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Can I be charged with drunk driving if my BAC is below 0.08 percent?

Texas DWI attorney

The blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level in Texas (like most of the United States) is 0.08 percent. This means that those who drive impaired by alcohol at this level are legally considered too drunk to drive.

There is a dangerous myth surrounding DWIs in Texas. Many people believe that they can't be arrested and charged with DWI if their BAC is below 0.08 percent. Wrong.

DWI errors in field sobriety and breath tests

Police often make errors in judgment when suspecting that someone is driving drunk. They can make an arrest if they have determined that you were driving impaired. Police will administer field sobriety tests and breath tests. Neither of these are foolproof, however.

Field sobriety tests involve three tasks to assess a person's balance, coordination, and ability to divide attention. These tasks include:

  • Horizontal gaze nystagmus: An officer asks the driver to visually follow an object from side to side. This method determines if the driver's eyes fail to follow the object smoothly or if there is jerking in the eyes.
  • Walk-and-turn: An officer asks the driver to take nine steps heel-to-toe on a straight line, then turn on one foot and do the same in the opposite direction. This method determines if the driver fails to maintain balance and coordination or follow directions.
  • One-leg stand: An officer asks the driver to stand on one leg with the other foot six inches off the ground and count from 1,001 until instructed to put the foot down. This method determines if the driver fails to maintain balance and coordination.

A person may fail a field sobriety test if he or she suffers from a certain medical condition or disability, has sustained an injury, is fatigued, or is taking certain medications.

Police administer breath tests to determine a driver's BAC. Drivers blow into a small device, which then yields a reading.

As we discussed in December 2019, breath tests have been found to be unreliable in many cases. In fact, several people have been wrongfully convicted of DWI due to a false breathalyzer reading.

Police can arrest you for 'noticeable impairment'

Even if you have a BAC level below 0.08 percent, you can be arrested if you're deemed "noticeably impaired." This happens if:

  • A driver has a low tolerance to alcohol
  • Suffers from fatigue
  • Has taken prescription medication
  • Suffers from mental illness, a medical condition, or disability

If you have been charged with a DWI in Texas, the consequences can be more than just a nuisance. First-time offenders could face up to six months in jail, a $2,000 fine, license suspension of 90 days up to one year, pay an additional state traffic fine of $3,000-$6,000, and even face probation.

You need a strong legal defense to help fight the charges. With more than 10 years of trial experience, DWI lawyer Amanda Webb can help you do that. Contact us to find out how we can help.

Texas police may soon use breath tests to detect THC on drivers

Texas DWI attorney

How can police tell if a driver is under the influence of THC? Traditional methods have included the keen judgment of Drug Recognition Experts (DREs), as we have discussed in a July 2019 post. This includes asking questions, observing suspects' behavior, checking suspects' pupils, and calling on suspects to submit to blood tests.

Determining someone's level of impairment from THC may be difficult, however. That's because THC can stay in a person's system for days after using marijuana.

Two researchers at the University of Pittsburgh have developed a device that may detect THC on someone's breath, according to NPR. Chemistry professor Alexander Star and electrical and computer professor Ervin Sejdic built the prototype in 2016. This came on the heels of several states legalizing marijuana for recreational use.

How does the THC breathalyzer work?

The device uses carbon nanotubes that are 1,100,000 the size of human hair. When a person blows into the device, the THC molecule binds to the nanotubes. Moreover, the device is sensitive enough to bypass alcohol and other substances and exclusively sense THC.

The developers have also placed a limit on how much THC the device can detect. This threshold may allow the device to differentiate between someone who used marijuana days ago from someone who is currently under the influence of THC.

Star says that the device is only one step away from mass-production.

Challenges posed by THC breath tests

A device similar to the one developed by Star and Sejdic has already been tested by police, according to NBC's Today. Hound Labs in Oakland, California developed the device. It can reportedly detect THC from all cannabis sources.

The use of a THC breathalyzer poses some legal challenges, however. For one, there is currently no standard legal limit for THC. Any amount of THC on someone's breath could potentially lead to an arrest.

