TEXAS DWI/DUI FAQ
Driving while intoxicated (DWI), operating a vehicle under the influence (OVI), or driving under the influence (DUI) are all ways to describe the same thing: intoxicated driving. Intoxication may be the result of alcohol or another chemical substance (e.g., marijuana, prescription pills, illicit drugs, or any other “drug”). To be “intoxicated” to the level that it is a criminal offense in Texas, your blood alcohol content must be at or above the legal limit of 0.08, or you have lost the normal use of your mental or physical faculties.
In Texas, there are countless arrests made daily for drunk driving. Those arrested are often people like you and me: law-abiding citizens who may have just made a bad decision. At The Lowe Law Office, PLLC, our Board-Certified Defense Attorney works hard to help you get your DWI charge dismissed, reduced, or at a minimum, the best possible outcome in your unique situation. Contact us at (817) 678-5080 to learn more about how we will help you. In the meantime, here are some of the most commonly asked questions we get from our clients when we first meet them about their intoxicated driving charge.
WHAT IS “BLOOD ALCOHOL CONTENT” LEVEL?
Blood alcohol content (BAC) is a measurement of the amount of alcohol found in the blood expressed as a percentage. It is calculated in grams per 210 liters of breath, or having a BAC of 0.08 means there is 0.08% alcohol by volume. Measuring BAC is a way for law enforcement to calculate the amount of alcohol someone has had and their ability to safely drive a motor vehicle.
WHAT ARE MY RIGHTS DURING DWI TRAFFIC STOPS?
If you are pulled over due to suspicion of drunk driving or pulled over for a traffic stop and then the police officer suspects drunk driving, you should remember you have certain rights as a U.S. citizen. Namely,
- The driver and any passengers have the right to remain silent (except the driver must show the police their driver’s license, registration, and proof of insurance upon request); and
- If you are a passenger, you do not have to show your identification. You are still legally “detained” and not free to leave, but you do not have to answer any questions.
If you are arrested or detained, you have additional rights, including Miranda warnings.
- You can (and should) say you wish to remain silent and ask for a lawyer immediately.
- You have the right to make a phone call after you are processed in jail.
If you believe your rights were violated in any way, try to write down everything you remember, including any details about the police officer, the location, witnesses, or anything else that you can remember no matter how insignificant. Remember, you may not think it is relevant, but your attorney might!
CAN I REFUSE A BREATHALYZER TEST IN TEXAS?
Yes! In fact, there are two types of breathalyzers: portable breath tests in the field, and breathalyzers that are located at the jail. You can refuse both. The portable breathalyzer is not reliable and should not be admissible in court. A good defense attorney knows how to keep the portable breath test result out at trial. That being said, the police still use them! T police officer will use the results of the test to show “the presence of alcohol” as a factor in deciding whether they have “probable cause” that you are intoxicated, and thus to arrest you for DWI.
Your refusal to take the portable breath test may or may not be admissible in court. Your refusal to take the breathalyzer at the jail after you have been arrested, however, carries with it significant consequences. Those consequences may include:
- Your license may be suspended.
- You may still face a DWI charge based on other factors, such as your driving behavior, the results of your field sobriety tests, witness testimony, and the police officer’s observations.
- You may be fined.
Also, if you refuse, the police officer may (and usually does) request a warrant to take a blood sample. Blood tests are more reliable than breath tests, and they can be more challenging to defend against if a case is filed against you.
WHAT ARE STANDARDIZED FIELD SOBRIETY SESTS (SFSTS)?
Standardized field sobriety tests (SFSTs) are tests approved by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). These tests are allegedly designed to help police determine whether a driver is intoxicated or not, i.e. “safe to drive”.
There are three standardized SFSTs:
- the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test (HGN test)
- the Walk-and-Turn Test (WAT test)
- the One-Leg Stand Test (OLS test)
The results of these tests may and will be used as evidence against you in a DWI case. Non-standardized tests, on the other hand, are not validated by NHTSA but can still be used against you at trial.
Non-standardized FSTs include:
- the modified Romberg test
- finger to nose test
- the finger count test
- the hand pat test
- the alphabet test
- the reverse counting test
- the coin pickup test
CAN I REFUSE FIELD SOBRIETY TESTS IN TEXAS?
Yes! You can always refuse to do the field sobriety tests. How often do the police practice these roadside gymnastic tests? All the time. How often have you and I done them? Never? What if you have a bad knee, or a prior surgery that affects your balance, or if the road is not level? The police may say they won’t hold those things against you, but you’re already being investigated for drunk driving, so why give the police more evidence that they can and will use against you?
AFTER A DWI ARREST IN TEXAS, WILL MY DRIVER’S LICENSE BE SUSPENDED OR REVOKED?
There are two different types of suspensions. The first is an administrative suspension, and Texas can suspend your license if you refuse a breathalyzer or have a BAC over a certain level. This means you can lose your driving privileges even when you have not been found guilty of driving while intoxicated.
The other type of suspension occurs when you are convicted of a DWI. Whether your driver’s license will be suspended or revoked can depend on your jurisdiction, your BAC level, and whether this is your first offense.
