What is a DWI?
In Tarrant County, there were 19 DWI fatalities in 2016. Drunk driving can result in serious injuries. However, an accident doesn’t need to happen to affect your life. If the police charge you with a DWI, you could find yourself taking on the justice system.
The consequences for DWIs are very harsh. To avoid receiving the worst penalties, you should work with a DWI lawyer in Aledo. Cole Paschall Law knows the difficulties that come with defending DWIs. Our firm can take on your case and fight for a positive outcome.
What Are the DWI Laws in Texas?
According to the laws in Texas, driving while intoxicated is a serious offense. Anyone who operates a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration of .08% or higher could end up facing charges for a DWI.
The term “DWI” isn’t only for those who are drunk. It also applies to those who are intoxicated by any substance. If you do not have your normal mental or physical abilities due to a substance, you are intoxicated.
You could receive a DWI for driving any motor vehicle. This includes a boat. Lately, Texas police have been cracking down on boating under the influence.
If you are under the age of 21 and caught with alcohol in your system, you could be charged with a DWI. The state has no tolerance for underage drinking and driving.
DWI Without Driving
You could receive a DWI without driving your vehicle. Because the law defines a DWI as operating a vehicle, you don’t need to drive the vehicle to be charged with a crime. Operating can refer to doing something that makes your vehicle usable. For instance, putting your keys in the ignition could be considered operating it.
Standardized Field Sobriety Tests
If a police officer believes you may be guilty of driving while intoxicated, they have three standard field sobriety tests from which they can choose. Depending on the outcome of your test, you could be arrested.
Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus
Although this test has a complicated name, it’s a very simple test. The officer looks into your eyes and asks you to follow a moving object. Typically, they use a pen or flashlight. They ask you to follow it horizontally. If your eyes can’t follow it or move in a jerky manner, they could believe you are drunk
This method isn’t always accurate. Despite having an accuracy of over 80%, the method can fail.
With this method, the police officer asks you to take nine steps, turn, and walk back. You must walk on a straight line and follow a heel to toe pattern.
This method tests your ability to count, follow directions, and maintain your balance. However, it is slightly less accurate than the horizontal gaze test.
If you can’t keep your balance, you could be drunk. This test relies on that belief. A police officer asks you to stand on one foot. Then, they ask you to keep the other foot about six inches away from the floor. You need to count for about thirty seconds when you are allowed to put your foot back down.
The officer looks for swaying, jumping, and other actions to determine if the suspect is drunk. It’s more effective than the walk-and-turn but slightly less effective than the horizontal gaze test.
In some situations, an officer might opt to perform multiple field sobriety tests. This makes the results more accurate.
Refusal of the Test
You can choose to refuse a field sobriety test. However, there could be some consequences. For example, the police officer could use your refusal as a probable cause. They might arrest you. Later on in court, a jury could consider your refusal to test as a sign of guilt. If you have questions about test refusal, you should speak with a Aledo DWI lawyer.
Blood Test or Breath Test?
Instead of a field sobriety test, a police officer could ask you to take a blood test or a breathalyzer. The tests are designed to check your level of intoxication.
The blood test is more invasive than the breathalyzer. The police officer takes you away from the scene, and someone performs a blood draw. The results show how much blood you have in your system.
However, a breathalyzer can occur immediately. Many officers are equipped with field breathalyzers. Once you breathe into the equipment, it tells the officer your blood alcohol content.
Much like the field sobriety tests, these tests can be refused. However, there are harsher penalties for refusing a blood or breath test. In Texas, you could have an automatic license suspension that lasts for between 180 days and two years.
Before the police arrest you, it’s likely that they will want to ask you a few questions. They may also attempt to ask you questions after your arrest.
However, you may not want to answer those questions. It’s extremely important to know your rights and to avoid making your situation worse.
First, you should realize that your officer only needs to read you your Miranda warnings if you are in custody. Therefore, an officer can pull you over for a traffic violation and ask you questions without giving you your rights.
Once they restrict your freedom, the officer should read you the rights and explain that you have the right to an attorney. If the officer fails to do so, this could help your case.
Secondly, you should know that you don’t have to answer their questions. In fact, you should avoid doing so. If you give the wrong answer, the police could use it against you in court. Before answering any questions, you should ask to speak with an attorney. They can keep you from saying something incriminating or hurting your case.
Driver’s License Revocation and Occupational Licenses
If you are convicted of a DWI in Texas, you could lose your license. But there are ways around the law. If you meet the criteria, you could receive an essential needs license. This type of license allows you to drive despite your license suspension or revocation.
