Don’t drink and drive. I’m sure everyone and their mother has heard that saying multiple times before. And it’s a good rule to live by. Granted, the proper wording should be more along the lines of, “Don’t drink or do drugs before or during driving.”, but whoever came up with the common version that people quote today should get points for trying. Regardless of however this information has been imparted to you, it really is in your best interests to follow it. Sure you might not feel drunk or high, but accidents can still happen and you can still get slapped with a DWI charge faster than you can blink.
What Exactly Does DWI Mean?
In the fine town of Houston, Texas—or anywhere in Texas, really—the term “DWI” refers to the act of driving while intoxicated by drugs or alcohol with a BAC (blood alcohol concentration) of .08% or higher. So basically, if you drive while high or have drunk anything before deciding to hit the road, then you could potentially face jail time or having to fork over a serious amount of cash.
The Big Three: Penalties For DWI in Houston
There are three different penalties that one can receive for a DWI conviction and they are jail time, fines, and suspension of the offender’s driver’s license. The way these penalties work for DWI charges depend on how many times someone decides to make the same mistake. Listed below are the fines, jail sentences, and length of time that your license may be suspended for the first, second, and third DWI convictions:
- Jail Time: 3 days to 6 months with a year-long maximum for drivers that have a BAC of .15% or higher.
- Fines: $2000 maximum. This is doubled to $4000 for offenders with a BAC of .15% or more.
- License Suspension Period: 90 days to a year
- Jail Time: 30 days to a year
- Fines: $4000 maximum
- License Suspension Period: 180 days to 2 years
- Jail Time: 2 to 10 years
- Fines: $10,000 maximum
- License Suspension Period: 180 days to 2 years
There are states that have what’s called a “wash-out” period. This means that after a certain amount of time has passed, any DWI charges that you have will be “erased” and you’ll be considered as having a first offense if you get any charges after the erasure of your former offenses has occurred. Texas, however, doesn’t have wash-out periods, so any DWI conviction that you get will be on your record forever.
When A Potential DWI Gets Worse
Bob decided to go out and have a few drinks. Bob then decided to drive himself home. Bob then gets into a car accident and someone wound up getting hurt. Those previously mentioned penalties that were mentioned before? Those don’t apply here. What Bob has done is referred to as Intoxication Assault and it is a very serious offense.
To specify, the Intoxication Assault happens when someone is operating a motor vehicle on a public road and has caused an accident because of their impairment which results in serious injury being afflicted onto another person. How the injuries are caused, be they by accident, mistake or intent is irrelevant. According to Texas law, bodily harm is an injury that causes a high risk of death or serious permanent disfigurement, loss or impairment to the functions of any body part or organ.
Intoxication Assault is considered a Third Degree Felony, meaning that it is punishable by up to 2 to 10 years and a $10,000 fine. The involvement of community supervision may also be included. This charge can be increased depending on the type of injury and the person that had gotten hurt.
- It becomes a Second Degree Felony if the victim ends up in a vegetative state.
- It becomes a Second Degree Felony if the victim is a peace officer, firefighter or emergency medical personnel and they on duty.
The punishment for Intoxication Assault being increased to a Second Degree Felony is a prison sentence from 2 to 20 years and a $10,000 fine.
What To Do If You’ve Been Accused of DWI or Intoxication Assault?
Our buddy Bob is 100% guilty, but you may not be. Texas is very, very serious about these charges so you should take them seriously as well. Just shrugging the charges off (something you shouldn’t do anywhere, frankly) is not going to go over well for you. The first thing you should do is contact a competent and credible attorney like Houston DWI Lawyer Tad A. Nelson who can help you craft a good defense.
RESOURCE: DWI Laws in Texas
Your attorney will be putting together a defense that is based mostly on facts, evidence, and interpretation of the law. Their job is to basically make it so that no jury will find you guilty by making them doubt the case that the prosecution has put together to convict you. A good attorney may use any one of these means to craft a good defense in your favor:
The means that your attorney could make an argument (after reviewing the evidence against you) that your constitutional rights had not been respected during the collection of any evidence and as such it can be thrown out.
Inaccurately Administered Blood or Breath Tests
While it is true that implied consent means that an officer can test you if they believe you’re driving while intoxicated, those tests, of course, have to be completed in a certain manner to accurately collect results. If an expert can find that the testing was flawed then your lawyer can use this to have the tests excluded as evidence.
Motions to Suppress, Exclude or Dismiss
This option does depend on the case itself, but your attorney can attempt to dismiss the case or have certain evidence excluded from the trial. This can either be used to force the State into negotiating or dismiss the case entirely.
Elements of The Offense Can’t Be Fulfilled
In the case of Intoxication Assault, the trickiest things to prove would be if you were intoxicated and if you were the cause of the accident. The three ways to prove if you were intoxicated are if your BAC was above 0.08%, you were unable to normally use your physical faculties or your mental faculties were deficient. The likely means of attack by your attorney will be towards the results of the breath or blood test. Trying to prove that you didn’t cause the accident may involve having an expert recreate the scene of the accident or proving that the other driver may take sole or partial responsibility for what happened.
As you can see, driving while intoxicated in Houston, Texas— or anywhere else in Texas—just isn’t worth it. You could end up in jail, you could end up having to pay a large amount of money or you could even seriously hurt someone. And this is something that will always follow you around, you can’t get rid of it. It’s best to have a designated driver, catch a taxi or just drink (seriously, just stay away from the drugs) at home.