In Texas, prosecutors can charge any driver with a blood or breath alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or greater or under the influence of drugs with driving while intoxicated (a DWI). In addition, prosecutors can charge people under age 21 with Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol as a Minor (DUIA). There is zero tolerance in this state for minors who drink and drive-any amount of alcohol detected in a minor’s system can result in a DWI or DUIA charge.
Everyone makes mistakes sometimes. Although you cannot go back and change the past, you can make good choices now that help you get back on track. Having a criminal defense lawyer to guide you through the legal process can make a difference. Criminal defense lawyers know how to solve problems, have experience with similar cases, and offer advice to help you navigate this difficult time.
There Is a Lot to Lose
Because Texas has some of the strictest DWI laws in the US, it is important to speak with a criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. A driving while intoxicated conviction can:
- Remain on your record indefinitely
- Result in jail time
- Make you pay heavy fines
- Suspend your driver’s license
For first-time offenders under age 17, penalties for DUIA can be severe and have both social and financial consequences such as:
- A fine of up to $500.00
- 20 to 40 hours of community service
- Driver license suspension for 60-180 days
- Attendance in an Alcohol Awareness Course
DWI penalties for a first offense can include:
- 72 hours up to 180 days in jail
- Up to a 1-year suspension of the driver’s license
- A fine of up to $2,000
- The possibility of an ignition interlock device
A second or third offense exponentially increases the financial penalties, jail time, and duration of license suspension. A criminal defense lawyer can help those accused of an alcohol-related offense fight to reduce or even dismiss the charges.
When it comes to DUIs and DWIs, the law is strict-but so are the standards for arrest and conviction. The state must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, the validity of every aspect of the arrest, or prosecutors must drop the charges.
The Consequences of a Criminal Record
Under certain circumstances, being convicted of an alcohol-related offense can bring felony charges. In addition to fines and incarceration, a felony carries social ramifications that may be hard to live with and even harder to overcome.
In Texas, convicted felons may be unable to:
- Purchase or rent a home
- Apply for and receive public assistance (such as food stamps), or state scholarships or grants
- Apply for certain state or federal jobs
- Obtain a commercial driver’s license
- Have a permit to carry a firearm
Convicted felons may lose any professional licenses they hold, such as a license to practice law, dentistry, or medicine. If the person is an immigrant, their immigration status could also be negatively affected.
The Challenges of Field Sobriety Tests
If you took a field sobriety test, you might wish to contest the results. A criminal defense lawyer knows the challenges that a field sobriety test presents. When officers pull over a person with certain verified medical or mental health conditions, a field sobriety test might not be reliable.
For example, a loss of balance is not necessarily an indication of intoxication. Walking a straight line may not be possible for anyone with an inner ear problem, arthritis, or a history of head trauma. People with diabetes can have sporadic episodes of low blood sugar that can cause slurred speech and dizziness.
Obesity can impede one’s ability to stand on one foot for any length of time, as can having foot problems. Neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease or multiple sclerosis substantially affect a person’s ability to walk a straight line. Age can also make a difference.
Almost 40 percent of older adults have balance issues, and seasonal allergies can cause redness and bloodshot eyes.
In cases like these, an officer’s perception does not always reflect reality.
Other health conditions that can affect a field sobriety test include:
- Low blood pressure
- The effects of chemotherapy
- Peripheral neuropathy
- Poor circulation
- Spinal stenosis
- Herniated disc
Field sobriety tests are highly subjective and often unreliable for these reasons and others. The experience of being pulled over by law enforcement is an anxiety-ridden occurrence in and of itself. It is hard to focus and concentrate while standing on the roadside with background noise and flashing lights, especially in the dark or bad weather. A criminal defense lawyer can determine whether any factors might have made your field sobriety test unreliable and can argue on your behalf when necessary.
What Can a Criminal Defense Attorney Do?
An experienced criminal defense lawyer fights to preserve and protect their client’s rights by putting together a case based on the facts. They may build a case showing officer misconduct or procedural errors in conjunction with a DUI or DWI arrest.
To do so, they will gather evidence and ask:
- Did officers have probable cause to search you?
- Did the police office officer see you violating any traffic laws or driving recklessly?
- Did you invoke your right to legal counsel?
- Did police administer only recognized field sobriety tests?
- Did police administer the field sobriety tests correctly?
- Did the police handle all evidence appropriately?
A drunk driving charge is serious-it can have lifelong ramifications. However, with help from a criminal defense lawyer, you may be able to seek a reduced sentence or have the charges dropped. Contact a criminal defense lawyer near you if you have questions about DUI and DWI charges.