Getting arrested for DWI in Texas can be extremely stressful. This complex area of the law can cause confusion, as you try to figure out your next step.
The most important thing to remember is that, unless you take action, you will face a variety of harsh penalties, as outlined in the Texas statutes – including substantial fines, the suspension of your driver’s license, and potential jail or prison time.
The Texas drunk driving defense attorneys of Eddington Worley have assembled a collection of information and resources for your benefit. Browse our knowledge base to find answers to your questions or, to take advantage of our no-cost, no-obligation consultation and case review, call us now at 855-600-6695.
Definition of DWI in Texas
To meet the statutory definition of DWI in Texas, you must meet the following three conditions:
- You drove a motor vehicle
- You drove that vehicle in a public location
- You drove that vehicle while intoxicated
But what is the statutory definition of intoxicated?
The Texas Penal Code (TPC) provides two definitions:
(A) not having the normal use of mental or physical faculties by reason of the introduction of alcohol, a controlled substance, a drug, a dangerous drug, a combination of two or more of those substances, or any other substance into the body; or
(B) having an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more.
So, although the police commonly use field sobriety tests or a roadside breathalyzer test to establish probable cause for arrest, they can always arrest you based on an officer’s belief that you lack the physical or mental capacity to operate a vehicle.
Definition of DWI Aggravating Circumstances
If the prosecutor can attach any of the following conditions to your DWI arrest, you will likely face the next level of charges and an increase in the severity of your potential penalties:
- Having a minor passenger (age 14 or below) in your vehicle at the time of violation
- Having an open container of alcohol in your vehicle at the time of violation
- Having a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) reading of 0.15 or above
For intoxication assault (DWI with an injury accident) or intoxication manslaughter (DWI with a fatal injury), it is considered an aggravating circumstance if the victim was a first responder in the process of performing their job.
Deferred Adjudication for Texas DWI
For some first-time offenders, DWI attorneys can negotiate a deferred adjudication agreement as a solution to a drunk driving charge.
These agreements vary based on the county or municipality of your arrest. However, most deferred adjudication programs will drop the charges and clear your record if you comply with the terms of the program.
For many people facing DWI charges in Texas, these programs offer a preferable alternative to accepting a plea agreement or going to court. A DWI lawyer at Eddington Worley can help you determine if you might qualify for deferred adjudication and help you decide if this is the best option for you.
DMV Driver’s License Suspension Hearing
When you get arrested for DWI in Texas, it triggers the driver’s license suspension process through the Department of Public Safety (DPS). This process, known as Administrative License Suspension (ALR) is a civil proceeding that takes place concurrently with, but unrelated to, your criminal case.
ALR/DMV License Suspension Quick Facts:
- You must schedule a hearing within 15 days of arrest. Otherwise DPS will suspend your license automatically
- The ALR hearing is your only chance to argue against license suspension
- The ALR process offers several opportunities to potentially improve – or harm — the outcome in your criminal case.
- A Texas DWI lawyer will fight for your license and leverage the opportunities offered by ALR
DWI Defense Strategies
In Texas, DWI lawyers have many options for choosing a drunk driving defense strategy, based on the facts of your case.
Some of the most common defense strategies include:
- Challenging reasonable suspicion for pulling your car over
- Challenging probable cause for placing you under arrest for DWI
- Challenging the equipment or methods used to administer chemical BAC testing
- Challenging the results of chemical BAC testing
The police may violate your legal rights in various ways. The police or testing lab can violate evidence preservation laws. In the case of a DWI accident or wreck, the prosecutor may not be able to prove that you or your intoxication caused the accident.
The good news is that, in Texas, DWI lawyers have many options for designing an effective drunk driving defense strategy.
Your lawyer will use any errors or problems to negotiate with the prosecutor to have your charges reduced or dismissed. Or, if necessary, your legal team can build your case and defend you in court.
DWI Accident with Injuries
If you have an accident and the police charge you with DWI, you could face intoxication assault (a third-degree felony) or intoxication manslaughter (a second-degree felony), with a potential prison sentence of as long as 20 years.
If the prosecutor can pin any aggravating circumstances onto your charges, you could potentially face a first-degree felony, which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.
A Texas drunk driving defense lawyer can negotiate to get your charges reduced or defend you in court. The prosecutor must meet a high burden of proof for these serious charges, providing a variety of viable criminal defense strategies.
Penalties for Texas DWI
The penalties you face for DWI depend on the charges brought by the prosecutor. You could face a Class B misdemeanor, the least severe DWI charge, all the way up to a first-degree felony – the most severe DWI charge you can face.
The prosecutor decides on the charges based on several factors:
- Prior offenses on your record, if applicable
- Your BAC test results
- Any aggravating circumstances
You could potentially face:
- 6 months in jail to life in prison
- $2,000 to $10,000 in fines
- 6 months to two years’ driver’s license suspension
In addition, you may also face the following additional penalties:
- Community supervision (supervised probation)
- Community service
- Court-ordered substance abuse counseling, treatment, or education
- Installing an ignition interlock deviceon your vehicle
If your license is suspended, you must pay a DPS surcharge of up to $2,000 annually for a total of three years.
Fortunately, prosecutors have the freedom to reduce DWI charges or drop them completely. A DWI reduction lawyer from Eddington Worley can explain your options.
Testing BAC for Texas DWI: Breathalyzer & Blood Testing
The police have the right to choose whether to measure your BAC with blood, breath, or urine testing.
In Texas, urine testing is rarely used. In most cases, the police will request a breathalyzer test because most departments can administer the test at any police station. However, officers will sometimes request blood testing.
In some cases – typically if your offense did not involve an accident or injury – you have the legal right to refuse testing. Although, if you do, you risk facing harsh driver’s license suspension penalties.
A DWI lawyer can advise you on the merits and legalities of refusing BAC testing.
Texas Commercial DWI
If you hold a Texas commercial driver’s license (CDL), the statutes hold you to a higher standard. When driving a commercial vehicle, the statutory BAC limit for DWI is reduced to 0.04. However, any DWI conviction will cost you your CDL, possibly permanently.
A commercial DWI lawyer can help you fight for your future and your livelihood.
Underage DWI versus DUI: Understanding the Difference
In Texas, the police charge drivers under the age of 21 with a DUI if their BAC registers between 0.01 and 0.079. Because 21 is the legal age for alcohol consumption, you cannot legally drive with any measurable trace of alcohol in your system.
An underage driver can also receive a DWI if their BAC measures 0.08 or above. In that case, they face the same penalties as a driver age 21 or above would.
Free Texas DWI Consultation & Case Review
If you have more questions or if you need help from one of our Texas DWI lawyers, contact Eddington Worley today at 855-600-6695.