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.