Driving under the influence is not a joke. Houston is considered “ground zero” for drunken drivers. One hundred twenty-one people in Harris County alone were killed by drunk drivers in 2018. Not a good thing to have on a counties’ record,
DWI charges can change the course of your life. When you get one, you risk employment hardship, financial burdens and lose time in jail or probation. It would be ideal to understand these repercussions before getting stopped while driving impaired, right? Well, here are a few things you should have known before getting your DWI.
Is A DWI the same thing as a DUI?
In Texas, a DWI stands for driving while impaired. Most times, the difference between DUI and DWI depends on the state you’re charged in. For example, both a DWI and DUI could mean the same thing in various states.
Typically, state DUI laws are all somewhat similar in how they define drunk and drugged driving. In other words, the names don’t matter that much.
In some states, DWI refers only to driving while intoxicated of alcohol in the system over the legal limit. A DUI is usually used when a driver is charged with being under the influence of drugs, as well as alcohol.
Ok, So What is a DWI?
DWI can stand for “driving while intoxicated,” and in some cases, “driving while impaired.” Under Texas law, if you pulled over and an officer identifies a blood alcohol concentration (BOC) of 0.08 or higher, they can charge you with a DWI.
A DWI can also refer to any other recreational drug used while driving because it impairs your abilities behind the wheel.
Before you get your DWI, make sure to check in with your current physical state. Ask yourself the number of drinks you’ve consumed and the amount of food you’ve eaten during the period of drug consumption.
The truth is that two or three beers in an hour can make some people legally intoxicate, although they don’t feel like their drunk.
Getting a DWI can be easier than people think because reaching 0.08 percent can happen quite fast. In some jurisdictions, you could be charged with a DWI even if you don’t meet the BAC level for legal intoxication.
Texas, for example, defines intoxication as not having the normal use of mental or physical faculties because of the consumption of alcohol, a control substance, dangerous drugs, or a combination.
So you can be pulled over while operating a motor vehicle in a public place if an officer finds reasons to believe you didn’t have the mental or physical capacity to be driving.
You can expect to receive the following penalties if your BOC reaches 0.08:
- Suspension of your license up to a year
- Up to 180 days in jail
- An annual fee up to $2,000 to keep your driver’s license
- And additional cost up to $2,000
If you find yourself with your first DWI conviction, Texas law classifies it as a Class B Misdemeanor. Yet, a DWI first offense in Texas can escalate if it gets in the hands of a strong prosecutor. Fast prosecution includes more substantial criminal and administrative penalties.
Things don’t get pretty if you face a second-time conviction. Such penalties can escalate to:
- Suspension of your license up to two years
- Up to a year in jail
- Annual fees for three years up to $2,000 to keep the license
- An additional fee up to $4,000
If you continue to get convicted of a DWI, the penalties become stricter, irreversibly affecting your life.
If you’re driving under the influence with a child passenger or carrying a passenger younger than 15 years old, the punishment includes:
- A fine up to $10,000
- Up to two years in a state jail
- Loss of your driver license for 180 days
So you want to make sure that once you’re convicted, you can minimize your DWI penalties and not let the case overpower you with overwhelming evidence. Here on, you’ll need strong representation and a judge willing to reduce your sentence if it’s your first conviction.
Does an Arrest Make me Guilty?
No, it does not. Even when an officer brings you in for suspicion, you can’t say you’re automatically guilty. People are wrongly arrested for DWI plenty of times. An officer needs probable cause to arrest you, and a jury must have proof of it beyond a reasonable doubt. We’ll discuss how your defense can help you lessen your punishment further below.
Before you put yourself in a high-risk situation that includes alcohol, drugs and a vehicle consider the following things:
Telling Your officer you’ve been Drink
You don’t have to tell your officer if you have been drinking. You don’t have to say to the officer anything other than the information you have on your driver’s license. When they ask you for your license, you can hand them to them and stay silent.
Performing a Standardized Sobriety Test
People might feel flustered when this situation comes up. You don’t have to complete the sobriety test. These tests are quite complicated and challenging to perform either way if you’ve never been through one. Failing the test can make you look drunk, even you hadn’t consumed alcohol in the first place.
Accepting a Breathalyzer Test
If you’re pulled over in Texas, you can refuse to consent to a breathalyzer or breath test sample. The officer can then apply for a warrant to take a blood sample. If the warrant is signed by a judge, it’s not recommended to fight with them. If an issue were to arise with the warrant, your attorney would fight it in court.