WHAT HAPPENS AFTER A DRUNK DRIVING ARREST IN TEXAS?
If you are arrested for drunk driving, what happens next depends on the facts and circumstances. It’s important to know that DWI arrests result in two processes after an arrest: (1) the administrative hearing, which results in civil penalties, like your driver’s license suspension; and (2) the criminal process, which can result in a conviction in the absence of a strong DWI defense. A conviction can lead to fines, driver’s license suspension/revocation, imprisonment, ignition interlock device (IID) installation, possibly probation, and other penalties.
CAN I STILL GET AUTO INSURANCE IN TEXAS AFTER A DRUNK DRIVING CONVICTION?
Your ability to obtain or maintain auto insurance after a drunk driving conviction depends on whether it was your first conviction. You will likely find insurance after a first conviction, although your rates will increase significantly.
Note, however, that even if you have been convicted of only one drunk driving offense, you may still be required to obtain SR-22 insurance. SR-22 is a certificate of financial responsibility required by either your jurisdiction or a court order. This form is not insurance, but rather proof that your auto insurance policy meets the minimum liability coverage required by state law. A fee, which ranges from $300 to $800 on average, is most often charged to file this form.
CAN I BEAT A DRUNK DRIVING CHARGE IN TEXAS?
It is possible to beat a drunk driving charge, although it is not typically an easy process. It will require a thorough understanding of the law and a thorough understanding of the technical nature of field sobriety tests, breath tests, and blood tests. Understanding the latter tests is critical to identifying errors (technical or human-made errors) to highlight the unreliability of the results.
Aside from errors or unreliable test results, an alleged DWI offender may have had their constitutional rights violated. This happens more often than you might imagine. A violation can lead to the inadmissibility of some or all evidence. Without sufficient evidence, the case will be dismissed, or a jury may return with an acquittal.
You will need a drunk driving defense attorney to help you beat a DWI charge. These cases can be highly technical, as much as legally complex.
CAN I JUST PLEAD GUILTY TO DWI?
Yes, but a good defense attorney will tell you all the reasons why you should wait to decide what is best for you. You could plead guilty as early as at the arraignment which is a hearing where the defendant can plead guilty, no contest, or not guilty. You can plead guilty, but the real question is whether you should or not. It would be a mistake to plead guilty at this time, especially without the counsel of a drunk driving lawyer in Texas, and there are multiple reasons for this.
- If you plead guilty immediately, you lose any opportunity to fight the DWI charge.
- If you plead guilty immediately, you also lose any opportunity for a plea deal, if that is what would be best in your unique circumstances. Admittedly, a plea deal means you would plead guilty, but the process can render a better outcome than an immediate plea of guilty. Depending on the facts of your case, you may be able to plead down to a lesser offense.
- The sentencing is often harsher when given in response to a plea of guilty during the arraignment, as opposed to what a plea deal would entail or a sentencing after a conviction would impose. The reason is simple: you have time to mitigate and negotiate.
If it’s your first DWI, it can be tempting to plead guilty right away so that you can get the case over faster and get on with your life. But if you do not fight to get the charge dismissed or to get yourself acquitted, you could have a conviction on your record that can affect your liberty, reputation, and many other collateral consequences. With a conviction on your record, you want to keep in mind that subsequent DWI convictions will assuredly lead to harsher penalties.
DO I NEED A DRUNK DRIVING LAWYER IN TEXAS TO WIN MY DWI CASE?
If you plan to fight your DWI charges, it is in your best interest to have a local, board-certified defense attorney represent you. The law can be complex. The evidence can be highly technical and scientific. Police and state expert testimony can be damaging. All these things can lead to a conviction, unless you have the necessary skills and knowledge to successfully counter them. Most alleged DWI offenders do not have that kind of knowledge and skills.
HOW MUCH DOES A DWI DEFENSE LAWYER COST?
There are a lot of factors to consider when determining the cost of a defense lawyer, such as:
- The experience and qualifications of the lawyer
- Whether you take a plea deal
- Whether this is your first, second, or third or more DWI
- The costs of experts if you go to trial
- The risks/rewards of pleading vs. going to trial
Such as with most things in life, you generally get what you pay for. The outcome of your case could be vastly different depending on who represents you during plea negotiations and at trial.
For most first time DWI or 2nd DWI offenses, you can reasonably expect to pay between $2,000 and $5,000 for a defense attorney to represent you. If you go to trial, you generally have to pay an additional trial fee.
For a felony DWI offense (DWI 3rd or More, DWI with a child < 15 years old, Intoxication Assault, and Intoxication Manslaughter), you can expect to pay significantly more since the consequences are more serious.
CONTACT A DWI DEFENSE ATTORNEY IN TEXAS TODAY
At The Lowe Law Office, PLLC, we know the law and the technical, scientific make-up of field sobriety tests, blood tests, and breath tests. We also know how to identify and aggressively fight the government if they violated your constitutional rights. Contact our Board-Certified DWI defense attorney in Texas today at (817) 678-5080 to schedule a Free Consultation and get honest advice on your best legal options.