Driving While Intoxicated is a crime in all 50 of the United States. Each state handles the penalties and procedures a little bit differently, however. The BAC (Blood Alcohol Level) limit is different across different states, as are the parameters for a police person deciding whether or not you were driving in an impaired or affected way. If you have been, or worry about getting pulled over for a DWI in the future, there are some important things you should know. Ideally, you should not plan on using this information, but sometimes unplanned things happen. It’s good to keep an umbrella in case it rains, and it’s good do know what your legal rights are, under the law, and how to best utilize your rights in order to defend your best interests just in case you need to.
Understanding the Limits:
The limitations for a DWI in Texas are two: having a BAC of 0.08 or more or “not having the normal use of mental or physical faculties by reason of the introduction of alcohol, a controlled substance, a drug, a dangerous drug, a combination of two or more of those substances, or any other substance into the body”. The OR is important, it means that a police officer only has to use one proof to verify that you were suspected of a DWI. However, that claim does not lend to guilt until a trial has commenced and been ruled upon by a Judge. This is a common mistake people make. Just because you have been accused does not mean you are already out of the fight. There are legal avenues to pursue.
Know Your Rights
The first step to gaining legal ground is to remember your rights. You are not obligated to surrender any information that could implicate you, not even if you have been drinking. The only thing the officer needs is your name and date of birth, which are on the card. If you feel you are being coerced or compelled to talk, you can remain silent. Anything said can, and will, be used against you in a court of law. Just because they don’t say the whole thing doesn’t mean it’s not active at that time, and police officers are more commonly wearing body cameras and microphones to retain detailed field observations. If you feel you are under potential legal threat, just remain quiet, or request to have a lawyer speak for you.
You may dread having to take a field sobriety test or breathalyzer. For reasons perfectly explainable you may be incapable of performing those tasks. If an officer requests that you take one or another test, you can refuse. At that point, the officer will have to request a warrant for further proof of your sobriety, or will insist on a breathalyzer. However, you do not need to submit to a breathalyzer on the spot either. There are three methods of obtaining a BAC reading. The Breathalyzer, a urine test and a blood sample test. If you refuse a breathalyzer, the officer may have to issue a warrant for your blood, and if it is signed by a Judge then it will be compelled by the law. If you have personal or religious reasons for refusing a blood test those will be checked and verified, but they will be treated as valid. The point is, you don’t have to do anything to disprove your status if you believe you are being wrongly accused.
Breathalyzers are particularly suspect as there are a number of additional factors which can impair the test result and give a false positive. Blood samples are much more accurate, as long as they are taken within a reasonable period of time, and the police may request something within 24 hours or less with a judge’s approval. You will both be on the clock after your arrest. After 15 days, your license may be suspended pending a proper hearing and adjudication. This turns a simple pull-over time sink into a weeks-long expenditure of time and money. The best bet is to call a lawyer as soon as possible to represent you and allow them to handle setting up the Administrative License Revocation (ALR) hearing to save your license.
What a Good Lawyer can Do
Professional DWI lawyers have experience fighting against bunk charges and disseminating the evidence before a Judge and against prosecutors seeking guilty confessions in exchange for lighter sentences. A good defense lawyer can help avoid those pitfalls for people who are new and inexperienced with the law. First time DWI convictions often have light penalties, but can stay on your record and appear as a mark against your credentials. It will be in your all-important background check that employers or certain sales services use to determine if you are a trustable individual. It’s better not to take the risk of a quick Guilty trial and fight against the charges with a competent, professional lawyer guiding your way.
The worst case for a first time conviction would be jail time. Even on time served where none of your days are spent inside of a county jail cell, your license will be suspended for 90 days to a full year depending on the severity of the charges and surrounding incidents that were brought before the Judge. A good lawyer can expunge that punishment and push for probation, and even a nondisclosure clause on the conviction so it does not retain a place on your record after settling a fine. It’s a matter of perspective. A $4,000 fine with potentially a year without travel, which means fewer job options and potential unemployment, or an expense-paid representation to make it all go away under the law. Which one sounds better?
There Is Always Help Waiting
There are always conditions where help can be acquired. To the people who had one too many, had a BAC of 0.15 and were more beer than man when they went out onto the open roads, which they could not stay on in a straight line no matter how hard they tried, those people will need a lot more than a good lawyer. For everyone else, there is a 10 to 15 percent dismissal rate where charges are all together dropped and forgotten, along with a 30 percent rate of lowered convictions for lesser charges. These cases come about thanks to experienced lawyers. They are the first people you should call if you ever get pulled over for a DWI.