Another legal issue posed by THC breathalyzers is reliability. Standard alcohol breath tests have led to DWI arrests and convictions for years. Investigations have revealed that these devices can produce inaccurate results. So, who's to say that a technical hiccup in a THC breathalyzer won't produce erroneous evidence against an innocent person?

If you were arrested and charged with DWI in Texas, the consequences can be harsh. A first offense can result in three days to 180 days in jail, a fine up to $2,000, loss of driver's license up to a year, and annual fees up to $2,000 to retain your driver's licenses. The penalties can be more severe for second and subsequent convictions.

That's why it's critical that you consult with an experienced attorney. Texas DWI attorney Amanda Webb can launch an investigation and help you devise a strong legal defense. To learn more, contact Amanda Webb - DWI Lawyer online today.

Breath tests found to be unreliable, according to investigation

Texas DWI attorney

A New York Times investigation found that breathalyzers used by police around the country are faulty. Some were found to report test results as much as 40 times too high. In other words, legally sober motorists are being convicted of drunken driving. They now have criminal records, they may have been fined or lost their licenses or even jailed, and they are paying more for insurance.

The newspaper reported that toothpaste, mouthwash, breath mints, and hand sanitizer can prompt incorrect breathalyzer reports. If you burp during a test, it can also skew the results.

The Times discovered problems in the states of:

  • Pennsylvania: a judge called breathalyzer reliability “extremely questionable.”
  • Florida: a panel of judges described the machines as a “magic black box” that produced “significant and continued anomalies.”
  • Vermont: the state’s toxicology lab discovered inaccurate results on “almost every test.”
  • Massachusetts: nearly 29,000 DWI tests were invalidated after they were used to convict drivers.
  • New Jersey: more than 13,000 people were found guilty based on results from machines that had not been set up properly.

Humans cannot be trusted

Breathalyzers are finely tuned machines that require constant maintenance and calibrations. In some cases, law enforcement agencies lack the technical knowledge. In other cases, they lack the willingness to keep the machines in proper working order.

Some law enforcement agencies have disabled a machine’s safeguards for accuracy. They also make changes to machines that affect quality control. Agencies used outdated chemicals in testing or deliberately faked calibration reports, in other cases.

In Washington, D.C, the attorney general’s office decided against notifying some 700 people who had pleaded guilty to DWI that the machines used against them inflated results. In Massachusetts, officers used a machine that had rats nesting inside.

Trust an experienced DWI defense attorney

If you have been arrested for DWI in Texas, you face severe penalties. For a first-time offender, they include a fine of up to $2,000, three to 180 days in jail, loss of license for up to a year and an annual fee of up to $6,000 for three years to retain your license.

Fighting a DWI is not easy. Navigating the courts by yourself is tricky. The rules are complex. One simple mistake can undermine your case.

Texas DWI Attorney Amanda Webb has been representing people just like you since 1990. Based in Conroe, she also represents drivers in the Houston and the Woodlands areas, and Montgomery and Waller counties. A former prosecutor, Amanda Webb knows exactly what you are up against. She understands the law and is familiar with the courts. She will aggressively defend your rights in her pursuit of justice.

Contact her today for a free case consultation.

Police to ramp up efforts to crack down on DWI offenders this holiday season

Texas DWI attorney

There is no disputing that people tend to drink and drive more often during the holiday season than at any other time of the year. It starts with the night before Thanksgiving, which has been dubbed "Blackout Wednesday" and is now regarded as one of the biggest drinking days of the year. The season runs through New Year's Day.

In response to the uptick in drunk driving during this period, law enforcement will amp up its efforts to keep drunk drivers off the road. Unfortunately, those who haven't had anything to drink, or are driving within the legal blood alcohol content (BAC) range below 0.08 percent, are impacted by police crackdowns.

Texas police to increase patrols during the holiday season

According to one local source, police departments across the State of Texas have received grants from TxDOT to have extra officers on patrol. In addition, many officers will be working overtime to catch drunk drivers. These efforts are a part of a national crackdown on drunk driving, which is sponsored by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

All it takes is a slight traffic misstep to become a DWI suspect. Luckily, unlike many states across the U.S., Texas police are not allowed to set up sobriety checkpoints. Instead, they'll likely scan the road for certain behaviors that could indicate that a driver is intoxicated. These include:

  • Swerving or crossing painted lines in the road
  • Driving significantly above or below the speed limit
  • Failing to use signals
  • Tailgating other cars
  • Stopping or braking without an apparent cause
  • Taking abrupt turns
  • Failing to turn on headlights

While these driving behaviors may hint that a driver is driving drunk, they only give police a reason to pull drivers over. The observations and tests that come next may give them enough probable cause to make an arrest.

