for All Your Criminal Defense Needs
Being arrested for Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) can be a scary ordeal. Often people who are arrested for DWI have never been in trouble with the law before and have no idea where to begin. Depending on the circumstances of the arrest, you may only have 15 days to start fighting the ramifications of a DWI arrest. A first time arrest for DWI can carry a potential punishment of up to 365 days in jail, depending on the facts. This punishment range can be higher if there was an injury-causing accident involved or if a DWI is received with a child younger than 15 years.
If you are arrested for DWI and refuse to provide a specimen of your breath or blood, your license is subject to an Administrative License Revocation (ALR) and could be suspended for 180 days. If you refuse to provide a specimen upon request from the officer, regardless of whether they obtain a search warrant and eventually take a blood specimen, you have 15 days to request a hearing with the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) to try and prevent your suspension. A timely request for these hearings is important for two reasons. First, if the officer is subpoenaed and fails to appear, your license will not be suspended at that time. Second, if the officer does appear, it provides a great opportunity for your attorney to cross-examine the officer before trial. This second reason is extremely important because, in criminal defense, it is extremely rare to be able to conduct a deposition with an officer. Officers are typically not as prepared to testify at these hearings as they will be at trial.
Even if you believe that you are guilty of the DWI and just want probation, I typically advise my clients that they should take their case to Jury Trial. The reason for this is that Texas Law does not provide for a deferred disposition in DWI cases, which means that if you plead guilty or no contest and successfully complete probation, you will have a conviction for DWI on your record. At trial the state will have to prove every element beyond a reasonable doubt, and sometimes things happen to either the officers involved in the arrest or to the state’s witnesses that prevent them from getting the evidence in that they need to convict you.
I believe that a Plea “Bargain” must be just that, and they are often not a “bargain” in DWI cases. If you or someone you know has been arrested for DWI they should contact an attorney immediately.
In Denton, Texas, driving while intoxicated (DWI) means drunk driving, and the state uses your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to determine whether you’re too intoxicated to operate a motor vehicle.
Below are the state’s BAC limits:
Alcohol can affect you based on the number of drinks you’ve had, your body weight, and even your gender.
Mostly, DWI crimes are related to your BAC when operating a motor vehicle and certain other circumstances (as you’ll see below). However, officers can arrest you for other alcohol-related crimes involving your vehicle.
For example, it’s illegal to have an open container of alcohol in the passenger area of your vehicle if you’re driving or parked on a public highway (Texas defines the “passenger area” as the area designed for people to sit in while traveling).
A simple open container violation results in a maximum $500 fine and a Class C misdemeanor. However, if you’re arrested for DWI and open container, you’ll get a Class B misdemeanor and a minimum of 6 days in jail.
TX DWI penalties are based on factors like age, license type, and other circumstances (such as having other passengers in the vehicle, or horrific events like death).
Common DWI penalties you can expect include:
TX DWI laws distinguish anyone younger than 21 years old as a minor.
Like many states, Texas has a Zero Tolerance Law for minors and alcohol; this means drivers younger than 21 years old can’t operate motor vehicles with any amount of alcohol or drugs in their systems.
For a 1st offense, you face:
Expect to also pay fines, court costs, and legal fees, should your parents hire an attorney for you.
Pretty much any involvement you have with alcohol can affect your driving privileges in Texas―including non-driving alcohol offenses.
Examples of non-driving alcohol offenses include:
Penalties for these offenses are as follows:
Based on your situation (and possibly even your age), your judge also might order the Alcohol Education Program and community service.
Just like it does for minors, Texas assigns DWI penalties for drivers 21 years old or older according to the offense number and other situation-specific factors.
If you’re driving while intoxicated with a child younger than 15 years old in your vehicle, you face:
All DWI offenses are serious, but some are extremely grave, such as intoxication assault and intoxication manslaughter.
We’ve outlined some details about the serious crimes below; please refer to Chapter 10 of the Texas Drivers Handbookfor more information specific to your situation.
You can be charged with intoxication assault if, while drunk driving, you cause serious bodily injury to another person.
For these purposes, Texas considers serious bodily injury to be an injury that causes:
If you’re convicted, you’ll have a 3rd degree felony.
As the name suggests, intoxication manslaughter involves killing another human being while you’re operating a motor vehicle under the influence.
If you’re convicted, you’ll have a 2nd degree felony.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) states that any commercial driver operating a commercial vehicle with a BAC of 0.04% or higher is considered to be driving under the influence.
If you’re a CDL holder and you either refuse a chemical test or take one and have a BAC of:
Your CDL is disqualified for 1 year. If you drive a commercial vehicle placarded for hazardous materials, the penalty is 3 years.
In Texas you can face other penalties for driving under the influence or refusing a chemical test which are unrelated and in addition to criminal penalties. These penalties are known as Administrative License Revocation (ALR) and are handled by the Department of Public Safety. These are civil penalties which will result in driver’s license suspension for failing or refusing a chemical test. These penalties are in addition to of the outcome of criminal court proceedings.
