviction of man caught after he popped a 
breath mint during a traffic stop. 

Use of breath mints can be considered evidence a driver is intoxicated, 
according to a divided Texas Court of Appeals ruling delivered earlier this 
month. The three-judge panel made the decision in the case of limousine 
service driver Robert Richardson who was stopped in Lewisville, Texas on 
August 25, 2010 while transporting customers from the airport. 

Texas Department of Public Safety Trooper Fulford was about to issue a 
speeding ticket to a motorcycle on Interstate 35E when he noticed 
Richardson’s Chevy Tahoe change lanes without signaling, almost hitting the 
motorcycle. Trooper Fulford was concerned primarily about the bad driving, 
but in the back of his mind he thought it could also be a case of driving 
under the influence (DUI). Once stopped, there was a mild odor of alcohol 
in the Tahoe, the passengers denied drinking, and Richardson was nervous. 

Trooper Fulford told Richardson he would write him a warning for his 
failure to signal before changing lanes. When he returned from his squad 
car with a warning notice in hand, Trooper Fulford said he noted an 
“overwhelming” odor of breath mints. 

“Did you just take a breath mint?” Trooper Fulford asked. 

When Richardson said “yes,” he was ordered out of the Tahoe. From there, he 
was arrested and convicted of DUI. Richardson appealed, arguing the traffic 
stop was complete after the trooper handed him back his driver’s license 
with a warning, and that anything that happened beyond that point amounted 
to an illegal detention. The Texas judges acknowledged the principle that 
once a traffic stop concludes, it should not be used as a fishing 
expedition for unrelated criminal activity. The court had to decide whether 
the use of breath mints constituted a specific articulable fact suggesting 
another crime had been committed beyond the bad lane change. 

The appellate judges agreed with the trial court that all of the clues 
Trooper Fulford picked up on prior to smelling the breath mints combined to 
provide the suspicion needed to make the search reasonable and consistent 
with the Fourth Amendment. 

“These facts, which Trooper Fulford identified during his testimony at the 
suppression hearing, were sufficient to provide him with reasonable 
suspicion that Richardson had been driving while intoxicated, ” Justice Anne 
Gardner ruled for the court. “We overrule Richardson’s sole point. Having 
overruled Richardson’s sole point, we affirm the trial court’s judgment.” 

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