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Your rights before, during, and after a DWI arrest

An officer places handcuffs on another man with his hands behind his back

It's not widely known, but if you get stopped for allegedly driving while intoxicated (DWI) in Texas you have more rights than you might think.

It's important to take advantage of those rights to avoid a misstatement or stumble that could cost you your license to drive, fines, and possibly jail time.

For years, Amanda Webb - DWI Lawyer has successfully defended people against DWI charges. Attorney Webb has gained a wealth of experience and knowledge with Texas' DWI process and prosecutions. She has developed valuable insights and expert advice to share with drivers about what happens if they're accused of driving while intoxicated, what their rights are, and how to best get through the ordeal.

To avoid the pitfalls of a driving-while-intoxicated motor vehicle stop, get to know your rights before you see the police lights flashing in your rearview mirror. Here are a few tips on how to handle a DWI.

The initial stop

Always pull to the side of the road when an emergency vehicle or police cruiser is approaching with their lights activated. Once you've stopped your vehicle, a police officer who suspects you of driving while intoxicated will begin the investigation by going over why you were stopped.

To avoid escalation of the situation, stay calm and keep your hands where the police officer can see them.

The police officer will ask for your license and vehicle registration - have this paperwork readily accessible to you.

Unlike other criminal investigations, you most likely will not hear the officer read you your Miranda rights at the stop. These rights still apply, however. You have the right to remain silent and the right to consult an attorney prior to answering questions. You do not, however, have a right to consult with an attorney before refusing to take a sobriety test.

Refusing to take sobriety tests

In Texas, you have the right to decline sobriety tests, though this option comes with a risk.

If an officer smells alcohol on your breath, observes red, bloodshot eyes, slumping, and/or slurring of your speech, the officer will most likely ask you to take a field sobriety or breath test. If you refuse to take either test, you can be arrested under Texas' implied consent law. You can be arrested even if you're completely sober. Declining to take the tests could also lead to your license being suspended for 180 days.

A blood alcohol test may be mandatory, however, if you appear to be extremely intoxicated.

Failing sobriety tests

In Texas, you are legally intoxicated when your blood alcohol concentration reaches at least 0.08%.

If you fail a sobriety test, it's almost certain you will be arrested for DWI and transported to jail. During the transportation and after, you may be audio and video recorded. This evidence could later be used against you in court. You have the right to consult an attorney before answering a law enforcement officer's questions.

Penalties

DWI penalties in Texas can be harsh.

If you are found guilty of a first offense DWI you could be fined up to $2,000, go to jail for up to 180 days, and lose your license for up to one year.

For a third offense, the fine increases to $10,000, you can lose your license for up to two years, and you can go to prison - instead of jail - for up to 10 years.

If you are charged with DWI and a child was in the vehicle at the time of the incident, you can also be charged with child endangerment.

Make sure you know your legal rights and options

DWI cases are not as black and white as they may first appear. While you may think you're out of options, an experienced attorney may be able to help you beat the charges or get them reduced.

Attorney Amanda Webb knows how to break down a prosecutor's seemingly air-tight case. Was the initial stop even legal? Were your rights upheld during the booking process? Do the police officer's statements in court match what actually happened? Meanwhile, evidence casting doubt on the accuracy of sobriety tests is becoming more accepted by the courts.

Attorney Webb knows what evidence is needed to get a DWI charge thrown out. If you or someone you love is facing a DWI charge, contact us today for a free case consultation. Based in Conroe, TX, we serve clients in the Houston area, The Woodlands area, as well as Montgomery and Waller counties.

Types of DWI charges in Texas

DWI charges in Texas

There are many different types of DWI charges in Texas that carry serious legal and lifelong consequences. Below, Amanda Webb - DWI Lawyer discusses the types of charges and consequences you may face if pulled over and arrested for drunk driving.

If you're arrested and charged with a DWI, it's critical that you speak to an experienced attorney as soon as possible. We can help you devise an effective legal defense by disputing the breath or chemical test results and potential errors police made during your traffic stop and arrest.

Misdemeanor DWI charges

If you've been charged with a DWI in Texas, the stakes are high, even if it's your first drunk driving arrest. A first-time DWI offense (with a BAC of .08 percent but below .15 percent) is deemed a Class B misdemeanor in Texas. The same consequences apply if you were charged with boating while intoxicated. The penalties for this type of charge are:

  • Up to 6 months in jail
  • $2,000 fine
  • Driver's license suspension between 90 days and one year
  • Driver's license reinstatement fee of $3,000
  • Probation

If your BAC was .15 percent or higher, you could face the same legal consequences as someone charged with a second DWI if convicted.

A second DWI offense is a Class A misdemeanor in Texas. If convicted, you could face:

  • Up to one year in jail
  • A fine of up to $4,000
  • Possible driver's license suspension between 180 days and two years

Felony DWI charges

Texas takes a hard stance against repeat DWI offenders. If you are convicted of a third or subsequent DWI charge, you will likely go to prison for 2-10 years and have a third-degree felony on your record. Additionally, you could have to pay a fine of up to $10,000 and have your license suspended for up to two years.

