Texas has consistently led the nation in both crashes and fatalities related to drunk driving. It was discovered by the National Highway Safety and Traffic Association (NHTSA) that in 2017 there were approximately 16,500 people who were involved in some type of drunk driving incident. The state even was named number one in the U.S for drunk driving-related fatalities with 1,446 deaths for the year 2014 and 1,323 for 2015.
Due to the shocking statistics within the last ten years, Texas has taken initiative by mandating very harsh driving while intoxicated (DWI) laws for those convicted offenders. If the jury finds the offender guilty, they could be sentenced to pay expensive fines, spend time in diversion court, probation, perform community service and even spend time behind bars. However, an arrest for DWI does not have to lead to a criminal conviction in Georgetown. If you have been charged with DWI, it is important to contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer in Georgetown immediately after your arrest.
Georgetown DWI Defense Attorney | Williamson County, TX
There are usually two different cases after every DWI arrest – an administrative proceeding and criminal case. The administrative proceeding occurs before the criminal case, and possibly even before charges have been filed. It generally involves a license suspension upon arrest for DWI or a DWI refusal and is unrelated to your criminal charges. You only have 15 days after your arrest to dispute your administrative license suspension. Therefore, it is essential to consult a Georgetown DWI attorney who will start working on your best defense today.
If you have been charged with a DWI in Georgetown, or any of the surrounding areas Round Rock, Cedar Park, Leander, Taylor, Hutto, Killeen, Temple, Belton or Harker Heights, contact Price & Twine, PLLC. Our skilled and dedicated attorneys are experienced in Texas DWI laws. We will advocate on your behalf and fight the allegations you are facing. Call Price & Twine, PLLC for a free consultation at (512) 354-1880 or send an online message if you have been arrested for DWI in central Texas.
Overview of Texas DWI Laws
- What is Texas’s DWI Laws?
- What is the difference between DUI and DWI in Texas?
- DWI Chemical Testing and Field Sobriety Tests
- Implied Consent Laws and Administrative Suspensions in TX
- Types of DWI Crimes in Texas
- Penalties for DWI in Texas
- Ignition Interlock Devices in TX
- Additional Resources for DWI in Texas
- Frequently Asked Questions
What Is Texas’s DWI Laws?
The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) states that every 20 minutes a person is injured or killed by a drunk driver in the state of Texas. Legislators in Texas have passed stiff drunk driving laws so they can battle these rising DWI-related deaths and crashes. You can be charged with driving under the influence if:
- You were operating a motor vehicle in a public place; and
- You were under the influence of drugs or alcohol to the point your mental and physical faculties are too impaired to drive
In order to be charged with DWI in Texas, an individual is required to have actual physical control (APC) of the motor vehicle. Texas law only requires the driver to be in or near the vehicle at the time of arrest, and be capable of operating the vehicle. Therefore, even if you were not actually driving at the time of arrest, you could still be arrested for DWI. Examples of factors the prosecutor will look at to see if you had APC at the time of your arrest can include:
- Whether the car’s engine was on;
- Whether keys were in the ignition;
- Whether keys were near to the ignition;
- Whether the vehicle’s hood was hot, indicating it was recently driven; and/or
- Whether the car was operable or able to be driven.
The question is, how does Texas even define impairment or intoxication? Well the answer has to do with a person’s blood-alcohol concentration level (BAC). Your BAC is simply the amount of number of grams of alcohol in your system measured by a chemical test. The Texas court system will only find blood analysis, urinalysis and breath analysis to be admissible in court.
Texas Penal Code § 49.01 measures BAC by number of grams of alcohol per:
- 210 liters of breath;
- 67 milliliters of urine; or
- 100 milliliters of blood.
The legal blood-alcohol concentration limits in Texas include:
- 08 or higher for non-commercial drivers at or over the age of 21;
- 04 or higher for people with commercial driver’s licenses (CDL); and
- 02 or higher for people under the age of 21.
The Difference Between DUI and DWI in Texas
DUI (Driving Under the Influence) and DWI (Driving While Impaired) are very similar. The only difference is the age of the individual driving. Under Texas Transportation Code §521.342, the age of the driver is under 21. If the driver is over 21 years of age with a BAC level over .08 or is on drugs, then he or she could be facing a DWI charge. Conversely, if the driver is under 21 and has alcohol in their system, then it can result in a DUI charge.
