Most DWI charges in Texas are based on the alcohol concentration in the blood, commonly referred to as “blood alcohol concentration” or “blood alcohol content” (BAC). Every state has specific laws related to BAC and drunk driving charges, and Texas – like virtually every other state – sets the legal limit at .08 percent.
If you or someone you love has been charged with driving while intoxicated, seek the skilled legal guidance of an experienced Killeen criminal defense attorney today.
Driving Under the Influence
In Texas, having a BAC that exceeds the limit of .08 percent is classified as driving while under the influence of alcohol (DWI). However, it is important to know that when a motorist does not have “the normal use of mental or physical faculties by reason of the introduction of alcohol,” the same charge can apply, even if your BAC is under the legal limit.
As in other states, you must be at least 21 years old to drink alcohol. When someone who is under the legal drinking age is charged with drunk driving, they also face the charge of underage drinking.
BAC Tests Can Be Wrong
When it comes to DWI charges, it is important to know that BAC tests can be inaccurate and unreliable. Officers generally turn to breathalyzers to gauge drivers’ blood alcohol content, but these tools have a reputation for being untrustworthy. The same is true of the chemical tests that they often turn to back at the station, but such testing is generally more difficult to refute.
If an officer is asking you to take a BAC test on the roadside or at the station, you have the right to request a Killeen criminal defense attorney. Ask for legal guidance right away to make sure your rights are protected.
The New York Times Weighs In
The New York Times reports that a million Americans are arrested for driving while intoxicated every year. Most of these arrests begin with lights and sirens that lead to breathalyzer tests using portable devices that estimate drivers’ BACs.
While these tests are a mainstay of drunk driving charges throughout the country and are touted as being accurate to three decimal places, they are reported to “generate skewed results with alarming frequency.” In other words, the foundation of most DWI charges has been called out for being flawed, which makes it that much more important to fight for your legal rights.
Many states have thrown out large numbers of breath tests based on the following concerns:
Inadequate governmental oversight of the machines and testing practices
Human error in testing
Error caused by inaccurate machine calibration
Shoddy machine maintenance caused by a lack of expertise or by low standards overall
The use of outdated or home-brewed chemical solutions that affect the test results
Programming errors in the machines’ software
Disabled regulatory safeguards
There are many reasons why a breathalyzer reading may be incorrect, but police departments are notoriously cagey when it comes to sharing information about the machines and labs they use.
An In–Depth Review
In the course of its reporting, The Times interviewed many scientists, lawyers, executives, and officers and reviewed thousands of pages of corporate filings, court records, contracts, and confidential emails. Ultimately, they found that breath tests present a widespread legal concern that does not get the attention it deserves.
Consider the following events that call breathalyzer tests into question:
A panel of judges in Florida referred to breathalyzers as having “significant and continued anomalies.”
In Pennsylvania, a county judge shared his doubt that any of the breath tests performed in the state could withstand strict legal scrutiny.
A former director of National Patent Analytical, which produces breath-testing devices, reported that these machines were never intended to serve as judge and jury to determine guilt.
Despite the many concerns shared, every state in the nation, including Texas, backs up DWI charges with breath tests and penalizes motorists who refuse to take them.
Fines and Penalties
The fines and penalties for a DWI conviction vary with the circumstances and become progressively harsher after a first charge and with certain extenuating circumstances. Consider all the following consequences for DWI convictions:
For a first offense with a BAC of .08 to less than .15 percent, the charge is a Class B misdemeanor that can lead to from 72 hours to 180 days in jail, fines of up to $2,000, and a license suspension lasting from 90 days to 1 year.
For a second offense or for a first offense with a BAC that is .15 percent or higher, the charge is elevated to a Class A misdemeanor that can lead to jail time of up to a year, fines of up to $4,000, and a license suspension of up to 18 months.
A third DWI offense comes with fines of up to $10,000, a prison sentence of 2 to 10 years, and a license suspension of up to 2 years.
There are also enhancements for impaired driving with a child passenger who is under the age of 15, which can lead to child endangerment charges. Such charges come with an additional fine of up to $10,000, additional jail time of up to 2 years, and an additional 180 days of license suspension.
You Have the Legal Right to Defend Yourself
Too many people who face DWI charges believe they have no option but to take what they get, but everyone has legal rights that are well worth defending. Toward this end, there are several points to keep in mind, including the essential nature of contacting a Killeen criminal defense attorney.