If you cause a crash that injures another person while under the influence of alcohol, you can be charged with intoxication assault, in addition to DWI. This carries the same penalties as a third or subsequent DWI conviction. You can also be convicted of a felony DWI if you had a child under the age of 15 in your car at the time of your arrest.

The most severe felony DWI charge in Texas is intoxication manslaughter. This occurs when a drunk driver kills another person in a crash. It is a second-degree felony in Texas and carries up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

After serving your prison sentence and paying the fine, the consequences will follow you for several years. For example, you will:

  • Have to install an ignition interlock device in your car.
  • Have to complete 160-600 hours of community service and an alcohol rehabilitation treatment program.
  • Lose your right to vote and own a firearm.

In addition, many employers will not hire you if you have a pending felony or a felony conviction.

Contact a Texas lawyer today to defend your rights

The DWI defense lawyers at Amanda Webb - DWI Lawyer will ensure that you are treated fairly in the justice system. If you're facing charges, contact us online or call our Conroe law office to discuss the next steps. We'll review the details surrounding your arrest and work tirelessly to help you fight the charges. Our case evaluations are free and confidential.

Getting your driver's license reinstated after a DWI arrest

Texas DWI attorney

The consequences of a DWI charge in Texas can be harsh. If it's your first time being arrested for DWI, you face the risk of spending 3-180 days in jail and paying a fine of up to $2,000. More immediately, you will likely have your driver's license suspended for up to one year. This can have an impact on your life, including your ability to get to work and earn a living.

You shouldn't have to give up your job and livelihood because of a DWI arrest, however. Attorney Amanda Webb can discuss your options if you were arrested, and can help you get your license reinstated.

Requirements you must meet before your driver's license can be reinstated

In order to be eligible for a driver's license reinstatement, you must first do the following:

  • Show proof that you have completed an alcohol education program. This may include a 12-hour DWI Intervention Program or a 32-hour DWI Repeat Offender Program. You must then provide certification of completion.
  • Pay for your driver's license reinstatement fee. Reinstatement fees can be paid online at the Texas Department of Public Safety Driver License Division's website.
  • Purchase SR-22 car insurance (also called Financial Responsibility Insurance). You must purchase and maintain this type of insurance for at least two years from an authorized insurance company.

Once you have completed these requirements, you must apply for a driver's license reinstatement or a new driver's license. You can obtain the appropriate paperwork at the Texas Department of Public Safety's website.

Restoring your driving privileges while your DWI case is pending

You don't need to wait an entire year to get your driving privileges back. While you should never drive with a suspended license, you can obtain a restricted or occupational driver's license while your DWI case is pending. This will allow you to drive to get to work, school, medical appointments and to address family needs. You would not be able to drive under any other circumstance, however. This type of license is only valid for 12 hours within a 24-hour period, but that time frame can be specifically tailored to your needs.

Why hire a DWI lawyer?

If you were arrested and charged with a DWI, you may not be fully aware of your rights and legal options. It's best to discuss your matter with an experienced Texas DWI lawyer who understands the law and how the justice system works. The attorneys at Amanda Webb - DWI Lawyer will not only help you restore your driving privileges, but we will also devise a strong legal defense to help you avoid a DWI conviction.

To set up your free DWI case evaluation, contact us online or call our Conroe, Texas law office.

Can a field sobriety test be used against me if I was arrested for DWI?

Field sobriety test

 

The Standardized Field Sobriety Test (SFST) was first implemented by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) during the 1970s and 1980s. During this period, U.S. transportation officials and researchers sought effective ways to address the disproportionately high drunk driving fatality rate. The SFST is a battery of three exercises. These exercises are used by law enforcement officers to determine if someone is driving under the influence of alcohol. These three tests include:

  • Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus. Everyone's eyes tend to jerk and dart when rotating at certain angles. This is known as nystagmus. For people who are impaired by alcohol, eye jerking is more pronounced. During an HGN test, a police officer will ask you to follow a moving object (such as a pen or small flashlight) with your eyes from side to side.
  • Walk-and-Turn Test. An officer will ask you to take steps heel-to-toe in a straight line, then turn on one foot and repeat. An officer may suspect that you are impaired if you have trouble keeping your balance or following directions.
  • One-Leg Stand Test. An officer will ask you to stand on one leg with the other foot six inches off the ground. The officer will then ask you to count while balancing on one leg until further notice. If you have trouble balancing, hop on one foot, or put your foot down, the officer may suspect that you are impaired.

Do I have the right to refuse a field sobriety test?

In the event that you're pulled over by police, there is a chance they could suspect that you have been drinking and driving. The last thing you want to do is feed their suspicion by giving a reason to further probe you.