DWI Chemical Testing and Field Sobriety Tests in Texas
The majority of DWI cases are convicted because of scientific evidence proving the defendant had a BAC level over the legal limit. Although law enforcement may use different types of testing to determine your BAC, the only evidence that is admissible in Texas court is chemical DWI testing such as breathalyzers or urine tests. Unfortunately, the truth about chemical DWI testing is that the science isn’t completely accurate or without fault.
Many people have been accused of driving under the influence because of a skewed or false chemical DWI test. This is because chemical testing is at a high risk for human error or environmental damage. For instance, nearly all chemical testing samples are sent to a private or state crime lab, which are handled through multiple people. It’s very likely a DWI sample could be mishandled and contaminated by lab personnel while it’s being processed.
In addition, the testing itself isn’t completely accurate. Breathalyzers in particular have been known to give false positives due to calibration issues and outside factors. The science itself hasn’t been fully explored and breathalyzers will commonly give low BAC readings for people under the influence of drugs or prescriptions. Urine and blood analysis are also not flawless test processes. Urinalysis can lead to false results because it tests positive for drugs that have been in your system for days or even weeks. Blood testing, while the most precise of the three, goes through a long chain of custody so there’s a high chance of the sample being contaminated.
Another common way for law enforcement to test your impairment level is by field sobriety tests. These are physical exercises that measure your mental and physical faculties. However, unlike DWI chemical tests these results are not admissible to use in court. An officer may ask you to submit to field sobriety testing to assess you before asking for a breath, blood or urine sample. Only three field sobriety tests may be allowed as evidence in court. These include:
- Walk-and-Turn: Take nine steps toe-to-heel and then turn on one heel. Walk another nine steps back toe-to-heel in a straight line.
- One–Leg Stand: Test balance by standing on one leg and touching your nose at the same time for at least 30 seconds.
- Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus: An officer will test your nystagmus (how your eye tracks things) by waving an item back and forth three inches from your nose. You must track it successfully without twitching your nystagmus to prove sobriety.
Implied Consent Laws & Administrative Suspensions in TX
Texas has imposed laws for people who refuse chemical testing. These are referred to as implied consent laws. These laws state that if you drive on Texas public roads you’re implicitly submitting to chemical testing by law enforcement. Refusing to comply with testing can lead to an administrative license suspension. It’s important to remember that field sobriety testing isn’t included in implied consent laws.
The administrative license suspension in Texas is a civil penalty and not associated with the criminal penalties for a DWI conviction. An individual can still receive an administrative license suspension even if they are not charged with driving while intoxicated. So, even if law enforcement is unable to charge you with DWI you could still have your license suspended. The Department of Public Safety (DPS) will automatically suspend your license for a period if you do any of the following:
- Refuse to submit to blood, breath or urine chemical testing, OR
- Fail to pass an intoxication test with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level of .08 or higher (per se DWI).
It’s important to know that refusing testing and failing a DWI test can result in two different outcomes. For a first-time refusal your license will be suspended for up to 180 days. A second or subsequent refusal can lead to a 2-year license suspension. On the other hand, failing a DWI chemical test will lead to a 90-day license suspension and a second failed test can result in a 1-year license suspension by DHS.
Looking at these penalties you may assume that submitting and failing a DWI test is the best answer. But that may not be the best choice in the long run. If you fail a DWI chemical test, you will automatically be charged with driving while intoxicated. The prosecutor will have concrete scientific evidence proving your BAC was over the limit and the chances of your conviction are much higher. Not only that, but you will likely have your license criminally suspended on top of your administrative suspension.
Additionally, we have already discussed how unpredictable chemical DWI testing can be. It’s very possible you could submit to testing completely sober but end up with a false positive. This could give the officer probable cause to arrest you even though you never touched a drop of alcohol before getting in the car.
It might seem daunting to do, but most attorneys would suggest you refuse chemical DWI testing. If you refuse, you are likely to be arrested. However, the prosecution will not have any scientific evidence that proves your intoxication. The jury will only have possible bodycam footage and objective eyewitness testimony from the officer to use as evidence. This means your chances of having your charges reduced or dismissed are much higher.
