Charged with DWI?
If you were arrested or charged with Driving While Intoxicated (DWI), you are likely worried about what this will mean for your license, and your future. We can help you face DWI charges by standing at your side throughout the entire ordeal. Individuals accused of DWI could be face these penalties:
- Steep fines
- Jail time
- Driver’s license suspension
- Higher car insurance premiums
Depending on the specifics of your case, we may be able to help reduce or drop the charges by challenging the presented evidence against you. We may even be able to prove that you were unlawfully pulled over by police, which could result in a case dismissal.
DWI cases are time-sensitive. You only have only 15 days to request an Administrative License Revocation (ALR) hearing with the Department of Public Safety. If you do not request this meeting, your license could be automatically suspended.
Below are several common areas of interest, where you can learn more about DWI cases.
Before we discuss the possibility of losing your license, let’s make the distinction between a driver’s license card and the privilege to drive. When a person is arrested for the offense of driving while intoxicated, the arresting officer will likely take the driver’s license card from the individual. Many clients mistakenly believe that the mere confiscation of this card means they may not legally drive in Texas. However, the privilege to drive remains even after the card is taken by the officer.
Without the ability to drive, daily life can become difficult to maintain. Work and family responsibilities are all but impossible when one is forced to rely on public transportation. To most people, the ability to keep their privilege to drive is at least as important as keeping their criminal record clean. Unfortunately, without vigilance on the part of a lawyer, an accused person can easily lose that privilege.
Two Ways to Lose Your Driver’s License
There are two ways this can happen. The first is through an Administrative License Revocation (ALR); Texas is an implied consent state. This means that when an individual is granted a license, they consent to the taking of a breath test if requested by an officer. Nonetheless, an officer cannot force someone to blow into a machine and if an accused citizen refuses, DPS is authorized to suspend the privilege to drive for 180 days for a first offender.
Both the refusal to take a breath test and the failure of a breath test authorizes DPS to suspend the driver’s license, but despite what many lawyers believe, suspension is not automatic unless the accused citizen fails to contest it. In such a case, the suspension becomes effective 40 days after arrest. The driver’s license revocation hearing is a civil proceeding that takes place long before the criminal trial. The prosecution has neither the chance, nor inclination to speak with the officer about the case until it is set for a trial or suppression. At the ALR hearing, the criminal defense attorney can:
- Request the presence of the officer
- Place him or her under oath
- Cross-examine on specific facts that impacted on his decision to arrest his client for DWI
The second way an accused person can lose his or her driver’s license is somewhat simpler. In addition to an Administrative License Revocation, an accused person can lose their driver’s license upon final conviction of DWI. If a person is convicted of DWI and the sentence isn’t probated, the court must order a suspension of that individual’s driver’s license from anywhere between 90 days and 1 year.
There are very few privileges that people enjoy more than the right to drive an automobile.
The laws regarding driver’s license suspensions are getting tougher every year. Currently, your driver’s license is subject to a suspension if you refuse or fail the breath test. A judge has the ability to suspend for varying amounts of time, as the occasion dictates. You need an attorney who has the ability to communicate your position clearly to the judge.
Keep in mind that simply because you have been informed by your arresting officer that your driver’s license will be suspended, that does not make it so, even if he or she took your license card.
Contrary to popular belief, these tests are not legally required; you may decline to take them. There are about a dozen exercises used by law enforcement as field sobriety tests. The most common include the modified position of attention test, touching finger-to-nose, reciting the alphabet, rapidly touching four fingers to the thumb, and the rapidly alternating hand pat. If you do take them, we can work to demonstrate for a jury that these field sobriety tests are designed for failure.
The federal government’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has funded research which found that only three tests are effective in detecting intoxication:
When it comes to defending against a DWI, no two strategies are alike. Our Denton lawyers at the Wohr Law Office create our defense based on each client’s specific circumstances. We utilize our experience to approach every case in a strategic and effective manner.
The following investigative steps are typical of DWI stops:
- The officer stops a driver for a traffic violation
- The officer identifies that the driver has been drinking
- The officer administers field sobriety tests
- The officer administers a chemical test of some sort to verify the alcohol content in the driver’s body
Each step in the investigation can be successfully attacked. Call our firm today at (940) 382-4166 and we can begin building a defense for you.
Understanding Your Rights During a Stop
It is unconstitutional for an officer to stop a vehicle without cause. Even in instances where law enforcement has set up road check points, they must have a significant reason and follow a set process in order to avoid violating rights. If the stop is without cause, all the evidence that is accumulated thereafter to prove a person was driving while intoxicated will be suppressed.
Typically, an officer will stop because he or she claims to have witnessed a traffic violation. Even in the tactical situation where a DWI Task Force officer is looking only for a reason to stop, with the ultimate goal of investigating for the crime of DWI, the stop will be upheld if the driver legitimately violated a traffic law. Intent for the stop is irrelevant as long as the officer had cause to do so.
An attack on the officer’s stop can be a powerful way of defeating the state’s DWI charge, but it is not the only way of defending a DWI case. Even if the officer had cause to stop for a traffic violation, he may only seize a person on the side of the road for the amount of time necessary to effectuate the purpose of the stop. Unless the officer has reasonable suspicion to believe the driver is intoxicated, he or she must issue the ticket and release the driver.
If the officer has no information to believe the driver had been drinking alcohol or was otherwise impaired, they cannot then continue on with the investigation. In other words, an officer cannot just ask just any driver to stay on the side of the road and submit to embarrassing field sobriety tests.