All drivers in Texas are subject to implied consent, which means that if you drive, you’ve implied your consent to a chemical test if law enforcement suspects you’re drunk or otherwise impaired.
If you fail or refuse a chemical test (often a blood or breath test), you will face Administrative License Revocation (ALR), which is a type of license suspension unrelated to your criminal DWI penalties. ALR carries specific penalties for refusing or failing chemical tests.
For ALR penalties a 2nd offense can be a previous refusal or failure of a chemical test OR previously suspended for DWI, DWI Assault or Intoxication Manslaughter within the past 10 years.
Here’s how chemical test refusals or failures and ALR usually play out:
The State Office of Administrative Hearings handles the hearings, and you can request one using the state’s ALR Hearing Request page. Allow 120 days to receive the date, time, and location of your hearing.
If you’re found guilty at your hearing, you can appeal the verdict. Just send a file-stamped, clerk-certified copy of your appeal petition to the address below within 30 days of your suspension:
Enforcement and Compliance Service
P.O. Box 4087
Austin, TX 78773-0320
Texas provides several alcohol intervention and education programs via the Texas Department of State Health Services.
The TX DWI Education program is designed for first-time offenders who are receiving probation. The program focuses on how alcohol and drugs affect the body, mind, and driving abilities; TX DWI laws; and substance abuse and dependency.
The course is 12 hours long, and drivers must complete it within 180 days of the date probation was granted.
The DWI Intervention Program is for repeat offenders―those who’ve had previous DWI offenses.
As you can imagine, the Intervention Program dives a little deeper, covering topics like lifestyle issues and self-esteem; alcoholism and chemical dependency; and support groups and processes like Al-Anon, 12-Step, and relapse prevention.
The course is 32 hours long, and if you fail to complete it, TX will revoke your license until you do.
Generally, the Alcohol Education Program for Minors is for minors who’ve gotten any DWI or DUI offenses.
The program’s curriculum teaches alcohol awareness. Students learn about the relationship between alcohol and drugs and driving; societal issues related to drugs and alcohol; and patterns that lead to or indicate abuse and addiction.
Sometimes, a judge will substitute the program with community service, usually anywhere from 8 hours to 40 hours, but failure to complete the program (or the community service) within 90 days of the conviction leads to 6 months of license suspension.
Your judge will determine whether you have to get an ignition interlock device (IID); if so, the court will send a notice to the TX DPS. You’ll also receive a restricted interlock license with the “N” restriction. You will have 30 days to have the device installed before the DPS cancels your license.
Before allowing you to get an IID, the DPS makes sure that:
You must have your IID installed by an approved devices and installation location.
Texas requires DWI offenders to file proof of financial responsibility, often called an SR-22 certificate. SR-22 isn’t a form of car insurance, but it does provide the DPS with proof you’re carrying the state’s minimum liability coverage.
The state does not accept a regular insurance policy document or card. It must be an SR-22 Financial Responsibility Insurance Certificate.
If your SR-22 is cancelled or you allow it to lapse, the DPS will suspend your driving privileges and vehicle registration.
Most auto insurance carriers offer SR-22, but if you need help finding one, the TX DPS recommends visiting the Texas Department of Insurance.
Even after it’s all said and done, you might still experience “penalties” in the form of higher car insurance rates. Once your provider takes a look at your driving report and sees the conviction, they’ll probably increase your rates once it’s time to renew your policy.
When it comes to DWI, don’t leave it to chance―start looking for an experienced DWI lawyer as soon as you can.
You already know you can get limited driving privileges once you satisfy your DWI penalties like license suspension and fees, but what if you need to drive while your license is still suspended?
That’s where an occupational license comes in handy.
Sometimes called a restricted license or hardship license, an occupational license allows you to drive to and from certain locations while your license is suspended. Usually, these places include school, work, and trips related to essential household duties.
To obtain an occupational license:
Unfortunately, occupational licenses aren’t available for CDL holders.
Reinstating your TX driver’s license after a DWI conviction is fairly straightforward, though by no means quick and easy.
Basically, you must:
You will face a variety of fees and surcharges related to license reinstatement and maintenance, and some of these depend on your age and circumstances.
For example, everyone must pay a $125 fee for license reinstatement after an Administrative License Revocation (ALR), which can happen whenever you fail or refuse to submit to a chemical test.
You also have the annual surcharges associated with the Driver Responsibility Program. These are the surcharges listed above under “DWI Penalties: Adults” and can range from $1,000 to $2,000 each year for 3 years.
Despite the commendable efforts of groups such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and individual lawmakers, Texas still has the dubious distinction of the state with the highest number of drunk driving-related deaths. A person is hurt or killed every 20 minutes due to drunk driving in the state.1 While strides have been made, much work still needs to be done in Texas and nationwide.