If your driver’s license was confiscated by the law enforcement officer after you blew over the legal limit or refused to submit to testing, your attorney can make a written request to the Department of Public Safety headquarters for an administrative license suspension hearing within 15 days of receiving notice of the license suspension. Texas law considers notice to be given when the officer confiscated the driver’s license.
If a hearing is timely requested, the suspension is put on hold until a final decision has been made by the administrative law judge at the revocation or suspension hearing. The judge will determine at the hearing if there is sufficient evidence to suspend the driver’s license. If there is insufficient evidence, the individual’s license will not be suspended. An attorney can even contest for a hardship or restricted license if they’re unable to get the suspension lifted.
Types of DWI Offenses in Texas
The criminal DWI proceeding is separate from the administrative proceeding in Texas. This is what most people are familiar with, and generally involves pre-trial motions, hearings, the trial, and sentencing. The following is a list of common DWI criminal charges in Texas and the possible penalties you could face if convicted.
First DWI – This offense is usually punishable as a Class B Misdemeanor and can occur if the individual operates a motor vehicle in a public place while their normal faculties are impaired or their BAC is over .08 due to intoxication from the use of drugs, alcohol and/or controlled substances.
Second DWI – This offense is usually punishable as a Class A misdemeanor and can occur if an individual who has previously been convicted of a DWI operates a motor vehicle in a public place while their normal faculties are impaired or their BAC is over .08 due to intoxication from the use of alcohol, drugs and/or controlled substances.
Third or Subsequent DWI – This offense is usually punishable as a felony of the third degree and can occur if an individual who has previously been convicted of two or more DWIs operates a motor vehicle in a public place while their normal faculties are impaired or their BAC is over .08 due to intoxication from the use of alcohol, drugs and/or controlled substances.
DWI with a Child Passenger – This offense is generally punishable as a state jail felony and can occur if the individual operates a motor vehicle while intoxicated in a public place and has a passenger in the vehicle under the age of 15.
Intoxication Assault – This offense is usually punishable as a felony of the third or second degree and can occur if an individual operates a vehicle while intoxicated and cause serious bodily injury to another person due to the intoxication.
Intoxication Manslaughter – This offense is usually punishable as a felony of the second or first degree and can occur if an individual operates a motor vehicle while intoxicated and cause the death of another person due to the intoxication.
Penalties for DWI in Texas
The penalties for DWI depend on the facts of the crime and your criminal past. It’s important you understand the full scope of the penalties associated with DWI before you enter a courtroom. You could face massive fines, DWI school, DHS fees and possible incarceration.
Listed below are the penalties for driving while intoxicated in Texas.
- First Offense – Class B Misdemeanor
- A fine of up to $2,000
- Up to 180 days in jail;
- Up to 100 hours of community service;
- Driver license suspension for up to 12 months; and
- Completion of a 12-hour DWI Education Program;
- Annual fee of up to $2,000 for three years by the Department of Public Safety (DPS).
- Second Offense – Class A Misdemeanor
- A fine of up $4,000;
- Up to 12 months in jail;
- Up to 200 hours of community service;
- Completion of a DWI Education Program;
- Driver license suspension for up to two years; and
- Annual fee of up to $2,000 for three years by DPS
- Third or Subsequent Offense – Third-Degree Felony
- A fine of up to $10,000
- Up to 10 years in prison;
- Up to 200 hours of community service;
- Driver license suspension for up to two years; and
- Annual fee of up to $2,000 for three years by DPS.
Is There a Statute of Limitations for DWI in Texas?
The short answer is yes, there is a statute of limitations. However, the limitations does not necessarily apply to most cases. In Texas, the statute of limitations for misdemeanor DWI is two years, and if the DWI is classified as a felony it’s three years. In addition, any charge for intoxication manslaughter also carries a three-year statute of limitations.
While there is a statute of limitations for DWI, it’s rarely invoked. Usually, the prosecutor will deem the State’s evidence strong enough to warrant pressing DWI charges against the defendant. Once a charge if filed, the statute of limitations becomes irrelevant. However, it can be utilized in some cases. For example, if the State loses important evidence such as a blood test, then they would lose the basis for filing charges. The State would have to recover the evidence within two to three years if they want to file charges still against the defendant and if they fail to do so the charges will be expired.
