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Driving Under the Influence / Driving While Intoxicated

In Texas and many other states the legal limit for intoxication is .08% Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC). However, if an officer suspects your driving is impaired you can still be stopped and arrested for DWI regardless of your BAC. In most cases suspicion of DWI also gives the police a probable cause to search your vehicle.

 


 

A 2006 study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimated that alcohol-related collisions represented 40% of total traffic deaths in the US. Most states have enacted severe laws in order to deal with the problem of impaired driving, and while the intent of these laws -removing dangerous drivers from public roads- is indeed noble, they may allow and even encourage law enforcement officers to engage in practices that are constitutionally questionable. For example, police may conduct "sweeping stops" in which they pull over every vehicle passing through a certain point, regardless of a lack of probable cause. Or they can instigate programs such as the "no refusal weekend" in which judges may rubber-stamp warrants for blood tests on suspected offenders.

  • What is the definition of intoxication under Texas Law?

Generally, intoxication is defined as not having the normal use of one’s physical or mental faculties due to the introduction of any substance into the body; that substance may be anything, but generally applies to alcohol or drugs, either legal or illegal. In addition, a person is automatically considered intoxicated if they have a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of .08% or more.

  • What is the difference between DWI and DUI ?

Different states classify DWI and DUI in different ways, but in the State of Texas Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) refers to the operation of a vehicle while impaired by any substance including alcohol or drugs.
Driving Under the Influence
(DUI) is an offense that involves minors. In Texas any person under the age of twenty-one operating a motor vehicle in a public place while having any detectable amount of alcohol in their system can be arrested for DUI. Driving Under the Influence is generally prosecuted as a Class C Misdemeanor.

  • What should I do if pulled over by Law Enforcement ?

If you are signaled to stop by police, do your best to pull over immediately. Do not wait to find a parking lot or side street unless the location is immanently hazardous: the police may interpret it to mean that you were trying to avoid them and it will immediately raise suspicion. Come to a complete stop, roll down your window, and stop your engine. Make sure you have your seatbelt fastened. Give the police your driver's license, registration and insurance information as quickly as possible.

Don’t talk unless spoken to.
Speak to the police officer only when spoken to and answer questions in short, truthful statements. You do not have to speak directly into the officer's face or look the officer in the eyes. The less you say, the less opportunity the police will have to interpret the smell of your breath or speech.

If the police ask you to step out of the car:
Do not lean against your car for support or make any physical motions that would cause the police to believe that you may be impaired. Assume that the entire traffic stop is being video taped. Remain where the camera will follow your actions and don't give the prosecution any video evidence that can be used against you.

If the police ask you to take a field sobriety test:
Do not argue with them on constitutional grounds: the act of accepting a driver's license automatically grants implied consent for the police to administer tests.
If you have some underlying medical condition that may prevent you from performing a field sobriety test or may adversely affect the outcome of such a test, inform the officer clearly and politely. The police cannot physically force you to take the test.
You may refuse to take the field sobriety test, but if you choose to do so immediately exercise your right to an attorney. If you tell them you refuse, they will be required to read your rights and warn you of the consequences. At this point you will most likely be arrested.

If the police ask you to take a roadside breath test:
The handheld breath tester is inaccurate and not admissible in court, but police officers will use the test to determine if they can arrest you and proceed with further testing. If you have any suspicion that the test will not come out 100% clean it is advisable to refuse this test and immediately exercise your right to an attorney. The officer will likely urge you to take it, however in most cases they have already made the decision to arrest you at this point and you will be required to take further, more accurate tests at the police station.

At the Police Station:
At the police station, you will be asked to submit to a breath test and a blood test to determine your blood alcohol content. If you fail either of these tests the prosecutor will use the test results against you. If you refuse to take the tests, you should invoke your right to an attorney immediately.

  • What are the penalties for DWI and DUI in Texas?

1st offense DWI:
» 72 hours to 180 days jail time.
» Up to $2000 in fines with additional surcharges of $1000 each year for three years, and $2000 each year for three years if your BAC is double the legal limit.
» 90 days to 1 year license suspension.

2nd offense DWI:
» 72 hours to 180 days jail time.
» Up to $4000 in fines with additional surcharges of $1500 each year for three years, and $2000 each year for three years if your BAC is double the legal limit.
» 30 days to 2 years license suspension.

3rd offense DWI:
» 2 to 10 years penitentiary time.
» Up to $10,000 in fines.
» 180 days to 2 years license suspension.

Driving drunk with a child passenger is considered a felony. If caught, your license will be immediately suspended.

For a minor convicted of operating a vehicle with any amount of alcohol in their system:

1st offense DUI:
» 60 days driver's license suspension.
» Up to $500 in fines.
» Mandatory attendance in alcohol-awareness classes.
» 20 to 40 hours of community service.

2nd offense DUI:
» 120 days driver's license suspension.
» Up to $500 in fines.
» Attendance at an alcohol awareness class at the judge's discretion
» 40 to 60 hours of community service.

3rd offense DUI:
» A third offense is not eligible for deferred adjudication. The minor's driver's license is suspended for 180 days and an occupational license may not be obtained for the entire suspension period. If the minor is 17 years of age or older the fine increases to $2,000, confinement in jail for up to 180 days, or both.

BAC of 0.08% or higher:
» Same penalties as DWI

In addition minors may be prosecuted under Underage Drinking Laws.

A conviction of DWI or DUI can have serious effects on your employment, insurance costs and many other aspects of your daily life.
If you have been charged with impaired driving you need an experienced criminal defense lawyer. Contact Parnham & McWilliams today at (713) 224-3967 or click here for our convenient online submission form.
Depending on the circumstances, we may be able to save your license.

This is for general informational purpose only. This information: • DOES NOT represent a legal advice or opinion, • DOES NOT create an attorney-client relationship, • DOES NOT account for community-supervision eligibility, special punishment issues, mandatory minimum confinement, enhancements, and “Exceptional Sentences” under Chapter 12 Subchapter D of the Texas Penal Code, • DOES NOT apply Corporations & Associations. • DOES NOT represent the unique circumstances of your case.