Driving While Intoxicated (DWI)
An arrest for DWI can be a frightening and confusing experience. After an arrest for DWI in the greater Houston area of Texas, it is important to obtain an experienced criminal defense attorney quickly so that your attorney can preserve all avenues of attacking the DWI charge. Although many people assume that an arrest always leads to a conviction, experienced DWI attorneys know that many of these offenses are dismissed or reduced to less serious charges.
Warning: After a DWI arrest in Texas, you only have fifteen (15) days to request a hearing with the Department of Motor Vehicles to challenge the administrative suspension of your driver's license. No downside exists to preserving this important avenue of attacking the accusation.
Houston DWI Lawyer
Call Houston DWI attorney, Matt Horak, to discuss the particular facts of your case. Although we created this website to provide you with general information on specific aspects of fighting the DWI charge, there is no substitute for discussing the particular facts of your case with an attorney so you can obtain advice on how to best protect your driver's license, criminal record and reputation.
Fighting the DWI Accusation in Houston and the Woodlands
Avoiding a DWI conviction can save you thousands of dollars in court imposed expenses such as fines, court costs, and cost of supervision. Even more importantly, avoiding a DWI conviction can also save you thousands of dollars in the indirect expenses associated with a DWI conviction including increased car insurance rates, and damage to your educational or career opportunities.
Attorney Matt Horak can help you with both your criminal case and your administrative license revocation hearing with the DMV to ensure that your case receives the proper consideration in both settings. If you have been arrested for DWI in the greater Houston area, including Harris, Montgomery, Fort Bend, Brazoria, Galveston, Liberty, or Waller counties, contact our office to schedule your free, immediate, and confidential consultation with criminal defense attorney Matt Horak to discuss the specific facts of your Texas drunk driving case.
Information about DWI in Texas
Back to top
What is Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) under Texas Law?
Most people assume that Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) means “driving drunk.” However, intoxication is defined as not having the normal use of mental or physical faculties by reason of the introduction of:
- controlled substances;
- drugs such as marijuana or prescription medication; and
- dangerous drug, like cocaine, meth, or inhalants.
Many people are surprised to learn that under Texas DWI laws, “driving” also doesn’t just mean a car. It can include any device in on or by which a person or property is or may be transported or drawn a highway.
Whether or not you are intoxicated is determined by Texas law enforcement officers by testing your breath or blood alcohol content, also known as your BAC. The legal limits of your BAC are as follows:
- 0.08 BAC for licensed drivers, over the age of 21, licensed to drive a non-commercial vehicle;
- 0.04 BAC for licensed drivers, over the age of 21, who are licensed to drive a commercial vehicle (CDL); and
- 0.02 BAC for any underage driver, which means any driver under the age of 21.
Back to top
The Breathalyzer Test in Texas Called the Intoxilyzer 5000
A "breathalyzer" is a machine that is used for measuring the blood alcohol content of the body from a breath sample. Since it is a breath sample that is used and not a blood sample, the breathalyzer machine cannot measure directly the amount of blood alcohol content in the blood. Instead, the machines makes various assumptions that can impact the reliability of the result produced by the machine. Factors that can lead to an inaccurate result can include:
- The temperature of the surrounding air or your body temperature;
- The breathing patterns of the individual taking the test;
- The hematocrit levels of the individual taking the test;
- The calibration of the Breathalyzer machine; and
- The presence of “interfering compounds” such as acetone or MTBE.
The breath test machine used in throughout the greater Houston area in Harris County and throughout the rest of Texas is called the "Intoxylizer 5000." The machine is manufactured by a company called "CMI, Inc." in Owensboro, Kentucky.
The Texas Intoxilyzer 5000 relies on outdated technology that often mistakenly assumes that other substances in the breath are alcohol which leads to inaccurately high readings. For these and many other reasons, it is important to have an experienced DWI defense attorney like Matt Horak review all aspects of your DWI case if you submitted to the breath testing on the Intoxilyzer 5000.
Back to top
Should I Refuse to Take a Breath or Blood Test?
To blow or not to blow? The state of Texas has an implied consent law. This means that if you receive a Texas driver’s license, you have automatically consented to a chemical test of your blood, breath or urine to determine blood alcohol content or the presence of drugs. Because of your "implied consent" if you ultimately refuse to submit to a breath test after a DWI arrest then certain administrative consequences can occur.
Benefits of Refusing the DWI Chemical Testing in Texas
You should know that you can not be forced to submit to a breath or blood test in most cases. Certain benefits exist when the driver decides not to submit to the breath or blood test, including:
- The prosecutor will be left without any scientific documentation of your blood alcohol content at the time of your arrest to use against you at trial;
- You will not be forced to defend yourself against an inaccurate Intoxilyzer 5000;
- It may be more difficult for the prosecution to prove DWI, especially if you have also refused to take the field sobriety test.
For any of these reason, refusing to take the breath or blood test may make it more likely that you will be able to avoid a DWI conviction.
Disadvantages of Refusing the DWI Chemical Testing in Texas
Of course, certain disadvantages exists after refusing to take a chemical test of your breath or blood. First, the administrative consequences imposed by the DMV may be harsher after a refusal than after the driver blows over the legal limit. The administrative consequences that result if your Houston DWI attorney does not get the suspension invalidated at the formal review hearing include the following:
- First DWI Refusal can result in a 180 day license suspension;
- Second DWI Refusal can result in a 2 year license suspension;
- If your license was previously suspended for failing a test, and you then refused the chemical testing, your license can be suspended for 2 years;
- If your license was previously suspended for a DWI conviction and you again refused the chemical testing, your license can be suspended for 2 years; or
- If you have a previous intoxication assault or intoxication manslaughter conviction and you again refused the chemical testing after a subsequent DWI arrest, then your license can be suspended for two years.