An ignition interlock device or breath alcohol ignition interlock device (IID or BAIID) is a breath-analyzing device that is installed on an individual’s vehicle. It is typically wired to the vehicle as part of a legal requirement after drunk driving.
Texas law clarifies there are exceptions for issuing an ignition interlock device. Section 521.246 of the Texas Penal Code states that a person may operate a motor vehicle without the installation of an approved ignition interlock device if:
- The vehicle is owned by the person’s employer;
- The person is required to operate a motor vehicle in the course and scope of the person’s employment;
- The employer is not owned or controlled by the person whose driving privilege is restricted;
- The employer is notified of the driving privilege restriction; and
- Proof of that notification is with the vehicle.
Additional Resources for DWI in Texas
Driving While Intoxicated Laws – Visit the official website for the Texas Department of Safety (DPS) to find more information about DWI offenses, penalties and suspensions. Access the site to learn the penalties for DWI, DWI statistics in Texas, and tips on how to stay safe from drunk drivers if you spot one on the road.
DWI Statistics – Visit the official website for the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) to learn more about DWI statistics and facts in Texas. Access the document to learn the number of deadly fatal crashes, injury-related crashes and other DWI-related crashes for the year 2017.
Texas Department of Motor Vehicles (TxDMV) – Follow the link to the TxDMV, it provides various resources ranging from vehicle registration to dealer training seminars. The Texas Department of Motor Vehicles is dedicated to the success of motor-vehicle related industries, customer service, and consumer protection. Additionally, the agency regulates vehicle dealers, registers about 24 million vehicles annually, and credentials trucks and buses for intrastate and interstate commerce.
Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) – The agency regulates the entire phase of the alcoholic beverage industry within the state of Texas. That is to say that the TABC regulates the sales, taxation, manufacturing, importation, advertising, and transportation of alcoholic beverages.
Frequently Asked Questions
- What is the difference between DUI and DWI?
The main difference between DUI and DWI lies in the terminology and legal interpretation. While specific definitions vary by jurisdiction, generally, DUI refers to driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, regardless of the level of impairment. DWI typically indicates a higher level of intoxication, often involving a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) above the legal limit.
However, the exact distinctions can vary by state. In Texas, the terms are often used interchangeably, but DUI most typically refers to drivers under 21, while DWI refers to drivers over 21. Both offenses involve impaired driving and can result in legal consequences such as fines, license suspension, and potential jail time.
- Which is worse in Texas: a DUI or a DWI?
In Texas, a DUI and a DWI generally refer to the same offense, but because DUIs typically involve drivers under 21 who have a lower blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit (.02), DUIs may have comparably lenient penalties. For both, penalties can vary based on factors like BAC level, prior convictions, and age.
- Can you get a DWI on a horse or bicycle in Texas?
While seemingly silly, in many US states, like California, DWI offenses can be extended to those riding on horseback. In Texas, you can’t be charged with a DWI on a horse or bicycle, as the law specifically pertains to motor vehicles. However, riding impaired on a horse or bicycle may still lead to legal consequences under public intoxication or reckless endangerment laws. It’s important to prioritize safety and adhere to local laws when operating any vehicle, motorized or not, while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Texas DWI Defense Lawyer
If you are facing a DUI/DWI retaining an experienced DWI defense attorney is important. A DUI/DWI conviction has various consequences aside from hefty fines, jail and/or prison time. Professionals can be at risk of losing their employment, a college student could lose their scholarship and even be expelled.
A DWI/DUI conviction in Texas can have collateral and devastating consequences to many different aspects of your life. For instance, your social, professional, and financial well-being can be jeopardized by having to pay fines, serving time, and having a criminal record. Do not face your charges alone, seek legal expertise. An experienced attorney from Price & Twine, PLLC, can help you understand the charges against you and determine the best defense based on the facts of your case.
Contact Price & Twine, PLLC at (512) 354-1880 to schedule a free confidential consultation with our skilled DWI defense attorney. Our highly qualify lawyers are knowledgeable in all areas of Georgetown’s DWI laws and will make every effort to help you avoid the most serious penalties and punishments to your alleged DWI offense.