Mint Condition

Cool, refreshing DWI

Does the odor of Altoids on your breath prove you’re a drunk driver? It might in Texas. An appeals court in that state ruled in April that the use of breath mints can be considered evidence of intoxication.

The case began in August 2010, when limousine driver Robert Richardson was pulled over near Lewisville, Texas. State Trooper Preston Fulford testified that he smelled a slight odor of alcohol when he approached the limo but the car’s occupants denied drinking.

Fulford returned to his patrol vehicle to issue Richardson a written warning for failing to signal while changing lanes. When Trooper Fulford returned to the limo he noticed that Richardson’s breath smelled strongly of mint. The trooper asked Richardson if he had just taken a breath mint, and Richardson said that he had. The limo driver was then asked to step out of the vehicle and was arrested for driving while intoxicated.

Richardson later appealed, saying that the stop should have been finished once the trooper handed his driver’s license back. At the trial, Fulford testified that his reasons for suspecting intoxication included the passengers’ denial of alcohol use and the breath mints. 

In a divided decision, Texas’s 2nd District Court of Appeals agreed with Fulford, concluding that the trooper’s decision to arrest Richardson was justifiable based on the reasonable suspicion created in part by the smell of breath mints.  

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