In 2020, nearly 86,000 arrests were made for Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) in the state of Texas. That means more than 86,000 lives and livelihoods were threatened by a conviction that also stresses personal relationships, results in lost professional licenses and employment, and in some cases, leads to expensive fines and incarceration.
If you have been arrested for DWI/DUI in Texas, you might be wondering if you should fight it or just deal with the consequences. DWI is not a legal matter you should handle on your own. The impact of a conviction and the resulting criminal record is far too serious.
If you have been arrested for DWI in Edinburg, McAllen, or Mission, Texas, or anywhere throughout the Rio Grande Valley, call me at The Law Office of Aaron Fonseca. I provide experienced and aggressive DWI defense focused on your rights and your future.
The legal threshold for blood alcohol concentration (BAC) in Texas is 0.08% for noncommercial drivers and 0.04% for commercial vehicle operators. The state has a zero-tolerance policy for underage drivers. It takes only a detectable amount for a DWI conviction.
A BAC-level above the legal limit is a DWI “per se,” meaning evidence of the level, not merely your ability to drive, is enough for conviction. You can also be convicted for being intoxicated by drugs, alcohol, or any other substance that impairs normal physical or mental faculties.
In Texas, you do not need to be actually driving the vehicle to be convicted of DWI. The legal standard of “operating” a vehicle includes actions that affect the functioning of the vehicle or enable its use. The location and awareness of the driver, the location of the vehicle and of the keys, and whether the engine was running or not are factors in DWI charges.
Obtaining a driver’s license in Texas requires you to give “implied consent” to submit to a blood or breath test to measure BAC when requested by law enforcement. Refusal to comply results in an automatic suspension of your driver’s license for 180 days or up to two years. The refusal also does not prohibit a DWI conviction.
There are no penalties for refusing to answer questions or comply with a field sobriety test. When a law enforcement officer pulls you over, they will ask you questions about how you are, where you have been, and whether you have consumed alcohol or drugs. Although you should be respectful, you are required only to provide the officer with your name, license, and registration upon request. Otherwise, it is smart to advise the officer that you will not answer questions without an attorney.
A field sobriety test involves activities such as saying the alphabet backward, walking in a straight line, or tracking the officer’s fingers with your eyes. You are under no legal obligation to submit to a field sobriety test. If the officer asks you to submit to one, simply tell them that your attorney has advised against it. Field sobriety tests are unscientific and unreliable as evidence of impaired driving. If you take the field sobriety test and do not perform well, the officer will note it in the report, and that can work against you.
Penalties for DWI are based largely upon age, blood alcohol content, and the number of previous convictions. In general, a first offense results in a lighter DWI penalty than a second offense, and a lower blood alcohol content results in a lighter penalty than a higher percentage.
Penalties for a first offense with a BAC less than .15% range from 72 hours to six months in jail, fines of up to $2,000, and a driver’s license suspension for 90 days to one year. For a third offense in a 10-year period, you can spend two to 10 years in jail, incur fines of up to $10,000, and lose your license for 180 days to two years. The state will also assess additional fines from $3,000 to $6,000. Penalties increase if you are stopped with a minor under the age of 15 in the vehicle.
With a second or third conviction, you may also be ordered by the court to install an ignition interlock device (IID) in your vehicle. The IID is a small handheld breathalyzer that a driver must blow into before attempting to start their vehicle. If the device registers a BAC higher than what is legally allowed, the vehicle will not start. The results of all attempts will be monitored by authorities. Furthermore, you will be required to have the device calibrated periodically to ensure that it is working properly. You pay all costs associated with the IID.
Unless your DWI charge is dismissed as the result of evidence suppressed by the court, you will face some sort of penalty. Texas law does allow for a DWI charge to be reduced to a reckless driving charge in very limited circumstances. Your criminal defense lawyer will know whether that reduction may be an option in your case.
Your lawyer may be able to challenge the stop that led to your arrest or challenge the field sobriety test. If you have a physical impairment or disability, that can be used to defend your performance and perceived impairment. Your attorney may also be able to challenge the breath test based on other things you consumed or based on potential contamination of the results.
Defending a DWI/DUI charge is always a fight, so make sure you have a criminal defense lawyer who has the experience, knowledge, and energy to fight for your rights. If you have been arrested for DWI in Edinburg, McAllen, or Mission, Texas, or anywhere throughout the Rio Grande Valley area, call The Law Office of Aaron Fonseca.