How Does Texas Define A Charge For DWI?
In Texas, a DWI offense occurs when a person is suspected to be intoxicated while operating a motor vehicle in a public place. What is “intoxicated” is the next question most people have for the purposes of Texas DWI law. Intoxicated means that you have lost the normal use of your mental or physical faculties due to the introduction of chemicals. It could be drugs, alcohol, or a combination of drugs and alcohol. It could also be having a blood alcohol or breath alcohol concentration of 0.08 or above. Even if your blood alcohol content is not above the legal limit, you can still be considered intoxicated. Under Texas law, if a police officer determines that you have lost the normal use of your mental or physical faculties due to the introduction of chemical substances, you will be arrested.
Police officers determine the question of intoxication or impairment through what are known as standardized field sobriety tests, which are a set of three tests set out by the National Traffic Highway Safety Administration. The tests consist of a one leg stand, a walk and turn test, and a horizontal gaze Nystagmus test. In addition, there are observations that the officer makes when he pulls you over, including whether he smells alcohol. They use a totality of circumstances when determining whether you are intoxicated and whether you should be arrested.
What is the general process in a DWI case from the time that officers pull someone over to the time that they feel they can make the arrest?
Generally, when police make contact with someone on the side of the road, it is for a traffic violation. They will initiate a traffic stop and pull you over. Oftentimes, they will say they smell alcohol coming from the breath or person. Sometimes, they make observations that you have bloodshot, watery eyes, or that you slur your speech. If they find those things when they initially talk to you after the traffic stop, they will get you out of the vehicle and perform the three field sobriety tests. They will look for what they call clues in police jargon, such as whether you can keep your balance when you have your foot in the air and whether you can walk the line in a straightforward manner. There are a lot of other things that they look at, such as whether you turn improperly on the walk and turn and whether you touch heel to toe while walking down the line. As an experienced DWI defense attorney, I will walk you through each test and clue looking for errors in the manner in which police conduct their tests.
Nowadays, the sobriety tests are all videotaped, both in the patrol vehicle and also with a body camera that the police officers wear. They take into consideration the totality of the circumstances of the driving that they observed, the face-to-face contact, whether they smelled alcohol, and the evaluations of the sobriety tests. Some police agencies have a portable breath device and they will add that to the field sobriety tests to try to make a determination as to whether there is an indication of alcohol.
At what point during a DWI arrest is the person who is pulled over requested to give a breath or blood sample?
Generally, when you are already at the police station, you will get a warning that is read to you by the police. This warning is basically telling you that you have been placed under arrest for an offense that they suspect to have arisen out of you operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. They give you the option of whether you want to give a breath or blood test or refuse. It is becoming more common for police departments to call a judge and submit a probable cause affidavit to request a warrant for your blood, if you refuse. If they get a warrant, they will often take you to a hospital and draw your blood against your will. These “no refusal” warrants are often pushed through to your detriment.
What is the implied consent law in Texas and how does it relate to a DWI charge?
When you get a driver’s license in Texas, you are consenting to chemical testing of your breath or blood. You agree to take an alcohol test, if a police officer lawfully stops you and they suspect that you may be intoxicated. This includes people who operate anything from cars, to motorcycles, to boats. Just because you consented doesn’t mean that you automatically have to give a breath or blood test. However, there are certain consequences to refusing to do that and one of those involves the potential loss of your driver’s license privileges.
If you are lawfully requested to give a breath or blood test and you say no, there is a clock that begins to run. You have 15 days to request a hearing on why the Department of Public Safety in Texas should not suspend your license. There are two types of tests covered under implied consent: the breath test and the blood test. If you do agree to give a blood or breath test and you fail it, there still are some potential consequences to your license, as a result of the implied consent law. You could lose your license for anywhere from 90 days, on a first offense, all the way up to a year, if you’ve had other alcohol enforcement contact within the last 10 years.
It is critical to hire an experienced DWI lawyer to protect your driving privileges immediately after your arrest.
For more information on DWI Cases, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (817) 877-0401 today.