The DWI process in Texas may seem intimidating and confusing, particularly if you have been arrested for the first time. Texas takes an uncompromising stance with drunk drivers and police officers may not explain the process well. Here are some of the steps in the process.
The DWI process almost always starts with a roadside arrest. A police officer or state trooper needs “probable cause” to stop you in the first place. Police officers cannot randomly pull over motorists.
Many arrests still involve field sobriety tests and questioning. Typically, suspects are given a roadside breath test.
Intoxication is defined under the Texas Penal Code. A suspect will be deemed to be intoxicated if he or she operated a motor vehicle while being intoxicated. This is defined as not having the normal use of mental faculties, physical faculties or having a blood/ alcohol concentration of 0.08 or greater. The cause of the drunkenness must be a substance induced into the body or a combination of substances.
Evidence from a portable breath test machine can’t be used in court. The test that matters is the evidentiary breath test using the Intoxilyzer 5000 or the Intoxilyzer 9000, machines that the police have at the police department.
Before a suspect is taken into custody police must give a statutory warning. They should tell the suspect that their license could be suspended for 180 days if they refuse the breath test. Additionally, if they fail the breath test, their license could be suspended for 90 days.
If your test is over 0.08 BAC, the officer should confiscate your driver’s license and replace it with a sheet of paper which acts as your temporary driving permit (called a DIC-25). This document is valid for 40 days or until your Administrative Law Review hearing if you decide to appeal the diver’s license suspension.
If your breath test result is below a 0.08, you should retain your license but you can still be prosecuted for driving while intoxicated. The police officer may tell a court you did not have the normal use of your mental or physical faculties due to the consumption of alcohol or drugs.
The police officer may also apply for a search warrant to draw blood under Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Chapter 18. The officer may try to seek a warrant for an involuntary blood draw from a judge. This is not a rubber stamping process. It may make sense to refuse a breath test in favor of a blood test. Often when a person refuses the breath or blood test, the officers don’t choose to get a warrant.
Often DWI suspects are put in a police cell but later released on bond. This means you were released on the condition you go back to court to face charges when they are filed by the District or County Attorney’s Office.
Your activities while on bond may be monitored. Often DWI defendants have an interlock ignition device fitted to their car which will not allow them to drive it if they have been drinking alcohol.
Judges are becoming far more aggressive about ordering ignition interlock devices as a condition of bond in recent years.
The driver’s license suspension hearing is an administrative hearing when the defendant appeals the officer’s DWI arrest. You have just 15 days to appeal this decision to the Texas Department of Public Safety from the date of arrest. A DWI defense attorney can handle this for you.
If you fail to appeal or if the appeal is denied, you can apply for an Occupational Driver’s License. An ODL is available for most drivers on a first DWI arrest but is severely limited on a second or subsequent drunk driving arrest. The ODL may allow you to drive for up to 12 hours a day for work, shopping or other household tasks.
In most DWI cases, you will be prosecuted by the District or County Attorney’s Office. The courts require you to be at court on a number of occasions until the case resolved.
The criminal case is typically resolved in one of three ways; by a guilty plea, a trial or a dismissal.
Many DWI cases go to trial. Although DWI defendants may fear the odds are stacked against them, these cases are very winnable. If you are found not-guilty, you will be able to expunge the arrest.
A new law in Texas allows first time DWI offenders to conceal the crime under certain circumstances.
Even after you are convicted, you are not off the hook for charges in Texas. You are responsible to pay the Texas Department of Public Safety a controversial surcharge for three years to keep your driver’s license. This ranges from $1,000 to $2,000 a year, depending on the circumstances.
You should never take a DWI charge lightly in Texas. Contact our experienced Tarrant County DWI defense lawyers today for a free consultation about your case.