It starts with observations, including:

  • Listening for slurred speech
  • Watching the eyes for quick movement
  • Listening for delays in response
  • Smelling the scent of alcohol

Drunk-driving tests will likely follow

After making observations and asking questions, a field sobriety test and breath test will most likely follow.

Field sobriety tests are administered in three tiers:

  • The horizontal gaze nystagmus: The officer will move a small object (such as a pen or small flashlight) back and forth, and observe the driver's eyes.
  • The walk-and-turn test: During this test, the driver must take nine steps in a straight line while touching heel-to-toe.
  • The one-leg stand test: The driver must stand on one leg and hold his or her foot six inches off the ground and count until otherwise instructed by the officer.

Field sobriety tests, however, aren't as accurate as we think. Anyone who has been drinking can pass one of these tests with enough skill to do so. Any sober person who is fatigued, disabled, or lacks the physical coordination to complete the test can fail.

An officer will also likely administer a breath test. The results of a breath test may provide an officer with harder evidence. These results can be disputed, in some cases. Breathalyzers are known for being glitchy at times and yield false readings.

That's why it's best to stay vigilant this holiday season. If you are pulled over for any reason, you should always comply with the police. What you should avoid doing, however, is answering questions or trying to talk your way out of a DWI test or arrest. Speaking, no matter how innocent you may be, can only make matters worse.

If you are arrested this holiday season, let experienced Texas DWI attorney Amanda Webb do the talking for you. She has real courtroom experience helping those arrested for DWI fight the charges. To learn more, contact Amanda Webb - DWI Lawyer.

Can a DWI constitute a felony charge? A Texas attorney says yes - Here's why.

Texas DWI attorneyIn most cases, DWIs are charged as misdemeanors in Texas. A first offense, for example, could result in up to 180 days in jail, driver's license suspension for up to a year, and a fine of up to $2,000, if convicted. The penalties for subsequent DWI charges can increase in severity.

In some cases, however, a DWI can be more severe and result in a felony charge. Factors in felony DWI charges usually include:

  • You're charged with a third DWI: If you were charged with a DWI for the third time in Texas, you could be convicted of a third-degree felony. Penalties include imprisonment of 2-10 years and a fine of up to $10,000.
  • If someone was hurt in a car accident: Intoxication assault occurs when another person is seriously injured in a DWI-related car accident. This constitutes a third-degree felony.
  • If someone was killed in a car accident: Intoxication manslaughter occurs when another person is killed in a DWI-related car accident. This constitutes a second-degree felony, which carries imprisonment of 2-20 years and a fine of up to $10,000.
  • You're charged with DWI while you have a child under age 15 in your vehicle: This constitutes a state jail felony, which carries 180 days to two years in state jail and a fine of up to $10,000.

Flaws in felony DWI charges

Any type of DWI charge can have serious legal consequences but if you have been arrested and charged with a felony DWI, it's critical that you consult with an experienced Texas DWI lawyer as soon as possible. With a felony charge on your record, you may lose your right to serve on a jury, own a gun and hold public office. In addition, finding a job may be difficult.

The bottom line in felony DWI charges (and all DWI charges for that matter) is: the prosecutor doesn't care whether or not you are actually innocent. If there is enough evidence available to convict you, fighting the charges may be difficult.

Not all DWI charges are as clear cut as you think, however. When devising a legal defense, your attorney will look for evidence of:

  • Inaccurate breath tests or defective breathalyzer devices
  • Inaccurate field sobriety test results
  • Lack of probable cause
  • Inaccurate BAC reading
  • If the arresting officer failed to read your Miranda rights

In the event you are stopped by police or suspected of a crime, it's important to remain silent and let an attorney at Amanda Webb - DWI Lawyer do the talking. With such a serious charge, too much is at stake. Contact us online to find out how we can help you.