Facing a DWI on Your Record
Whether a DWI stays on your record depends on the severity of your case. You might be eligible for a nondisclosure, which could prevent you from getting a specific job. And if you’re younger, a DWI can prevent you from getting into the college of your choice too. There’s also the option of erasing your case, but that alternative requires time, money, and a well-qualified DWI layer to advise you during the process.
Sealing a DWI Conviction
To seal your DWI conviction, a few factors must be met. First, you must not have been convicted of any other offense. Second, the blood test result was below 0.15. And third, there cannot be an accident that involved another person.
Finding an Attorney
When you find yourself with a DWI, you need to consider contacting highly experienced attorneys. If you choose to settle for a lower-priced and less-experienced attorney, the chances of facing negative consequences are higher.
For example, a prosecutor can enhance your DWI charges by factoring in the following:
- BAC percentage (usually 0.15 and above)
- If you were driving with minors in the car
- If you had a suspended or revoked license
- If excessive speed was involved in your case
- If the case involves injuries
- Previous convictions for DWI’s within the past ten years
When you’re being convicted for a DWI a prosecutor has to be able to prove the elements of the offense you’re charged with. Many types of defenses can get brought up, like whether the officer could view your driving or if problems arose with the blood test.
Your attorney will then need to decide which course of action is best for your case. In Houston, it can take a while for charges to be brought, and it can take a while for a case to be resolved.
While your case is going on, your attorney might go back to court, and you should be able to contact them and check-in for an update. Finding someone to represent you is as important as showing up in court.
As soon as you get your DWI, choose an attorney that you feel comfortable with, who listens to you, genuinely cares about your case and wants to fight for you. When you call a lawyer’s office, pay attention to who’s listening to the facts of your case.
If you notice a back and forth between paralegals and lawyers, and they do an intake with other lawyers, it can present a problem.
Factors That Work In Your Favor
As mentioned above, if your attorney is expedient with your case, they’ll be able to present elements in your favor. For example, they could offer the following factors:
- No driving defense: When an attorney raises this, it means that the officer did not observe the convicted person driving, or someone else was driving.
- Evidence of lower blood alcohol level: This factor can be raised by showing problems with the testing and margin of error with the breath or blood testing in general.
- Evidence of videos: This defense can be brought up if footage shows a perfect field sobriety test or that the driving wasn’t bad, and yet they blew into a machine, and the number was high.
In the case of the video, the defense can explain that there is a certain disconnect with how the officer perceived you as the driver. A skillful attorney might even raise the following question: “Did this person look impaired to you? Does their driving match the test results?
Since an arrest is based on an officer’s perception at the time of the events, an attorney must convince the jury that there are two sides to the story. Effective representation means that your attorney will provide a thorough analysis and opinion of your case to ensure that all your rights are protected.
Despite the possibilities of excellent defense, there is no telling how one case can end. Many battles are fought when you’re struggling in your DWI case.
More Ongoing Effects of a DWI Conviction
Your DWI is not an easy thing to grasp. Even after completion probation, following the law, and getting your license back, the effects will still be there. For example, once you get your hand on your license, you’ll likely need SR-22 insurance.
This insurance can double or even triple your premiums. So, on average, you can expect to pay higher premiums for about three years. Another possibility for you is the installation of an interlock device (IDD) on your vehicle.
Once the device is installed, you won’t be able to start your car unless you blow into the machine. When you blow into the device, it’ll determine you have not been drinking alcohol. The downside to this measure is that it requires you to pay for the device, the installations, and the monthly monitoring fee.
Another effect to consider is the mental toll the events can take on you or your loved ones. If you are taking a prescription or tend to be alcohol dependents, it’s best not to get behind the wheel. The laws are in place to avoid potentially dangerous situations that are worse than a DWI conviction.
Thinking Before Your Get Behind the Wheel
When you get arrested for driving under the influence it can be time-consuming. Let’s not forget; it’s also costly. And although it is 100 percent avoidable when faced, the only way to deal with your DWI when it happens is getting the best representation.
So, don’t settle for adverse impacts that a DWI charge can have on your life. Prepare yourself to avoid harsh penalties. The best way to do this is by understanding all the costs you could be up against. If you’re ready to discuss your case with an experienced attorney, contact us today.