Oftentimes, the officer may testify at trial with different reasons why an arrest occurred following a stop, including:
- Driver smelled of alcohol
- Driver stumbled upon exiting the vehicle
- Driver had slurred speech or trouble retrieving driver’s license when requested
- Driver admitted to drinking alcohol
The arresting officer must prepare an offense report after each arrest. They are trained, both at the academy and in DWI training, to report every important fact that justifies a DWI arrest. Officers are further required under Texas law to submit a sworn report to the Department of Public Safety after each arrest when the driver refuses or fails a breath test. We have seen many instances in which an officer’s testimony is largely discounted due to conflicting statements in court and in the report, and when it relates to the continued seizure of our clients, suppression is the likely possibility.
Keep in mind that in Texas, an accused citizen has a right to present constitutional violations to the judge and jury, when there is a fact issue about the stop or detention.
The court system gives an accused person charged with multiple DWI’s much attention than they would give a first time offender. By Statute, the Judge must order a breath test device to be installed in a defendant’s car as a condition of bail.
Penalties for Multiple DWI Charges
It is imperative that you understand the risks associated with driving while intoxicated, especially if you already have one or more DWI offense on your record. Aside from the dangers it presents, DWIs can result in lifelong changes.
A conviction for a second DWI carries with it more punishment. The top end of the range of punishment is increased to a maximum of 1 year in jail. Probation is still available, but there is a minimum of 3 days in jail required as a condition of probation.
A DWI charge after two prior convictions is a third degree felony. Punishment is increased, with a range of 2 to 10 years in prison. Probation is still available, but felony probation is onerous and minimum jail time increases to 10 days.
No matter how many prior DWI’s you have received, you are still potentially eligible for an occupational driver’s license.
The consequences of a DWI can be lifelong reminders of a mistake. We aim to help you avoid conviction, and the corresponding penalties.
DWI, 1st Offense: Class B Misdemeanor in Texas
- Fine – A fine not to exceed $2,000.
- Jail – Confinement in the county jail for a term of no less the 72 hours or more than 6 months. If there was an open container of alcohol in your car when arrested, the minimum term of confinement is 6 days in the county jail.
- Community service – Texas judges typically order no less than 24 hours or more than 200 hours.
Many people who are convicted of a first offense DWI are granted community supervision of any confinement ordered. The general length of DWI probation is from 1-2 years. There are also conditions of community supervision ordered that are fairly standard in most courts. Typical conditions imposed are:
- Drug / alcohol evaluation – A person convicted of DWI will be required to submit to evaluation for probability of committing DWI in the future and / or to disclose a potential problem with alcohol or drug abuse.
- Attend and complete an approved DWI Education class within 180 days from the date of conviction
- Attend and complete a Victim Impact Panel.
- Work faithfully at suitable employment, remain at the same place of residence and employment unless notification is given to the community supervision officer
- Pay a monthly supervision fee.
- Perform a specified number of hours of community or volunteer service.
DWI, Second Offense
It is important to note that if arrested and accused of a DWI second or greater offense, Texas law now requires the court to order as a condition of release from jail on bond, that the person install and maintain a deep lung air device on the car that the person intends to drive and operate while charges are pending. The device requires a breath sample before it will allow you to start your car. They also require periodic breaths while driving to monitor and ensure sobriety.
Although this device seems to violate the privacy of the citizen, Texas courts have consistently held that such condition is necessary to protect a legitimate governmental interest in making public roadways safe for everyone else.
- Fine – A fine not to exceed $4,000.
- Jail – Confinement in the county jail for a term of no less than 72 hours or more than one year.
- Community service – Texas law mandates that a judge order no less than 80 hours or more than 200 hours.
- Deep lung air device – Deep lung devices are usually required for all DWI second offenders during probation.
- Suspension of driver’s license – A person convicted of DWI, second may have their driving privilege suspended for no less than 180 days or more than two (2) years.
DWI, Third Offense (or Higher): Third Degree Felony
- Fine – A fine not to exceed $10,000.
- Jail – Confinement in a penitentiary for a term of no less than 2 years or more than 10 years.
- Deep lung air device – Deep lung air devices are generally ordered on all persons convicted of three or more DWI’s both as conditions of bond
- Community service – No less than 140 hours and no more than 800 hours.
A third conviction for DWI indicates a significant problem with alcohol to the court or jury assessing punishment. Some type of rehabilitative treatment is therefore mandated in punishment if confinement in the penitentiary is to be avoided. In some cases an in-patient, incarceration program is ordered. This program requires confinement in a state facility for alcohol rehabilitation. After successful completion of the program, the person is then released and placed on probation for a term not to exceed 10 years.
Texas law does not provide for any increased punishment after DWI, third offense. If a person presents a fourth or greater DWI, then the typical punishment is confinement in the penitentiary from 2 – 10 years without probation.
The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution was established in order to protect citizens from unreasonable search and seizure. This Amendment limits the power of law enforcement officers to make arrests, search people and private property, and seize any tangible items including evidence of criminal activity (such as driving with an open alcohol container).
Search and seizure laws have traditionally held that if a person voluntarily gives up his or her right to protections, then law enforcement has the right to search. During our free initial consultation, we will examine whether you did so at the time you were stopped.
There is a clear public interest in preventing drunk driving that may endanger other motorists and pedestrians. In this context, it would seem that the goal of search and seizure laws are to protect your privacy while at the same time, allow officers to reasonably pursue criminal justice and protect the public from danger if they suspect you are driving while intoxicated. In some cases, when there is probable cause, an officer can conduct a search without a search warrant when he or she has reason to believe that a search is necessary to protect the public from imminent danger. Furthermore, cars can be searched without a warrant in certain cases.