Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) & Driving Under the Influence (DUI)
The consequences of a DWI arrest are serious, and a conviction for the offenses can be devastating, - both personally and financially. A recent article in the Austin American Statesman estimated that the cost of a first DWI arrest and conviction can be as high as $15,000.00. After arrest this includes bail, towing, and legal fees. If convicted, the expenses can include probation, fine, counseling, occupational driver’s license, increased insurance, and a three year annual government surcharge of $1000.00 - $2000.00 to maintain your driving privileges. In addition, you could be required to perform community service or spend time in jail.
Many of my colleagues advertise and would insist that you not take a breath test when offered by the arresting officer. I do not agree that one answer fits all circumstances. For instance, if you have (truly) had only one or two drinks, the intoxilyzer machine could be your best friend - testing under the legal limit would be an extremely important factor in your defense. That said, I am not a big fan or believer in the accuracy of the State’s machine. If you have had more than two regular drinks over a two to three hour period than you might be wise to decline the test. Some of that depends on your size, and factors such as food intake and metabolism. Additionally, the breath tests are usually administered about an hour after you have been stopped. Depending on when you had your last drink this could skew the results in the State’s favor.
There is no universal advice to give you for dealing with the police in a roadside alcohol related encounter. If you are a gymnast, acrobat or ballerina, you may be able to pass the States’ made - to - fail field sobriety tests. For the rest of us, taking these tests can be a big mistake. Personally, I suffer from numerous sport related injuries and couldn’t pass these tests on my best day. (Please never tell an officer that you “couldn’t pass these tests if I was sober”). There are so many factors here I cannot list them all, but here are a few : Are you tired: wearing the wrong shoes, i.e. flip flops, crocs, or high heels (doing the tests barefoot is generally a mistake); is the terrain level and free of debris; is it cold; or hot; are you the nervous type? In many cases it is best to refuse to do these tests and take your chances in Court with a well trained advocate.
In almost every DWI case there is a video recording of the events leading up to an arrest. The cameras are designed to come on automatically when the officer’s overhead (or in the grill) lights are activated. This tape is usually available to counsel in the month following the arrest. The tape is the most objective evidence in a DWI prosecution. Remember to always take the high road, be polite, and do not talk too much. Exhibiting common sense goes a long way in helping convince a Jury you were not intoxicated.
DWI Court in Travis County
This is an alternative to receiving a sentence from the Court, or Jury for a second or subsequent DWI charge that occurs within two (2) years of the initial charge. The terms or conditions are more intensive than a regular DWI second probation, however, the program can be completed in one (1) year, and there is no jail time to serve, or community service to perform. After an attorney has evaluated the case, and it is determined that the case will not be tried or reduced, this is a good option.
The DWI cases cannot involve victims (i.e. from accidents), or be connected to another pending case (i.e. possession of contraband). The applicant cannot have a significant, or violent criminal history.
Participants accepted into the program are assessed a one time $500.00 program fee. In addition, participants will be assessed a co-payment for treatment based on ability to pay. The program lasts for a minimum of twelve (12) months, and includes:
• Outpatient group counseling three (3) times a week, for three (3) to six (6) months.
• Individual counseling every two (2) weeks.
• Six (6) months aftercare.
• Judicial Oversight.
• Case management by probation officer.
• Alcohol/drug testing.
Williamson County has a DWI court as well with a similar program.
Driving Under the Influence (DUI)
Driving Under the Influence in Texas is a Class C misdemeanor that carries with it a maximum fine of $500, but no jail time. However, a person ticketed for DUI will most likely go to jail because the officer cannot let the person continue to drive. This charge is specifically for people under 21 years of age who have any detectable amount of alcohol on their breath. This does not mean that a person under 21 cannot be charged with Driving While Intoxicated, a Class B misdemeanor, if the arresting officer believes the person to be intoxicated.
Administrative License Revocation (ALR) Hearing
This is a separate hearing/ procedure to challenge the driver license suspension that comes with a breath/blood test failure or refusal. You must make a request for this hearing within fifteen (15) days after your arrest. You can do this by following the directions on the notice you receive when you are released from jail. If you hire an attorney prior to the fifteenth day after your arrest, he or she can make the request on your behalf. If you do not request the hearing in a timely manner, your driving privilege will be automatically suspended on the fortieth day after your arrest. For first time offenders the suspension period is 90 days for a sample failure and 180 days for a sample refusal. The suspensions are longer for repeat offenders. In either case, with some qualifications, you can obtain an essential needs driver license, also called an Occupational Driver License, to conduct your important affairs.