DWIs are one of the most common offenses in the State of Texas. Every year, thousands of people are arrested for DWI in Houston and in Harris County. DWIs are unique types of cases in several ways and can be more technical and involve more science than almost any other type of criminal case. An experienced DWI attorney should be able to challenge every aspect of the State’s case to help obtain the best possible result. The goal should be dismissal of a case. Below are some of the common DWI defenses an experienced criminal defense attorney can use to challenge the case.
Common DWI Defenses:
The Stop or Detention
The first thing a criminal defense attorney should do when investigating a DWI is to challenge the reason for the traffic stop or detention. Under the law of Texas and the United States, there must be a valid reason for a traffic stop or detention. Some of the most common reasons for traffic stops include weaving and driving on an improved shoulder, speeding, defective lights or the so-called community “caretaking function,” which allows officers in some situations to briefly detain individuals if they believe a person is under distress or a danger to himself or others. An effective DWI attorney should challenge the basis for the stop or detention whenever possible. Even though an officer claims he had a valid reason for the stop, if the evidence shows otherwise, a case might be dismissed as being based on evidence that was illegally obtained.
Field Sobriety Tests
After a suspect is detained in a DWI investigation, a police officer will normally administer a series of balance and eye tests known as Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (SFSTs). These include the eye test (known as the “horizontal gaze nystagmus” test), the walk-and-turn and the one leg stand. These tests were developed by the government over 30 years ago and supposedly are based on scientific studies. Because they were based on scientific studies, the tests must be performed the same every time. If the officer does not administer the tests correctly, an experienced DWI lawyer who is familiar with the tests may be able to get them suppressed and thrown out of court. The manual that contains these studies is also used to train the officers to evaluate other parts of an encounter during a DWI stop, like a defendant’s driving and other symptoms of intoxication. To properly defend a DWI and challenge the officer’s conclusion that a defendant was intoxicated, a DWI lawyer should be as, or more, familiar with the SFSTs than the officer.
Blood and Breath Results
In the majority of DWI cases in Harris County and the Greater Houston area, the police will take a blood or breath sample from a person arrested for DWI. An experienced DWI attorney should have the knowledge and experience to be able to challenge those results. Many people incorrectly believe that a case cannot be won if there is a result that claims you were higher than the legal limit. There are several ways to challenge a breath or blood test. First of all, a breath or blood test has to be consensual, or there must be a valid search warrant to obtain blood from a defendant who refused after being arrested for DWI. If law enforcement put pressure on a defendant and made the test involuntary (through threats, tricks, or any kind of pressure), then an effective attorney should be able to convince the judge to suppress those results and throw them out.
Even if the results are admissible, breath and blood tests should still be challenged on the basis that they are not reliable, and not representative of what a defendant had in his or her blood at the time of driving, or not taken in accordance with State law (which can also be a reason to suppress a test). A good DWI attorney will obtain discovery from the lab or agency that administered the test and look through maintenance records, storage records, analyst notes and other documents to prove that the test is unreliable. There are very few attorneys with the experience to do this, and that is why you should ask an attorney how much training they have regarding the science behind breath and blood testing.
Contact Our Houston DWI Defenses Attorney
Jose Ceja dedicates his practice to criminal defense and to DWI defenses. He is a former felony drug prosecutor which gave him vast experience in the law of searches and seizures (which includes traffic stops). As a defense attorney, he has handled hundreds of DWIs and obtained countless “not guilty” verdict and dismissals. He is certified to administer Standardized Field Sobriety Tests and has spent hundreds of hours studying the science of breath and blood testing. If you are arrested for DWI anywhere in the Greater Houston area, contact Ceja Law Firm for a free consultation.