Texas DWIs: FAQ
Even a DWI charge can seriously derail your life, and a conviction is worse. If you are thinking that accepting the fines and penalties that come with a DWI Conviction is the easiest path forward, you should carefully reconsider your plan. You have legal rights, and simply accepting the consequences of a DWI conviction is not going to do you or your bright future any favors. The answers to some of the most frequently asked questions by those facing DWI charges may help you make better-informed decisions for yourself – in your unique situation.
The Questions We Hear Most Often
Below are some of the questions we hear most often from our clients who are facing DWI charges.
How many drinks are too many?
It is very difficult to say exactly how many drinks will put you over the legal limit. As soon as you take a drink, your body begins absorbing the alcohol and also begins eliminating it, which means the concentration of alcohol in your body is in constant flux. Further, factors such as the following can all affect your BAC (blood alcohol concentration):
Your sex (women are more affected by alcohol than men are – even when accounting for height and weight differentials)
Your height and weight
Any mitigating factors such as lack of food in your system
While a glass of wine with dinner is generally considered safe, two or three are likely not. Consider the following basic example to get an idea of how much alcohol is too much to get behind the wheel legally: if an average guy who weighs 150 pounds drinks four run-of-the-mill beers (or four standard drinks or four standard glasses of wine) in about an hour, his BAC at the end of that hour would be about .008 percent, which is the legal limit. This is not, however, something you should even consider putting to the test. When it comes to driving, always put safety first and forego having those drinks.
What should I do if I am pulled over for DWI?
If you are pulled over for DWI, the first order of business is endeavoring not to panic. Being pulled over by the police is frightening and intimidating (at best), but the officer is simply doing his or her job, and panicking is only going to make the situation worse for you. That said, listen carefully to what the officer asks you to do, and then provide him or her with everything requested (your license and proof of insurance are usually required, and you should always have them easily accessible for just such reasons). Further, do not assume that you are being pulled over for DWI. Instead, wait and allow the officer to inform you why he or she stopped you (you do not want to give the officer any ideas). If the officer asks you why you think you were pulled over, do not play that game – simply tell him or her that you have no idea why you were pulled over. Ultimately, the officer is attempting to engage you in a conversation, and it is a good idea to answer his or her questions as succinctly and truthfully as possible. The officer may be attempting to ascertain if you are safe to drive, and you do not want to give him or her any reason to think otherwise. Now, however, is not the time to get chatty. Keep it simple.
RELATED READINGS: 3 Important Considerations if You are Stopped for a DWI
Should I take the breath test?
This is a complicated question. The fact is that you have the absolute legal right to refuse to take a breath test, but your refusal could amount to probable cause for the police to perform a blood test instead. Further, your refusal will lead to an automatic license suspension. Ultimately, refusing to take a breath test is not likely to do you much good, but there are some points to keep in mind:
The handheld breath tests that are used by police officers on the roadside are not reliable and are not allowable as evidence in our courts. Nevertheless, they can be used to make an arrest.
If you are detained, you may be asked to submit to another breath test and/or to a blood test at the jail, and while these tests are more reliable, they are not foolproof. These tests, however, can be used as evidence against you in court.
Should I perform the field sobriety tests?
You are not required by law to perform field sobriety tests, which are intended to test your ability to perform mental and physical tasks in unison (and refusing to take them will not lead to an automatic driver’s license suspension). If you have issues with your balance or have test anxiety in general, it can mess with your ability to perform, which is all the probable cause the arresting officer needs to arrest you for suspicion of DWI. Further, the videotape of you in action can be used against you in court. If you are not very confident of your ability to ace your field sobriety tests, it is a good idea to take a pass.
Is it a DUI or a DWI?
The charge of DUI is driving under the influence, and in Texas, it only applies when the driver in question is younger than 21. A minor can be charged with DUI for any detectable amount of alcohol in his or her system while behind the wheel. DWI, however, is a charge of driving while intoxicated, and it can be levied against anyone who has a blood alcohol concentration of .008 percent behind the wheel (regardless of their age).
Will my license automatically be suspended?
As mentioned, if you refuse to take a breath or blood test, your driver’s license can automatically be suspended (because Texas is what is known as an implied consent state, which means that getting behind the wheel implies your consent to take such tests when asked to do so). Your license will not, however, automatically be suspended due to an arrest for DWI, but if your BAC is determined to be over the legal limit, it can be. This type of license suspension is called an administrative license suspension.