If you agree to take the SFST, your performance could give the officer probable cause to administer a breath test, search your car or even make an arrest. You have nothing to gain by taking a field sobriety test, so it's best to avoid it. In fact, you are under no obligation to take the SFST in Texas, nor are there any legal consequences for refusing to take it. Under Texas's implied consent law, you are required to take a breath or chemical test, however.

What if I already took a field sobriety test before my arrest?

If you already took the SFST before your arrest, the results could potentially be used against you in court. The results can just as easily be disputed by an experienced Texas DWI attorney, however. Here are some common reasons why the results can be disputed:

  • The results of the SFST are only admissible if the test is properly administered. There are some officers who are poorly trained in giving the SFST. They may give inaccurate instructions or fail to comply with the NHTSA requirements. The validity of these results is compromised if not administered correctly, and therefore, inadmissible in court.
  • It's very difficult to perform a field sobriety exercise, even for most sober people. Let's face it. If you asked the average person to stand on one leg for some time or walk heel-to-toe, there's a good chance they might stumble. Your inability to adequately perform a one-leg stand or heel-to-toe walk doesn't equate to being impaired by alcohol. There are many people who don't have the physical coordination to perform these exercises. Being overweight or elderly can also make it extremely difficult. In fact, when the early SFST studies were conducted by the NHTSA and the Southern California Research Institute, the following people were excluded from participation because they had difficulties performing the exercises:
    • People ages 65 and older
    • Those who had back, leg, or inner ear problems
    • Those who were overweight by 50 lbs. or more
  • Certain medical problems can make it difficult to perform these exercises. Injuries to the head, arms, legs, feet, back, neck, and eyes can affect a driver's ability to perform the SFST. Balance and coordination can also be affected by vertigo, low blood pressure, fatigue, certain neurological conditions, anxiety and the use of certain medications.

Put experience on your side

If you were arrested and charged with DWI in Texas, your freedom and future could be at stake. For a first-time conviction, you'll likely face up to 180 days in jail, pay a fine of up to $2,000, and lose your driver's license for up to one year. These consequences can have a significant impact on your life and the ability to pursue or maintain employment.

It's critical that you promptly consult with an attorney who has the courtroom experience and legal knowledge to help you fight the charges. Amanda Webb - DWI Lawyer knows how the criminal justice system in Texas works. Contact us online or call us to find out how we can help you.

What are the penalties for a DWI conviction in Texas?

Texas DWI attorney

When it comes to drunk driving, Texas doesn't mess around. If you're pulled over by police, they will ask questions, administer roadside tests, and observe your behavior to determine if you were driving impaired. You could be placed under arrest if they find that you have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent or greater. You could then be facing harsh legal consequences if convicted of DWI.

Texas police tend to be more aggressive when searching for DWI suspects at night, during holidays, or other times when people are most likely to consume alcohol. An experienced Texas DWI attorney discusses the penalties you could likely face if you're arrested and charged.

DWI penalties in Texas

According to Texas Penal Code Title 10, Chapter 49, these are the penalties you could face if convicted for DWI in Texas:

  • A first time DWI conviction can result in:
    • Up to 180 days in jail (3 days of which are mandatory)
    • A fine of up to $2,000
    • Loss of driver's license for up to one year
  • A second DWI conviction can result in:
    • Up to a year in jail (one month of which is mandatory)
    • A fine of up to $4,000
    • Loss of driver's license for up to two years
  • A third DWI conviction can result in:
    • Up to 10 years in prison (two years of which are mandatory)
    • A fine of up to $10,000
    • Loss of driver's license for up to two years
  • A conviction for driving drunk with a child passenger can result in:
    • Up to two years in jail
    • A fine of up to $10,000
    • Loss of driver's license for up to two years
  • Those convicted of DWI in Texas also face state fines between $3,000 and $6,000.

How to take your case seriously from the start

Amanda Webb - DWI Lawyer has seen how certain mistakes can lead to innocent people being convicted of DWI. First, remember that the police can interpret anything you say as an admittance of guilt. You could argue during a traffic stop that you didn't have anything to drink, or you only had a few drinks. Arguing for your innocence is more dangerous than you think. It's best to exercise your right to remain silent and consult with an attorney if you are placed under arrest.

It's also important to acknowledge that police sometimes make errors that lead to DWI arrests. For example, the breath tests that police administer have been found to be flawed and have yielded inaccurate results in many cases. You are required to take a breath test if it's administered by an officer under Texas's implied consent law, but the test doesn't prove your guilt by itself. Even if it reads a BAC of 0.08 percent or higher, your attorney can dispute these results in court.

If you're facing DWI charges, the attorneys at Amanda Webb - DWI Lawyer can devise a strong legal defense to help you fight the charges. We know that no two cases are alike. We'll launch a thorough investigation into your arrest and the methods used by police to gather incriminating evidence against you. To find out how we can help, contact our Texas law firm and schedule your free DWI case evaluation.