You cannot receive an occupational license if your license was revoked for medical reasons. Additionally, the court won’t grant you one if you are late on your child support payments.
The license allows you to use your vehicle for work, school, or household requirements. However, you must apply for the license before you can start driving again. You send your petition to the court, and they will determine whether or not you are eligible for the license. If they approve your petition, they will issue you with a signed court order. Then, you can use the order and supporting documentation to receive your license.
Classification of DWI Offenses in Texas
If you are a first-time offender and are facing DWI charges in Texas, you probably will only face a fine of $2,000 and between three and 180 days in jail. You also may have a license suspension of one year and other fees. Most DWIs are misdemeanor crimes.
However, the penalties increase as you get more arrests. They also become harsher as you have aggravating circumstances. For instance, a DWI with a child passenger is taken very seriously. You could also face charges for child endangerment. The level of your BAC also impacts your consequences.
Some DWIs could be considered third-degree felonies. Typically, this occurs when a drunk driver causes a traffic accident that involves serious bodily harm to another party.
The injuries must leave the victims with permanent disfigurement or the inability of a body part to work. With this type of felony, you could receive as many as ten years in prison. You could also receive a fine of $10,000.
Your DWI could be a second-degree felony. This could be the case if there is a deadly collision caused by your drinking and driving. You would be charged with intoxication manslaughter, which is a second-degree felony. As such, it comes with as many as 20 years in prison and a fine of $10,000.
FAQ About DWI
Whether you’ve been arrested for a DWI or your just curious about how one would affect you, there are a few things you should know.
What Are the DWI Penalties?
Some of the DWI penalties were outlined above. If your DWI is only a Class B misdemeanor, then you might need to pay a fine as high as $2,000. You could do between 72 hours and 180 days in jail.
Meanwhile, a Class A misdemeanor involves a higher fine and more jail time. If you have a previous offense, your jail time and fine increases. You could also be charged with a Class A if you have a BAC greater than .15.
Individuals with three or more offenses or aggravating circumstances could face felony charges. Therefore, they have higher fines and more time. Instead of serving time in jail, they must do so in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
In addition to doing jail time, you also need to deal with a decreased quality of life. When you receive a conviction, it remains on your record. A quick background check can reveal your criminal history. If you apply for a job or for new housing, your conviction could haunt you.
What’s the Difference Between a DWI and a DUI?
In most states, drinking and driving is called a DUI. But Texas refers to drinking and driving as a DWI. Although some people use the term interchangeably, there are differences between the two.
In Texas, a DUI is used to describe an offense that involves a minor. The only people who can be charged with DUIs are those who are under21 years of age. On the other hand, a DWI involves someone over the age of 21. The laws for DUIs are much stricter than the laws for DWIs.
How Do the Police Identify Drunk Driving on the Roads?
The police are always on the lookout for drunk drivers. They look for all of the following:
- Erratic lane changes
- Swerving in and out of lanes
- Almost hitting other objects or vehicles
- Erratic braking
- No headlights at night
- Slow reaction to traffic signals or other vehicles
At DWI checkpoints, the police don’t need to look for signs of drunk driving from a distance. Rather, they have the right to stop you and note your reaction. If you fumble for your insurance or have slurred speech, they may think you’re drunk.
Does Texas Have an Open Container Law?
In many states, you cannot drive with an open container of alcohol in your vehicle. And Texas is no exception. If you have an open container in your vehicle, the police can give you a ticket. The only way to have alcohol in your vehicle is to have an unbroken seal on the bottle. If the seal is already broken, you could place the bottle in your trunk. Trucks and SUV drivers can store their open containers behind the last row of their seats.
If you’re found in violation of the open container law, you could be charged with a Class C misdemeanor. No passengers can have alcohol unless you drive a taxi, limo, bus, or mobile home.
To avoid trouble, you should avoid traveling with alcohol that has broken seals.
Why Do You Need a Aledo DWI Attorney?
Anyone facing criminal charges could benefit from working with an attorney. When it comes to criminal charges, the Texas court system can be brutal. They often try to make examples of criminals, and drunk drivers are no exception.
The only way to fight a DWI is to have a strong defense. If you work with an experienced attorney, they can come up with an effective defense strategy. They understand the legal process and know what it takes to convince a judge and jury of your innocence. At the very least, they may be able to get you a lesser sentence.