What's the difference between a "DWI" and a "DUI?"
In Texas, the state officially uses the term "Driving While Intoxicated" ("DWI") to describe a motorist that is operating a motor vehicle in a public place over the legal limit for blood alcohol concentration or while under the influence of drugs (either of the prescription or street variety). Many people often use the term "Driving Under the Influence" ("DUI") interchangeably with DWI when referring to drunk driving offenses, but this is not correct in Texas. In Texas, a DUI is a case in which a motorist under the age of 21 has any detectable amount of alcohol in his/her system. This is based on the fact that the legal drinking age in Texas is 21.
What is the legal blood alcohol concentration ("BAC") level for the state of Texas?
Texas driving laws prohibit any motorist from operating a motor vehicle with a BAC level of .08% or more. However, if a law enforcement officer determines that a motorist has lost the normal use of his/her physical or mental faculties - as a result of the introduction of another type of intoxicant into the body, he/she can be arrested for suspicion of DWI even if there is no alcohol in his/her system.
What is the effect on a person's privilege to drive for a DWI first offense arrest?
Many people assume that a DWI arrest will result in an automatic license suspension. While this is not true, it WILL result in an automatic suspension if you don't take the right steps. You must request an Administrative License Revocation Hearing ("ALR") with the Texas Department of Public Safety within 15 days of your arrest. Otherwise, your license will automatically be suspended on the 41st day after the arrest. Typically, the range of possible driver's license suspension will vary depending upon the specifics of your case. What's important is acting fast to try to avoid a suspension of your driver's license.
What if this isn't my first DWI offense?
The consequences for subsequent DWI arrests get progressively more severe. A second offense carries a fine up to $4,000 and county jail time up to 12 months, and a third (or more) offense carries a fine of up to $10,000 and prison sentence anywhere between two (2) and 10 years in the Texas Department of Corrections.
Can I get a DWI charge dismissed?
After getting charged with a DWI, most people hope to have their charges dismissed altogether. Depending on the circumstances of your case, you may be able to get your charge dismissed, as the state carries the burden of proving each and every element of a DWI charge beyond a reasonable doubt. If it can't carry that heavy burden, they must dismiss. You are also constitutionally entitled to a jury trial, the result of which could be an acquittal by that jury. In some Texas counties, the District Attorney might be willing to offer a "Pretrial Intervention" program, whereby you agree to complete certain terms and conditions over a period of time in exchange for an eventual dismissal. In rare cases, the DWI charge may be reduced to a "reckless driving" or "obstruction of a highway" charge, which are criminal charges with fewer negative overall consequences.
Can I get a DWI without "driving?"
In Texas, a motorist can get charged with a DWI without actually "driving" or moving the vehicle. The law defines a DWI as simply operating a vehicle in a public place while intoxicated. Texas courts have broadly defined the term "operate" to include any action that can affect the functioning of a vehicle in a manner that enables its use. For example, you could be in the vehicle with the engine running and engine in gear but with your foot firmly on the brake pedal, making it impossible for the vehicle to move. This scenario could be the basis of a DWI arrest.
Can I refuse a blood or breath test after being arrested for a DWI?
Texas has enacted "implied consent" laws which require all drivers who have been lawfully arrested for a DWI to submit to a blood or breath test. This is based on the Texas Supreme Court's holding that driving is a "privilege" and not a "right." Texas motorists must apply for a driver's license, and in doing so the Court has held that the motorist "impliedly consented" to blood or breath testing if a law enforcement officer believes that there is probable cause to suggest that the motorist is operating a motor vehicle in a public place while intoxicated. As a result of this implied consent doctrine, the law enforcement officer can get a "vampire warrant" signed by a magistrate or judge and then can quite literally strap you down and forcibly take your blood for future lab analysis. This may seem like pretzel-logic by the Court, but it is the current state of Texas law.
Can I avoid a criminal conviction if I'm under the age of 21?
Any individual between the ages of 17 and 21 charged with a DWI offense can receive an adult criminal conviction. It's important to remember that Texas recognizes any individual aged 17 or older as an adult when it comes to convicting a person of an adult criminal offense.