About one-third of all traffic fatalities in the United States involve a drunk driver. Nationally, 1.9 percent of adults report driving after drinking too much, and in Texas, 2.1 percent of drivers report driving after drinking too much. In response to public awareness of the problem, the law has gotten tougher in recent years, which has led to an increased number of investigations, arrests, prosecutions, and convictions. In a recent year, Texas experienced a total of 24,617 DUI crashes. Brownsville alone had 98 DUI crashes and injuries in the same year. These statistics include both non-incapacitating injuries and serious ones.
Being arrested for drunk driving can prove traumatic and humiliating. If you face DUI or DWI charges, you should contact a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to protect your rights.
Texas Drunk Driving Laws
Drivers cannot safely operate a vehicle if drug or alcohol use impairs their physical or mental capacities. Most states call the law regarding impaired driving DUI (driving under the influence). However, Texas has a DUI law and a DWI law, which closely resembles the DUI laws of other states.
Under Texas law, DUI and DWI constitute two different crimes:
- DUI, or driving under the influence, applies to persons under the age of 21. A DUI charge may apply to a person under the age of 21 even if that individual’s blood alcohol content (BAC) falls below 0.08 percent. Texas has a zero-tolerance policy, which means that anyone younger than 21 in Texas can’t legally drive with any amount of alcohol in their body. However, drivers under the age of 21 can face a DWI charge if they have drugs in their system or have a BAC that exceeds 0.08.
- DWI, or driving while intoxicated, applies to persons whose blood alcohol content (BAC) meets or exceeds 0.08. We should note that the term intoxication does not necessarily mean intoxication by alcohol. Intoxication can include other substances as well, such as illegal and prescribed medications.
A DWI charge can result any time an intoxicated driver has physical control of a vehicle, even if parked or stopped. The law states that an individual commits a DWI offense by operating a vehicle while intoxicated, so the charge may apply even if the driver falls asleep in the front seat of the car without ever starting the ignition.
Both DUI and DWI can carry significant penalties. A prosecutor may charge a DWI as a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on several considerations, such as the amount of alcohol in the person’s system, whether there was a child in the car, and whether the driver had any prior convictions of DWI.
Possible Penalties for a DUI/DWI Offense
Someone convicted of DWI may face large fines, driver’s license suspension, and jail time.
The penalties you may face for a DWI or DUI in Texas will depend on the number of prior convictions and criminal history ranking as the two most influential.
Although every situation involves unique circumstances, according to Texas law, the following penalties can result from first-time DWI convictions:
- Between three days up to six months in jail.
- Maximum jail time increased to one year for those with a BAC over 0.15 percent.
- Fines up to $2,000, or up to $4000 for those with a BAC over 0.15 percent.
- Suspension of driver’s license between three months to one year.
Often, the court may sentence a minor to alcohol awareness classes, a 60-day license suspension, a $500 fine, and community service hours.
After the first charge, the penalties for DUI and DWI become more severe with each additional offense. A DUI or DWI conviction can have a huge impact on your daily life. You could lose your job or have difficulty finding another job, especially if you work in certain positions, such as government work or teaching. You may struggle to obtain or maintain a professional license or get a particular security clearance. The loss of income will affect your ability to pay bills and support your family.
If a law enforcement officer stops you, the officer may collect evidence of impairment and intoxication, including measuring breath, blood, and urine to establish blood alcohol level. The officer may also consider your appearance, behavior, alcohol odor, and ability to perform field sobriety tests. A blood alcohol content level above the legal limit satisfies the probable cause requirement. Therefore, the officer has the right to arrest in that case.
Remember that a DUI or DWI arrest does not necessarily mean that a court will convict you of the charge. Defending these charges often proves complex.
Factors that may contribute to a defense to DUI or DWI charges include:
- Challenging arrest procedures. DWI charges typically start with a traffic stop. The law enforcement officer must have a reasonable suspicion of illegal activity to make the stop, such as weaving or driving erratically. Law enforcement cannot pull drivers over because of their race or other factors related to profiling. If the officer had no reasonable suspicion, the court might dismiss the charges. To arrest you for DUI or DWI, the police must have sufficient probable cause. This refers to evidence of illegal activity, such as the driver’s appearance or behavior. Again, if the police did not have probable cause for the arrest, the court may dismiss the charges.
- Challenging the blood alcohol test. Often, DWI charges stem from the results of a breath alcohol test, such as a Breathalyzer or a blood test. However, sometimes these tests prove inaccurate, particularly if the officer has not properly calibrated or maintained the radar, failed to properly store the sample, or had inadequate training in the use of the device.
- Other factors, such as medications, may affect the BAC test results.
- Challenging field sobriety tests. Certain factors, such as terrain or lighting, may influence results. Also, the officer may not have administered the test correctly.
Were You Charged With DUI or DWI?
Note that you only have 15 days from the date of your arrest to file for an administrative revocation hearing (ALR) regarding the status of your license. Failure to meet this deadline will result in the automatic suspension of your driver’s license as part of the civil case brought by the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS).
If an officer arrests you for or a prosecutor charges you with DUI or DWI in Texas, you may assume that you will lose your license, go to jail, and suffer all other penalties associated with a conviction. A DUI/DWI charge constitutes a serious matter and may result in severe consequences. Therefore, you should retain an experienced, dedicated attorney as soon as possible after your arrest. For more information or a free consultation, call Kenny Perez Law at (956) 544-9292 or contact us online to learn how we can help.
Kenny Perez Law
1900 N Exp 77. Suite A,
Brownsville, Texas 78521
“Definitely a law firm that you can trust! Professional, reasonable, and knowledgeable. The legal team has great customer service skills. They were able to help and guide us every step of the way after our accident.” – Cynthia Barrera
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