Driving while intoxicated (DWI) is a serious criminal charge in Houston, Texas. The penalties for a DWI conviction become more serious depending on the number of convictions or whether there was a child in the vehicle or an accident resulting in death or serious injury. Texas drivers who have one or more prior DWI convictions on their records face greater penalties. Partnering with an experienced, aggressive Houston DWI attorney becomes even more essential when you’re facing your second, third, or fourth charge, or if there are other facts that make your case more serious.
The DWI defense attorneys at Ceja Law firm in Houston have an outstanding record. We’ve successfully secured and acquittals of cases involving repeat DWI charges, or charges involving accidents or children in vehicles. Lead attorney Jose Ceja underwent training to administer the Standardized Field Sobriety Tests as well as alcohol blood testing and analysis. His knowledge of the correct DWI testing procedures enables him to identify police errors that often lead to the dismissal or a reduction of his client’s charges. An effective DWI lawyer will be able to analyze every step of the investigation – from the stop to the administration of balance tests, to the decision to arrest, to the way a suspect is advised of his rights, to the validity of the breath or blood test and more.
What Constitutes a DWI Under Texas Law?
Under Texas law, a person commits the offense of Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) when they are driving a car with a blood or breath alcohol concentration of .08 percent or higher or have lost the normal use of their “mental or physical faculties” (interestingly, “normal use” is not defined under Texas law). A first time DWI is a Class “B” misdemeanor under Texas law and the punishment can include:
- The loss of your driver’s license for up to a year
- A jail sentence of 3-180 days
- Up to a $2000 fine
- Up to two years probation
These penalties can increase to a Class “A” misdemeanor if a blood or breath result shows an alcohol concentration of .15 or higher. If a first time DWI offender has a child in the car, the case can be enhanced to a State Jail Felony with up to two years in jail, and up to a $10,000 fine.
A Second Texas DWI Charge Can Result in Serious Penalties
Texas charges a second DWI offense as a Class “A” misdemeanor. Those charged with a second DWI offense face the following punishments:
- A jail sentence of thirty days to a year
- Five days in jail as a condition of probation if the prior DWI conviction is less than five years old; three days in jail if the prior is greater than three years old
- Driver’s license suspension for up to two years
- A fine up to to $4,000
- Installation of an IID device in your vehicle
A Third DUI Charge is a Felony Offense in Houston
The consequences for a third DWI are even greater. The State charges a driver’s third DWI as a felony, not a misdemeanor. The punishments for a third DWI conviction include the following:
- A jail sentence of up to 10 years
- Ten days in jail as a condition of probation
- Up to a $10,000 fine
- Driver’s license suspension of up to two years
- Installation of an IID device in your vehicle
Drivers With Multiple DWI’s Must Install a Driver License Ignition Interlock Device
All Texas drivers with multiple DWI convictions on their record within five years must install a driver license ignition interlock device (IID) as a condition of bond or probation. Defendants with a blood or breath result over .15 must also have a device in their vehicle unless the court finds in the interest of justice that it is not necessary. When installed, the IID will prevent your car from starting unless you blow into the device, and the device registers any traceable alcohol in your breath. Any positive alcohol readings could cause your bond to get revoked so it is very important to not drink alcohol and avoid substances that could trigger a positive alcohol result, such as mouthwash (the device is often able to distinguish between mouthwash and alcohol that has been consumed).
If you are ordered to get an IID, you may receive a notice from the Texas Department of Public Safety that you must send $10 to receive a special license showing the IID restriction. If you are legally required to obtain and IID system by the court and you do not do so by the deadline set by the Court, the Texas Department of Public Safety will issue a court order to suspend your driving privileges. If you refuse to install the IID, you will face a license suspension instead or you could get your bond revoked if the device was ordered as a condition of bond.
Texas Does Not Have a Limited DWI “Lookback Period”
Many other states have a limited lookback period for DWI convictions. In these states, judges can only look back at someone’s driving record for a limited amount of time when making sentencing determinations. As of September 2005, Texas does not have a lookback period (formerly only conviction within the prior 10 years could be used to enhance an offense to a DWI second or third).
You may be wondering if a court will ever remove a DWI conviction from your record. In Texas, it will permanently stay on your criminal record. A court will always consider your prior DWI convictions when charging you with a subsequent DWI. For example, if a court convicts a Texas driver of a first DWI in 1985 and a second DWI in 1990, that driver could face a felony third DWI charge in 2019. The amount of time between multiple DWI charges is irrelevant when it comes to multiple DWI charges in Texas.
Effective Defenses to a Subsequent DWI Charge
Our firm has a proven history of effectively defending clients against DWI charges. We conduct a thorough investigation of the facts of our client’s cases. We know every client’s case is unique, and we use the results of our research and experience to determine the best way to fight a case.
As noted above, every step of a DWI case must be thoroughly investigated, beginning with the reason for the traffic stop. In cases where it is alleged that a defendant has prior convictions, sometimes it is possible to challenge the priors due to the State’s inability to be able to prove that the defendant is the same person in the prior conviction. For example, a prior conviction may not have a legible fingerprint or other identifiable information. It is important to remember that it is the State’s burden to prove that a client has prior convictions, and an aggressive defense attorney will always challenge the admissibility of the priors.
In many cases, our investigation into the facts reveals that the police conducted an illegal stop or detention. At a minimum, a police officer must have reasonable suspicion to believe you’ve committed a crime to stop your car. If we are able to prove that the police violated a client’s rights under the Fourth Amendment, the prosecution will usually have to dismiss the charges against our client
If the stop is valid, an experienced DWI attorney must then investigate and challenge the way the officer handled the investigation and administered the police balance tests (which the police call “Standardized Field Sobriety Tests”). These tests must be administered correctly or they may not be admissible in court. Poor administration of the tests can call the officer’s conclusion that a suspect was intoxicated into question
Another common DWI defense is providing that the alcohol breath or blood tests used by the police gave faulty or inaccurate readings. Just because a breath or blood result claims that a defendant is over the limit does not mean the case can’t be defended. It is very common for errors to occur in breath or blood testing and an experienced DWI attorney should closely review the breath or blood discover.
Contact Our Houston Multiple DWI Attorney Today
The attorneys at Ceja Law Firm are prepared to defend you skillfully. The penalties resulting from a second, third, or fourth DWI conviction in Texas are quite severe and life-altering. We understand that facing another DWI conviction is troubling. That’s why our attorneys fight so assertively on behalf of our clients. If you’re in the Houston area and you’re ready to work with an experienced multiple DWI attorney, fill out our contact form for a free consultation.