Can I do anything about an automatic suspension?
If you are facing an automatic driver’s license suspension, there is something you can do about it, and that is contesting the automatic suspension within the first 15 days of your arrest for DWI. It is important to know that your ability to successfully contest your suspension is greatly increased when you have an experienced criminal lawyer on your side. If you request a hearing in relation to the suspension within the 15 days allowed, your license will not be suspended until (and if) a judge orders it suspended. If you do not contest the suspension within the 15 days, your automatic suspension will go into effect on the fortieth day after your arrest for DWI, and it will last for 180 days.
Will a conviction for a first DWI mean jail time?
While you may spend a night in jail upon arrest, it is very unlikely that a conviction for a first DWI charge will lead to a jail sentence. Instead, a conviction will mean serious fines and will likely require probated confinement, which means that you will need to adhere to specific probationary requirements in order to avoid jail time.
What does probation entail?
Probation terms are unique to each case, but the basics amount to living the kind of life you were likely living prior to the conviction, including:
You will be required to stay clean and not commit another crime.
You will be required to avoid unsavory people and places.
You will be required not to use illegal drugs.
You will be required to keep your job and to let the court know if you lose it or change jobs.
You will be required to continue supporting your family.
You will be required to pay all of your fines and court costs.
You will be required not to move and to let the court know if you intend to move.
You will very likely also be required to complete a DWI education program, to attend a Victim Impact Panel (to better understand the perspective of those victimized by drunk drivers), to take a substance abuse evaluation, and to report once a month to the DWI equivalent of a probation officer.
How much does a DWI conviction cost?
There are many costs associated with a DWI conviction, and the overall cost is considerable. Some states have billboards dotting the roads that read – You just blew $10,000 (referring to the breathalyzer test) – and they are not far off when it comes to the total costs you can incur with a conviction. Consider the following associated costs:
You will be required to pay all associated court costs and any fines ordered by the court.
You will face a monthly probation fee.
You will be on the hook for the cost of any classes you are required to attend.
You will also be required to pay for any chemical testing that is ordered as part of your probation.
If your DWI is related to a car accident, you will be responsible for paying off all the damages you caused.
There are also additional costly car insurance requirements.
What are the social consequences of a DWI Conviction?
In addition to the legal costs you face, the potential for jail time (for a second or higher conviction), and the potential loss of your license, there are also social consequences that you should take into careful consideration, including:
A DWI conviction is a matter of public record and can cause you to lose your professional licensure.
A DWI conviction can make it difficult for you to do your job (especially if your driver’s license is suspended).
A DWI conviction can make renting an apartment difficult.
A DWI conviction (or even a charge) can affect your social standing overall.
A DWI conviction can make obtaining a loan to purchase a home more difficult.
A DWI conviction can make finding a new job more difficult.
A DWI conviction can affect your ability to obtain admittance to the college of your choice, obtain a federal student loan, and live on campus.
In other words, a DWI conviction can have negative consequences at every level, which can, in turn, affect your emotional and mental health.
My license is suspended. How do I get to work?
If this is your first license suspension, you can seek an occupational driver’s license, which is a driver’s license that is granted by a judge and that grants you the legal right to drive for 12 hours each day for purposes of work, school, or household duties. The 12 hours do not have to be continuous, and your driving schedule can change from day to day. You will not be allowed to exceed the 12-hour limit in any given 24-hour period. However, the counties you are permitted to drive in will be specified in your order.
Do I really need a criminal lawyer?
The fact is that you are not required to have a criminal lawyer, but you are always well advised to do so. Your experienced criminal lawyer will help you build your strongest case in defense of your rights, has the resources and the knowledge to fight back effectively, will help you better understand your best options, and will help to ensure that you make the best legal decisions for you. Ultimately, having a dedicated criminal lawyer on your side can save you both money and hardship by helping you obtain your case’s most favorable resolution.
Reach out to an Experienced Killeen Criminal Lawyer Today
Brett Pritchard at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard in Killeen, Texas, understands the gravity associated with DWI charges and is committed to skillfully advocating for a case resolution that benefits you. We’re on your side, so please do not hesitate to contact us online or call us at 254-501-4040 for more information today.