According to the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility, a nonprofit dedicated to fighting drunk driving and underage drinking, 1,446 people in Texas died in drunkdriving accidents in 2014. Of those, 193 involved someone under the age of 21 driving while under the influence. An estimated 70% of impaired drivers in fatal accidents had blood-alcohol concentrations (BAC) of 0.15 or higher and every single one of these was a repeat offender.
In 2014, drunk driving fatalities increased by 8.2% from the prior year, yet the number of arrests decreased. Of the 70,842 Texans arrested for drunk driving in 2014, 434 were younger than 18. A total of 75,764 people were arrested for drunkenness in 2014, of which 434 were younger than age 18.
In 2015, an average of 20% of high school students nationwide rode at least once a month in a car or other vehicle driven by someone who had been drinking alcohol.
In 2015, an average of 7.1% of high school students nationwide drove when drinking alcohol.
Hispanic students had a higher prevalence than white and black students of riding with a driver who had been drinking alcohol.
Although Texas statewide figures were not included in the 2015 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, Fort Worth and Houston were included under large urban school districts. Estimates: 26.2% of high school students in Fort Worth and 28.1% of high school students in Houston rode at least once a month in a car or other vehicle driven by someone who had been drinking alcohol. In Fort Worth, 9.7% of high school students drove when drinking alcohol, and in Houston, this figure was 7%, slightly less than the nationwide average.
The Mexico-U.S. border area spans nearly 2,000 miles and is populated by more than 7 million U.S. residents, predominantly of Mexican American ethnicity. Texas comprises the largest portion by far, bordering four Mexican states: Tamaulipas, Nuevo León, Coahuila and Chihuahua. In Mexico, the legal drinking age is 18, versus 21 in the U.S. Mexican bars within walking distance cater primarily to younger people who travel across the U.S. to Mexican border towns for the purpose of drinking relatively inexpensive alcohol.
Compared to those who drink only in the U.S., people living on the U.S. side of the border who drink in Mexico are younger, report significantly more alcohol intake, higher rates of binge drinking and more alcohol problems. When the town of Juárez, which borders El Paso, changed closing time at bars from 5 a.m. to 2 a.m., there was an 89% decrease in the number of people crossing back into the U.S. with a positive BAC. Researchers concluded that people living on the border at the highest risk of alcohol misuse and its consequences are younger and have a propensity for drinking at Mexican bars.
A MADD and Nationwide survey found that more than 82% of Texas parents surveyed talked to their children about the dangers of riding with a drinking driver, but at least 25% of parents admitted to riding with a drinking driver in the past year. Nearly 55% said they had a drink or two at dinner and drove their children home in the past year. Research has shown that parents are the number one influence on their teens regarding alcohol use, including decisions regarding riding with a driver who has been drinking.
Since MADD’s inception in 1980, the organization has been instrumental in the passage of thousands of anti-drunk driving laws and brought to fruition the concept of the designated driver. Local MADD offices endeavor to reduce alcohol-related accidents in many communities and the overall incidence of drunk driving in Texas. Through initiatives like Power of Parents, they have facilitated the conversation between parents and teenagers, which has reduced the incidence of underage drunk-driving accidents in many states.
On June 19, 2015, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed a law that requires all drunk driving offenders to install an ignition interlock on their vehicles in order to have their driving privileges restored following an arrest. “The implementation of this law is an important step in creating a safer driving experience for all residents and visitors to the Lone Star State,” Gov. Abbott said. Previously, Texas required ignition interlock devices only for repeat offenders and those with a BAC of 0.15 and above. Championing all-offender interlock laws is an integral component of MADD’s Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving, launched in 2006. At the inception of this campaign, New Mexico was the only state with such a law, and as of June 2015, Texas was the 25th state to enact this potentially lifesaving law.
According to Texas law, being intoxicated while driving means having a BAC of 0.08 or higher. Regardless of the BAC, a person is considered intoxicated and driving under the influence if he or she is impaired in any way. A typical drinker can achieve that level of drunkenness from having two or three drinks in an hour. For women and adolescents, drinking just one or two drinks in an hour may lead to a BAC of 0.08.
Whether you are the driver or the passenger, you can be fined up to $500 for having an open alcohol container in a vehicle. You can be charged with child endangerment for driving while intoxicated if any passengers are 15 or younger. DWI with a child passenger is punishable by a fine as high as $10,000, up to two years in a state jail and loss of driver’s license for 180 days. Punishment for a general DWI is based on the number of convictions.
If you or a loved one has a drinking problem, seek help before you add to the high incidence of DWI in the Lone Star State. With more than 15 locations throughout Texas, The Right Step family of addiction treatment centers is one of the largest in the Southwest. Call us today at 1-844-756-2656.
Fill out the contact form or call us at (469) 240-9080 to schedule your free consultation.