Consider Refusing the Chemical Test
No test is foolproof, but the chemical blood and breath tests given back at the station are more reliable than the portable tests used on the side of the road and, therefore, more difficult to refute in court. If the police request that you take a chemical test, you have the right to refuse, but refusal can lead to an automatic administrative suspension of your driver’s license.
At this point, it’s time to consider whether it’s worth taking the risk of automatic license suspension in order to avoid a potential criminal conviction and jail time. Whatever you decide to do, it’s time to let the police know that you want an attorney – if you haven’t done so already.
Time Is Critical
If you don’t take the chemical test, you have only 15 days from the date of your arrest to contest the automatic license suspension. The timelines associated with DWI charges are tight to begin with. As such, it’s in your best interest to reach out to a seasoned Killeen criminal defense attorney sooner rather than later.
When it comes to building your strongest defense, all the following actions can play a critical role in defending your rights:
Strategizing the best path forward
The sooner you address each action, the better prepared you will be to proceed.
Don’t Skimp on Discovery
Discovery refers to your right to information that the prosecution is using to build the case against you, but they are not going to offer it up if you don’t ask. Even asking politely may not get you the information you seek. You may need to bring Freedom of Information Act requests to the law enforcement department and serve the district attorney with a discovery demand.
Taking the time to speak to any witnesses identified by the prosecution and to follow up on their evidence can make a critical difference in the outcome of your claim. The information you gather will give you a better idea of how strong – or weak – the state’s case against you is and can provide you with the guidance you need to craft your best defense.
Carefully Comply with Every Condition of Your Bond
After potentially spending a bit of time in jail, you’ll likely be bonded out. In the process, the judge will implement specific conditions that you are required to abide by. It is important to take these conditions very seriously because even a minor misstep could land you back in jail. This danger makes staying on the right side of the law while your case is pending a must.
Recognize the Social Implications of a Conviction
In addition to jail time and steep penalties, there are social consequences related to a conviction that you should keep in mind. Criminal convictions are a matter of public record, which can lead to all of the following challenges:
A conviction can make it more difficult to rent a home or obtain a home loan.
A conviction can affect your professional licensure.
A conviction can make it impossible to obtain federal student aid, gain acceptance at your chosen college, or live on campus.
A conviction can limit your job opportunities.
A conviction can interfere with your ability to support your family and participate fully in your children’s lives.
A conviction can seriously tarnish your social standing.
Trust in Your Dedicated Criminal Defense Attorney
If you are facing a DWI charge, the sooner you have a practiced criminal defense attorney in your corner, the better off you are. Your attorney will take on all the following critical tasks in defense of your rights and in pursuit of your case’s best possible resolution:
Your attorney will help you better understand the legal process and help you make the right decisions for you along the way.
Your attorney will negotiate with the prosecution in an attempt to have the charge against you dropped or lessened.
Your attorney will gather all the available evidence and carefully consider it from every angle, including the reliability of any tests you took.
Your attorney will help you strategize a strong defense that addresses the circumstances involved and that supports your innocence.
Your attorney will tailor his or her approach to the unique circumstances of your case.
Your attorney will help you recognize that you have legal rights that are worth protecting and that you are not at the absolute mercy of the state.
The outcome of your case is too important to your future not to fight for your rights from the outset.
DWI Charges: The Statistics
The Texas Department of Public Safety’s Crime Records Division reports the following telling statistics regarding DWI charges in the state:
The number of DWI charges in 2021 was 89,457, which is up considerably from 2020’s 83,088.
The number of those people charged with DWI but who were released with no charges in 2021 was down considerably from 2020, with 1,824 and 3,275, respectively.
In 2021, of those charged, 564 took not-guilty pleas, while 1,826 did the same in 2020.
In 2021, of those charged, 11,836 took guilty pleas, while a whopping 33,476 did the same in 2020.
In 2021, only 8,044 of those charged were convicted of the original offense, while 23,258 were in 2020.
In 2021, exactly 3,834 of those charged were convicted of an offense other than the original, while the number in 2020 was 10,302.
In 2021, there were only 1,917 outright dismissals of DWI charges, while there were 6,771 in 2020.
In other words, it can be very difficult to predict how your case will be resolved. The best path forward involves working closely with a savvy criminal defense attorney with a wide range of experience successfully defending DWI cases.
Reach Out to an Experienced Killeen Criminal Defense Attorney for the Help You Need
Brett Pritchard at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard in Killeen, Texas, is a focused criminal defense attorney with an impressive track record for skillfully defending the rights of those facing DWI charges, and he is here for you, too.