Driving While Intoxicated in Texas is a serious offense with significant consequences. In addition to fines, jail time, and a criminal record, DWIs can have a lasting, negative impact on your finances, employment, and reputation.
Houston criminal defense attorneys advise against driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol in Texas. However, even well-meaning people make poor and uninformed decisions. Here is what you need to know if you’re stopped on a suspected DWI in Texas.
The Basics First: Understanding Texas DWI Law
Texas DWI Defined
In Texas, when you operate a vehicle in a public place while intoxicated, you are committing a DWI offense. A person is considered intoxicated when:
- They have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 (.04 commercial); Or
- Are mentally or physically impaired by alcohol or drugs, including illegal, prescription, or over-the-counter drugs.
If you’re unable to safely operate a motor vehicle due to the influence of drugs or alcohol, you are considered driving while intoxicated, even if your blood alcohol level is below the legal BAC limit.
What are the Consequences of a Texas DWI?
The stakes are high for those who drive while intoxicated in Texas. Depending on the circumstances of the DWI incident and arrest, legal penalties and sentences vary:
- Fines up to $2000
- Sentencing up to 10 years in prison
- Revoked driving privileges averaging 90 days – 2 years
- Misdemeanor or felony conviction
In addition to the legal ramifications of a DWI conviction, violators often face personal and professional challenges as well:
- Higher insurance rates
- Driver’s license surcharges
- Reduced employment opportunities
- Harmed professional reputation
- Ineligibility to chaperone/drive minors during school-related functions, or disqualification from scholarships or sports events
There is even a chance that you could be required to pay a driver’s license surcharge after you get it back, from hundreds to thousands of dollars.
7 Things to Do During a DWI Stop in Texas:
If you are stopped on suspicion of DWI in Texas, you are at an immediate disadvantage. There are specific steps you should take to protect yourself.
1. Assume everything is being videotaped and recorded.
Everything you say and do will be used against you.
2. Be polite, courteous, and honest.
Rudeness, disrespect, or deceit will be used to prejudice a jury against you.
3. Provide driver’s license, proof of insurance, and car registration when requested.
Calmly produce and provide this information when requested by the officer.
4. Do not engage in conversation or submit to a search.
Every attempt to elicit conversation is part of the officer’s investigative process. Details about your whereabouts and actions prior to the stop are gathered to use against you. Your ability to speak, recall information, and converse fluidly is being measured to show impairment.
Invoke your 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination, and express that you are not comfortable without a lawyer present. Politely refuse a search of your vehicle. The officer might accuse you of acting guilty. Again, calmly and politely invoke your 5th Amendment right and request an attorney and then remain quiet.
5. Refuse field sobriety tests.
Field sobriety tests are hard and designed to make people fail. Politely refuse.
6. Refuse breathalyzer or blood tests.
You are not required to submit to these tests in Texas. While there may be some penalties for refusing to take the tests, results can be used against you. Politely refuse.
7. Request the presence of an attorney.
Politely request the presence of an attorney and, again, remain quiet.
You are not obligated to say anything during a DWI investigation other than your name and to provide your driver’s license. Be polite and say as little as possible.
Why You Need a Houston DWI Criminal Defense Lawyer
Being accused or convicted of driving while intoxicated in Texas can be life-altering. You need a skilled Houston criminal defense attorney to defend your rights. Experienced attorneys specializing in DWI investigations and court proceedings can help.
If you are stopped or arrested on suspicion of DWI in Texas, contact a Houston DWI criminal defense lawyer immediately.