Back to top
The Criminal DWI Charge vs. the Civil ALR Case
When a person is arrested for DWI, there are two cases that are triggered: a criminal case and a civil case. The criminal case is prosecuted through the criminal court system according to the Texas statutes pertaining to DWI. The criminal case can result in varying penalties depending on the severity of the charges, ranging from classes to fines to jail time.
The other case that is triggered is a civil case reviewed solely by the Department of Motor Vehicles. The DMV reviews the case for an Administrative License Revocation, also known as an ALR. An ALR can result from refusal to submit to chemical test or a result of .08 or greater when a chemical test is taken.
Once the DMV serves a driver with notice of an ALR, the driver has FIFTEEN days to request a hearing. If the driver fails to request a hearing, the suspension automatically goes in to effect on the 40th day after the notice from the DMV has been served. This is why it is imperative that you contact a DWI attorney immediately after your arrest, as the window for response to the DMV notice is narrow.
Back to top
The Criminal Penalties for DWI under Texas Law
Under Texas law, the penalties for DWI can range greatly, depending on whether it is your first, second or third DWI, or if you have more than three convictions for DWI. Understanding the potential punishments after a DWI arrest requires understanding both the direct and indirect consequences.
First DWI under Texas Law
In the state of Texas, a first-time DWI is a Class B Misdemeanor. Punishments can include, but are not limited to the following:
- $2,000 maximum fine;
- Up to six months behind bars;
- Suspended driver’s license for up to one year;
- $1,000.00 every year for the next three years to keep your driver’s license;
- First time offenders must also complete a 12 hour DWI Education Program within 180 days of when probation was granted or risk having their license revoked; and
- Community Service of not less than 24 hours, but not more than 100 hours.
Second DWI under Texas Law
In the state of Texas, a second DWI is a Class A Misdemeanor. Punishments upon conviction can include, but are not limited to the following:
- $4,000.00 maximum fine;
- Up to one year in jail;
- Suspended driver’s license for up to two years; and
- $1,500.00 for every year for three years to keep your driver’s license.
Third or Subsequent DWI
A third DWI in the state of Texas is a 3rd degree felony. Texas law does not provide for any increased punishment after a third DWI offense. A third DWI conviction or guilty plea can result in the following punishments:
- $10,000.00 maximum fine
- Two to ten years in prison
- Suspension of driver’s license for up to two years
- $2,000.00 every year for three years to keep your driver’s license
- Community Service for a minimum 80 hours, but no more than 200 hours
- A fourth DWI guilty plea or conviction can result in two to ten years in prison without probation.
Back to top
Commercial Vehicle DWI under Texas Law
A Commercial Vehicle Driver with a blood alcohol content of .04 or higher is considered intoxicated under Texas state law. Any Commercial Vehicle Driver operating a commercial vehicle in Texas with a BAC of .04 or higher can be subject to all of the punishments handed out for other drivers who had a BAC of .08 or higher. In addition to those penalties, CDL drivers may be subject to the following penalties:
- For a first DWI, loss of the CDL license for at least one year; and
- For a second DWI, loss of the CDL license for life.
Any CDL driver convicted of a DWI in Texas, whether while operating a commercial vehicle or a private, non-commercial vehicle, can face suspension of the CDL license. If you are convicted of a DWI in another state, that state will report the conviction to the state of Texas. The state of Texas can then suspend the CDL license for one year, and for life for a second conviction.
Matt Horak represents CDL driver's charged with DWI, drunk driving and other serious Traffic crimes in Houston, TX including reckless driving.
Back to top
DWI with Minor in Vehicle
It is a felony in the state of Texas to operate a vehicle while intoxicated with a minor under the age of 15 in the vehicle. If an individual pleads or is found guilty of a DWI with a minor in the vehicle, punishment may include the following:
- A fine of up to $10,000.00; and
- A prison term of at least 180 days and up to 2 years.
Back to top
Matt Horak, Attorney at Law | Texas DWI Defense
Defending a DWI charge in the state of Texas requires an experienced attorney who understands how to effectively fight all aspects of the case. In order to ensure that you have the best assistance negotiating the maze of administrative and criminal hearings, contact Houston criminal defense attorney, Matt Horak, to discuss your case. You can call us locally at (713) 225-8000 or toll free at (800) 225-8009 or you can submit our online contact form.
If you've been arrested for DWI anywhere in the greater Houston area, including: Harris, Montgomery, Fort Bend, Brazoria, Galveston, Liberty, or Waller counties, don't wait to begin your defense. Contact us today and schedule your free consultation.
Texas DWI Law Links
Texas DWI Laws - Summary of DWI laws from the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission. The TABC is the state agency that oversees the alcoholic beverage industry in the state. The job of the commission includes regulating advertising, manufacturing, taxation, sales, transporting, and importation of alcoholic beverages.
DWI Attorney for The Woodlands, TX - Learn how DWI cases are prosecuted in The Woodlands in Montgomery County and defenses that might help you avoid a conviction. Read information about the DWI refusal case or cases involving a breath or blood test result showing a reading over the legal limit of 0.08.
Contributor: Matt Horak