Impaired Driving – DWI/DUI
Being convicted of impaired driving in Texas can carry serious criminal penalties and other life-affecting consequences. If you’ve been arrested on charges of Driving While Intoxicated or Driving Under the Influence, it’s important to take the immediate step of consulting a Houston DWI lawyer to learn your legal options.
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What is the difference between a DWI and a DUI?
Driving Under the Influence is a charge reserved for minors — those under 21 years old. In Texas, there is a zero tolerance policy for minors driving under the influence. Any detectable amount of alcohol in their system can lead to a DUI charge.
Driving while intoxicated, on the other hand, can apply to both minors and adults. This charge typically refers to drunk driving but can also include driving while impaired by prescription or illegal drugs.
Intoxication can be proven in one of three ways:
- A blood alcohol level (BAC) of .08 or higher
- Loss of normal mental faculties
- Loss of normal physical faculties
You do not have to take a breathalyzer or blood test to be charged with DWI.
DWI and DUI Penalties in Texas
In Texas, you can be charged with DWI if your blood alcohol content level is .08 or greater. These charges can be enhanced, which means your sentencing guidelines can be affected by prior criminal offenses, including prior DWI/DUI charges. Additionally, under state law, you may face a felony charge if:
- You have two or more prior DWI convictions
- You were in an accident that caused serious bodily harm to another person
- You had a child in your car
Adults who are convicted of DWI crimes in Texas could have their licenses suspended for up to 2 years or pay a $2,000 annual surcharge to keep their license; be required to enter into a DWI intervention program; and potentially have to use an ignition interlock device in their car.
Other penalties include:
- For the first offense, jail time between 3 and 180 days
- For the second offense, jail time between 1 month and 1 year; up to $4,000 in fines.
- For the third offense, state prison time between 2 and 10 years and fines up to $10,000.
If you’re convicted of DWI with a child passenger — meaning driving drunk while a child younger than 15 is riding in your vehicle — the penalties can include:
- Up to 2 years of jail time
- Up to $10,000 in fines
- License suspension of up to 180 days
Drivers under the legal drinking age of 21 who are convicted of driving while intoxicated face penalties of:
- License suspension up to 2 years
- Up to $500 in fines
- Alcohol education program, with additional 180 days license suspension if not completed
- Ignition interlock device
Minors may also face license suspension and be required to enter an alcohol education program if convicted of non-driving alcohol offenses such as buying or attempting to buy alcohol illegally; presenting false documents or falsely claiming to be 21 or older in an attempt to buy alcohol; consuming or possessing alcohol; and public intoxication.
Other DWI Crimes
If you cause serious bodily injury to another person while drunk driving, you may be charged with Intoxication Assault, which is a 3rd degree felony charge. A conviction carries potential penalties of 2 to 10 years in prison and fines up to $10,000.
For the purposes of an Intoxication assault charge, “serious bodily injury” can include an injury that causes a significant risk of death, serious and permanent disfigurement, or damage that causes a body part or organ not to function properly.
If you are in an accident that results in another person’s death while you driving drunk, you could face charges of Intoxication Manslaughter. If convicted of this 2nd degree felony, the penalties can include 2 to 20 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines.
In the event that you are pulled over with an open alcohol container in the vehicle, you may be charged with a crime even if you have not been drinking. Texas law prohibits driving with an open container in the passenger area of your car if the car is being driven or is parked on a public roadway.
Open container violations alone are a Class C misdemeanor with a penalty of a fine up to $500. If the open container violation is in conjunction with a drunk driving charge, it is classified as a Class B misdemeanor with a minimum penalty of 6 days in jail.
Penalties for Refusing Chemical Tests
Texas driver are subject to implied consent. This means that if you choose to drive, then you are consenting to chemical testing if a law enforcement officer thinks you are impaired.
If you refuse a blood or breath test, you may be subject to Administrative License Revocation, or ALR. This is in addition to the other penalties you may face for DWI charges.
Once you refuse the test, the officer will take your license and issue you a temporary driving permit. You must request a hearing on the ALR within 15 days; if your request is made after 15 days, it will be denied.
If you do not request a hearing, your license suspension will take effect 40 days after the arrest and can last between 90 days and 2 years. If you do request a hearing within the 15 days, it may take up to 120 days to find out when and where you hearing will be.
Getting Help With A DWI/DUI Charge
Make no mistake about it — you need an attorney to represent you on your first setting in court when you have been charged with driving while intoxicated (DWI). The longer you wait to hire an attorney after your DWI arrest, the more rights and driving privileges you could lose.
Keeping a DWI conviction off your record is always our primary focus. Lisa Shapiro Strauss has an excellent record of fighting aggressively to help get you the best possible outcome for your DWI charge.
In Harris County and most of the surrounding counties, you have several options to help you prevent a conviction. There are some very strict criteria that must be met in order to qualify to be considered for a pretrial diversion in DWI cases, though.
You may qualify for Harris County’s pretrial diversion program if you:
- Have no prior charges above a Class C traffic ticket.
- Have breath or blood test results under .149.
- Are a legal citizen or have lawful legal status.
- Have a valid driver’s license and auto insurance at the time of the incident.
- Reside in Harris County and plan to stay here.
- Were not involved in an accident while driving impaired.
After meeting the initial criteria, you can then apply to move on to the next step of the process. This one-year program includes alcohol and drug abuse classes and routine drug and alcohol testing. It may also require electronic monitoring and counseling. Once you have completed the program, the case is outright dismissed.
While the program has strict requirements, as a DWI lawyer in Houston, Lisa Strauss has extensive experience in helping those charged with impaired driving crimes to successfully complete pretrial diversion and avoid the serious, long-term consequences that a conviction carries.
Other options we can explore include:
- Interlock devices
- Alcohol and drug treatment
- Community service
- Victim impact panels
- Treatment alternatives to incarceration programs (TAIP)
If pretrial diversion is not an option, it’s important to have assistance from an attorney to help fight the case based on the evidence. As an attorney who has tried more than 50 DWI cases, both as a prosecutor and a defense attorney, Lisa Shapiro Strauss knows how to evaluate and prepare a case for trial
Answers to Your DWI/DUI Charge Questions
Will an Arrest in Harris County Remain on Your Record for the Rest of Your Life?
Being arrested for a crime can cause serious hardships for the rest of your life if it isn’t handled correctly. The two possible avenues for getting rid of an arrest are expungement and having the records sealed (Orders of non-Disclosure). Expungement will make it as if an arrest never happened; you could legally say that the arrest never happened. Having your records sealed is less final, as your records can still be accessed by certain parties.
Both can be very difficult to achieve without the help of an experienced attorney like Lisa Shapiro Strauss.
Can I be Charged with Possession if a Passenger in My Car has Drugs?
Texas law states that you are responsible for anything in your possession, and that includes passengers in your car as well as their belongings, even if you didn’t know they had it. You could be charged with drug possession if drugs are found on a passenger while you are driving.
What Can I Expect From My First Meeting with a Defense Attorney?
The first thing you should expect from your first meeting with a criminal defense attorney is to answer a LOT of questions, both about yourself and your case. You’ll also need to bring documentation related to your arrest and any evidence you may have. Finally, you should come to the meeting armed with questions of your own for the attorney, like their experience with your type of case, and their success rate.
We will evaluate the facts of your case, including the police report and arrest video. We have in-depth knowledge of correct police procedures, and can determine if there was probable cause for the stop. Additionally, we understand how to uncover improper procedures for the field sobriety tests.
If you or a loved one needs guidance from an experienced, dedicated, Houston assault attorney and general criminal defense lawyer, we urge you to contact us today.