Driving under the influence is a very serious crime in the state of Texas. There is zero tolerance for it; and if you are arrested, charged, and convicted of a DWI offense, you could face thousands of dollars in fines, months in prison, and suspension of your license—even if it is a first offense.
It is important to understand the particulars of DWI in Texas in order to be prepared to fight a conviction should you have the misfortune to be charged with the crime.
The first thing you should know is that there is no substantive difference between a drug DWI and an alcohol DWI. The law views them both as the operation of a motor vehicle in a state of intoxication. Of course, the presence of drugs in your system cannot be picked up by a breathalyzer. However, if you have taken drugs you may display the same symptoms as drunkenness, and this will give police the cause they need to pull you over for suspected DWI.
Drugs, whether prescription, over the counter, or illegal, is for the purpose of a DWI charge the same as alcohol. Even if you have permission to take the drugs, and indeed must stick to a strict schedule to combat your condition, you are liable for criminal prosecution if the drug impairs your mental or physical capabilities. If it induces drowsiness, sleepiness, or dizziness, you can be charged with driving under the influence.
You should always read the labels of drug containers and seek the advice of pharmacists before taking any kind of medicine and then driving. You should also rely on your own experience with the drug. If you know it clouds your head and impairs your ability to concentrate, you should not risk driving—even if the drive is short. Some of the most common types of drugs that impair the faculties include:
You should be wary of driving if you have prescriptions for any of these drugs, as they are known to have side effects that can make you, as a driver, a hazard on the road.
A police officer who pulls you over on suspicion of DWI will ask you whether you have been drinking. If you reply in the negative, they will go on to ask if you have taken any drugs—legal or illegal. You should not lie to law enforcement officers. If you have taken drugs and find yourself in such a situation, it is best to refuse to answer.
You may have made a mistake. However, the moment the cop pulled you over and began asking you questions put you in legal jeopardy. Your priority at that point is the protection of your legal rights. Paramount among those rights is the Fifth Amendment, which protects you against self-incrimination.
You can refuse the breathalyzer. If you do so, you will be arrested and taken into custody. The police will offer you the further choice of having a blood test done, which may show the presence of drugs in your system. You can refuse this test as well. If you do, you will be charged. You should then call a criminal defense attorney.
Texas has implied consent laws. This means that all drivers lawfully arrested for DWI must submit to a breath or blood test. Drivers who do not submit will have their license suspended. For a first time offender, the suspension can last for 180 days. Those on their second and third offense will be without a license for up to 2 years.
The amount of alcohol you have to drink to reach the legal limit depends on the strength of the drink as well as your gender and body size. It is important to keep these factors in mind before you decide to get behind the wheel of a car after drinking.
The best option is not to drive at all after drinking. You should either take a taxi home and come back for your vehicle the next day or hitch a ride with a designated driver. Even if you think you can operate a vehicle after only a glass or two or you believe you know the amount of alcohol that will keep you within the legal limit, it is still risky behavior—the kind of behavior that can put you in serious trouble with the law.
For a Blood Alcohol Count (BAC) of .15 or more, you can get up to a year in jail, a $4,000 fine, a 12-month license suspension, and the mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device before you can drive. The severity of the penalties only increases for second and third convictions.
When You Are Innocent
The police do not always get it right when they make stops and arrests for DWI. If you have been stopped on suspicion of DWI and you have done nothing wrong, then you should cooperate fully with the officer who pulled you over. Always keep your hands where the officer can see them and answer questions in a direct, calm, and polite tone.
It sometimes happens that a police officer will want to take you to the station if you have passed a breathalyzer. They may suspect that you are under the influence of some other substance and want to further test you. If the situation develops to this point, you should seek the services of a lawyer. And you should not say or do anything until your attorney arrives.
Your lawyer will advise you on the questions you have to answer, and they will give you additional advice on whether or not to submit to a blood test. However, it will ultimately be up to you whether you decide to do so. If you know you have done nothing wrong, you may refuse to take such a test on principle. Of course, at that point, law enforcement will have the authority to suspend your license.
How an Attorney Can Help
It is terribly inconvenient to live and work without the ability to drive your car. You should not have to put up with this difficulty and indignity because of mere suspicion. It is possible for you to fight your license suspension.
A criminal defense attorney can help you. They have the experience and expertise to challenge the original stop and arrest, and therefore prove the injustice of the suspension. To get your license restored, you will need to go before a judge; and the latter will need to see clear proof that your rights were somehow violated. It will be up to your lawyer to demonstrate this.
Whenever you are pulled over for a DWI, you should always remember—and if you can write down—certain facts concerning the circumstances of the event. You should always get the name and badge number of the officer who stopped you. You should also remember the speed you were going and any other details of the moment. These will all prove useful to your attorney as they put the case together for your unlawful treatment.
If you were guilty of being under the influence of drugs or alcohol, your lawyer can still help. If it was your first offense, your lawyer may be able to work with prosecutors to get the case reduced to a “wet recklessness” charge, which is a reckless driving charge that involves drugs or alcohol.
A drugs or alcohol DWI charge must be taken seriously. If you have been charged with either, then you need legal representation. Call The Law Office of John L. Venza Jr. today for a consultation.