To avoid a DWI in Texas, you should know at least five things.
I. DWI in Texas
IV. Sobriety Tests
V. Avoid Arrest
I. DWI in Texas
It’s illegal to drive while intoxicated. Doing so is DWI in Texas. For those age 21 and older, DWI is driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or higher. For commercial drivers it’s 0.04%. And for those under age 21, including adults age 18 through 20, it’s any detectable amount.
Few states prohibit any detectable alcohol in the blood. That’s because they want to reduce the chances of convicting innocent young drivers.
Here’s the logic. Alcohol breath testers are unreliable. They don’t really measure BAC. (That requires analysis of a sample of actual blood.) The breat testers only indirectly estimate it. That’s why not all states permit them.
Another problem is that everyone produces alcohol naturally within their bodies. They do this 24/7. And that includes all young drivers. Also, many meds and foods contain alcohol. This even includes baked goods such as bread.
So permitting BACs under 0.02% would be good policy. It would help protect the innocent.
The exact penalties imposed for DWI in Texas vary. Many factors cause these differences. They include such things as these.
- Driver’s Age.
- Type of license.
- Estimated BAC.
- The impairing substance(s)
- Any prior DUIs.
- Results of the DWI, if any (property damage, injuries, etc.)
- Any minors in the vehicle.
- Skill of driver’s attorney.
- Characteristics of driver (demeanor in court, race, socio-economic status, etc.)
- Beliefs and personality of judge hearing the case. That’s just the luck of the draw.
Some penalties are mandated, others are within ranges, and others are purely up to the judge.
Driver Age 21 and Older
- Jail for two to ten years.
- Fine up to $10,000.
- Driving license suspension for up to two years.
- Annual surcharge of up to $2,000 for three years.
Driver Under Age 21
Texas has a Zero Tolerance Law for those under 21. For this reason, it’s illegal for them to drive with any alcohol or drugs in their systems.
- License suspension for up to one year.
- Fine up to $500.
- Required alcohol education program.
- Possibility of required community service.
- Possibile ignition interlock device (IID). An IDD prevents the vehicle from starting if there’s alcohol in the driver’s breath. It’s basically a breathalyzer test that the offender must pass every time before driving. Learn more about ignition interlock devices.
Passenger Under Age 15
- Jail up to two years.
- Fine up to $10,000.
- Automatic license suspension for 180 days.
There are also Extreme DWI crimes. Intoxication assault is when a DWI causes serious bodily harm to someone else. Intoxication manslaughter is when a DWI results in someone’s death. The penalties for Extreme DWI are very high.
How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Your Body?
III. The Costs
Getting charged with an DWI in Texas is expensive. And this is true even if you’re innocent. Of course, it’s even more expensive if a judge or jury convicts you.
The cost of a legal DWI defense is very hard to estimate. That’s because the complexity of cases varies widely. And more complex cases take more of a lawyer’s time. That means more money.
It’s wise to select an lawyer who specializes in DUI defense. The knowledge and experience of such a lawyer is important. In fact, such a lawyer may take less time.
Its clear that simply asking lawyers how much they charge per hour isn’t helpful. It’s like asking a house builder how much it costs to build a house.
There are a number of other costs. They may include fines, court costs, property damage, medical expenses, possible loss of a job, increased insurance rates, and other expenses. The total can be high. It can easily be more than lawyer fees and expenses. Therefore, the total cost of an DWI can easily be tens of thousands of dollars.
In addition, there are non-money costs as well. They may include pain and suffering, feelings of guilt, embarrassment, driving license suspension, loss of friendships, and many others.
Knowing the high costs of a DWI is very useful. It’s a great motivation. That can help us try to avoid getting one.
IV. Sobriety Tests
All states require drivers to submit to alcohol breath tests (estimators). That, in spite of their proven unreliability.
All drivers have a Constitutional right to decline taking a chemical BAC test. In spite of that, the state punishes those who use their right. The first time a driver uses the right, it’s punished with a license suspension of 180 days. If the driver uses the right within ten years, the punishment is license suspension for two years.
Field Sobriety Tests
But no state requires drivers to take a field sobriety test. And that’s good. Simply put, field sobriety tests lack validity. That’s why about one-third of completely sober people with a 0.00% BAC fail them. And they do so under ideal conditions. Plus they aren’t nervous being arrested and spending time in jail
Taking a field sobriety test on an uneven highway shoulder, cars driving past, and a police car with flashing lights is far from ideal. Being pulled over by police and being very nervous is far from ideal. So the “real world” failure rate for completely sober people must be much higher.
So lawyers strongly urge drivers never to submit to any field sobriety test. On the other hand, police want suspects to take them. They often falsely insist the law requires it. It doesn’t. Or they say that passing it proves you’re innocent. It doesn’t.
An officer who pulls over a driver for suspected impaired driving is conducting a criminal investigation. The officer may legally lie to you. Remember that if you are a suspect in a crime, the officer is your adversary.
Learn much more about field sobriety tests. You won’t like what you learn. But knowledge really is power to protect yourself. Also, learn What to Do If You Are Pulled Over.
V. Avoid Arrest
One way to avoid a DWI is by not drinking. Other choices include an Uber, take a bus, or use a Designated Driver.
Most drivers enjoy drinking. They may lack a Designated Driver or access to a bus. And they may be unable to afford Uber or Lynks.
So how can drivers drink before driving, yet avoid arrest? The answer is simple and legal. Maintain a low BAC.
These guidelines can help keep a low BAC.
- Remember that standard drinks of beer, wine and spirits have the same amount of pure alcohol.
- Have no more than one standard drink each hour. Preferably less.
- Avoid non-standard drinks. This makes it easier to keep track of alcohol intake.
- Eat and snack while drinking. This is very important!
- Have a non-alcoholic drink between alcoholic ones.
- Accept an alcoholic drink only when it fits your drinking schedule.
- Never play any drinking game.
- Don’t try to “keep up” with the drinking of others.
This website strongly opposes impaired driving. But it also supports the U.S. Constitution and the rights it grants both the innocent and the guilty.
Arrested for DWI in Texas?
If you’re charged with an DWI in Texas, contact a lawyer fast. The attorney should specialize in drinking and driving cases. Better yet is one whose practice is limited to such cases.
The Texas State Bar (lawyers’ group) provides a free lawyer referral service. Also, the Martingale guide offers a free on-line database with lawyers by specialty and geographic location. In addition, it provides free client and peer evaluations.
Resources: Avoid a DWI in Texas
- Brezina, C. I’ve Gotten a DWI/DUI, Now What? NY: Rosen.
- Gillespie, L. Police Encounters. Know Your Rights. Gillespie.
- Hudson, T. The Drinker’s Guide to Driving. Cork: BookBaby.
- Keech, C. & Fairchild, C. Dude, What are My Rights? Kansas City, MO: Keechild.
- Lauterjung, L. DUI law for Drivers. How to Avoid DUI Arrests and How to Handle a DUI Stop. Lauterjung.
- Nevels, T. Avoid DWI and Marijuana Charges. Cork: BookBaby.
- Sagsletter, R. Rights During a Police Stop / What Officers Can and Cannot Do. Denver, CO: Outskirts.
This site gives no advice. Please see a lawyer for that.