In Texas, when a person is pulled over and is found to have a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 percent or higher, they can be arrested for driving while intoxicated (DWI). But what if your BAC is under the legal limit? You may think you can walk away without penalty, but you could still be faced with a DWI charge.
Why police may pull you over
Law enforcement may stop a vehicle if they spot possible signs that lead them to believe the driver could be under the influence. Some common signs police look for include:
- Weaving or swerving through traffic
- Quick acceleration or deceleration
- Almost crashing into an object, vehicle, or curb.
- Difficulty staying in a designated lane
- Turning abruptly
- Erratic braking
- Driving without headlights on at night
What happens after I get pulled over?
Upon being stopped by law enforcement, drivers may be subjected to a preliminary breath test (PBT) to determine the presence of alcohol in their system.
The outcome of this initial assessment, however, is inconsequential in relation to further testing. Police officers may also require individuals to participate in field sobriety tests designed to assess the use of their mental and physical abilities.
These evaluations may include the walk-and-turn test, the one-leg stand test, and the horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) test.
Despite potentially passing the PBT and having a blood alcohol content below the legal limit, a driver may still be charged with DWI if they fail any field sobriety tests.
Police often look for other signs of impairment
If an individual's normal mental or physical faculties are impaired due to alcohol or drugs, they may be charged with DWI, even without a breath or blood test. This determination is based solely on the observations made by law enforcement officers.
Some of the most common indicators of impairment that police look for include:
- An odor of alcohol.
- Slurred speech, mumbling, or difficulty speaking.
- Bloodshot, watery, or glassy eyes.
- Unusual or erratic behavior, such as stumbling, swaying, or failing to follow instructions.
- Poor coordination or difficulty with physical tasks, such as fumbling with license and registration.
- Confusion, disorientation, or difficulty remembering details.
Failing a breathalyzer test can result in a DWI charge, but this is not necessarily the ONLY way. Under Texas Penal Code Title 10 Chapter 49, if an officer determines your mental and/or physical abilities are impaired with any alcohol or drug content in your system based on the criteria above, you could still face charges even if you blow under the legal limit.
Getting a DWI with a BAC below 0.08
Despite popular belief, breathalyzer tests are not always entirely reliable. In some instances, even if your BAC registers below the legal limit, you may still be arrested and charged with DWI due to the breathalyzer's margin of error.
Texas also operates under a zero-tolerance policy for drivers under 21. That means any BAC reading other than .00 is grounds for a charge.
Commercial drivers are subject to even stricter regulations, with a BAC limit of 0.04. Testing above this limit can result in a DWI charge and a minimum one-year suspension of their commercial driver's license.
Additionally, if a law enforcement officer has probable cause to believe that a driver is impaired, they may still face DWI charges, regardless of their BAC level. This can occur even if the driver has consumed only a small amount of alcohol or if their impairment is due to prescription medication or other substances.
Get help from a Texas DWI defense attorney.
A DWI conviction can change your life completely. Depending on the severity of the offense, you could be faced with thousands of dollars in fines, the loss of your license, and lengthy jail time. That's why you need an aggressive DWI defense attorney that gets results.
DWI cases can be complicated, but Attorney Amanda Webb has years of experience dealing with all types of DWI cases in Conroe, TX, and the surrounding area. She knows the state and federal laws and has a proven track record of getting the outcomes her clients deserve.
To learn more about how our law firm can help you, contact us today for a free DWI case evaluation.