Texas DWI Defense

Penalties for DWI or DUI in Texas

A conviction for Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) or Driving Under the Influence (DUI) of alcohol or drugs carries very serious consequences in Texas, even if it is only your first conviction. The draconian nature of the consequences for driving while legally impaired are largely a function of the fact that society views impaired driving as an extreme hazard and the fact that the national headquarters for Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) are located in north Texas. A first DWI conviction is a Class B Misdemeanor, which is the same category as some theft and drug possession crimes. If convicted of a DWI, even your first offense will earn you jail time. In addition to a minimum 72 hour jail sentence, you may also be ordered to pay a fine of up to $2,000 and have your driver’s license suspended for up to one year.

In addition to the criminal penalties, your insurance rates will likely skyrocket following a conviction and you will have pay a $1,000 per year Driver Responsibility Surcharge for three years following your first conviction in order to keep your driver’s license. When your driver’s license is suspended as a result of a conviction, you will need to obtain an Occupational Driver’s License to be able to drive to and from your place of employment, your school, your church, and your home.

As severe as a first DWI conviction is to your finances and personal liberty, a second and third conviction are even more severe. A second conviction is a Class A Misdemeanor and is punishable by a jail sentence of 30 days to 2 years, a fine of up to $4,000, and suspension of your driver’s license for up to 2 years. A third DWI conviction is a Third-Degree Felony punishable by a term of 2 to 10 years to be served in prison (TDJC), a fine of up to $10,000, and suspension of your driving privileges of up to 2 years. Driver’s Responsibility Surcharges will also apply for second and third convictions.

Field Sobriety Tests

When an officer pulls you over and suspects that you are driving while intoxicated, he will request you perform a variety of tests in order to assess whether you are impaired. Although the officer may perform several tests, only three of these tests — called Standardized Field Sobriety Tests — are recommended by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). None of these three tests have a better than 80% accuracy rate even when they are administered correctly.

The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus

Nystagmus is an involuntary jerking of the eye that occurs when a person looks to the side. The involuntary jerk becomes more apparent when a person is intoxicated. When an officer administers the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus, the officer will instruct the driver to follow a small object with his eyes. The officer is looking to see if the driver is unable to smoothly track the object with his eyes, if the driver’s eye jerks markedly when the driver moves his eye as far to the side as possible, or if the driver’s eye exhibits Nystagmus before the driver’s eye reaches a 45 degree angle. This test is the most accurate of the three tests. When it is administered properly — and often it is not administered properly — the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus is only 77% accurate.

The Walk-and-Turn Test

When an officer administers the Walk-and-Turn test, he will first instruct the driver to stand erect with feet positioned together in a heel-to-toe fashion. The driver must remain erect with his or her feet in their heel-to-toe position until the officer commands the driver to begin the walking phase of the test. During the walking phase, the driver is instructed to walk nine heel-to-toe steps, turn, and then return by taking nine more heel-to-toe steps. The driver must count each step out loud as he completes the walking phase.

The officer is looking for clues of intoxication or impairment during both the walking phase of the test and during the time the officer administers instructions to the driver. Signs of intoxication or impairment the officer will be looking for include:

  • lack of balance as the officer is giving the driver instructions;
  • the driver starting to walk before the command to walk is given;
  • stopping while walking;
  • walking off of the line;
  • losing balance;
  • using the arms for balance;
  • taking too many or too few steps.

A driver fails the Walk-and-Turn test if he exhibits two or more of these signs. The Walk-and-Turn test is only 68% accurate when properly administered.

The One-Legged Stand Test

When the One-Legged Stand Test is administered, the officer instructs the driver to raise one leg six inches off the ground with his toes pointed out. The driver is to keep his legs straight the entire time and count out loud while looking at the elevated foot until the officer instructs the driver to stop counting. The officer is looking for the following indicia of intoxication or impairment during the One-Legged Stand Test:

  • swaying;
  • hopping;
  • using arms to maintain balance; and
  • putting the elevated foot down.

The driver fails the One-Legged Stand Test if he exhibits two or more of these indicia. The One-Legged Stand Test is only 65% accurate. And that is when the test is properly administered.

Breathalyzer Tests

The Intoxilyzer is the only breath testing device authorized to test Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) in Texas. Although the device is designed to continually test its accuracy, the device and the way it is employed may be subject to numerous flaws, including the following:

  1. The company that manufactures the Intoxilyzer does not allow access to its software, making it impossible to verify the device’s results and prove the results of the test were correct;
  2. Driver use of mouthwash may cause the machine to register a higher (inaccurate) Blood Alcohol Content;
  3. Dental implants, low carbohydrate diets, and certain medical conditions can affect the accuracy of the device’s results; and
  4. The device’s results may be inaccurate if the device was not calibrated or maintained properly.

If you are arrested for DWI, submitted to a breath test, and the breath test’s results are successfully attacked, your charges may be reduced or dropped completely. Do not allow inaccurate breathalyzer tests to convict you of DWI. Call the Law Office of Pete Rowe today for aggressive representation.

Contact a Dallas DWI / Drunk Driving Defense Attorney

The Dallas Law Office of Pete Rowe will protect your rights if you have been accused of driving while intoxicated. If you or a loved one have been charged with DWI, then call then call the Law Office of Pete Rowe today.