Defending Those Facing DWI Charges

The State of Texas takes a very strict stance towards intoxicated drivers. This is especially true in recent years. The penalties associated with a conviction for DWI are severe and numerous. Tarrant County in particular is strict in its prosecution of alleged drunk drivers. You may find yourself faced with not only jail time, but hefty fines and court costs. Collateral consequences include a possible driver's license suspension, ignition interlock device on your vehicle, higher insurance rates, and costly penalties assessed by the Texas Department of Transportation. DWI cases are very expensive and the repercussions can last for years.

An arrest for DWI in Tarrant County should be taken seriously. We take them seriously. Each client's DWI case is handled the way we would expect our own case to be handled – with skill and passion. An expertly defended DWI case in Tarrant County takes a great deal of preparation and know-how. Your DWI attorney should be proficient in Fourth Amendment constitutional law. Your attorney should examine your case from start to finish. He should fight for your driver's license. He or she should subpoena all necessary witnesses and potential evidence on your behalf. You should expect your attorney to pursue every conceivable avenue to your benefit. At the Hardy Law Group, PLLC, that is the kind of representation we want to deliver.

Something To Consider

DWI cases are unique for various reasons. As stated above, they can be very expensive. DWI's are also possibly the most commonly committed crime in the United States. However, those arrested for DWI are generally non-criminals — that is to say they are otherwise respectable citizens who rarely get in trouble with the law.

Read on about DWI cases in Tarrant County

You Don't Have To Be Drunk To Get Arrested For DWI

Hundreds of citizens are stopped daily in Tarrant County for legitimate reasons. And many of those citizens are arrested because they are intoxicated. However, sometimes citizens arrested for suspicion of DWI are not intoxicated. Once there is suspicion of alcohol, it doesn't take much for that suspicion to develop into an arrest on "probable cause." An officer may conduct some antiquated "field sobriety tests," and ask you some questions designed to confuse you. The officer likely is seeking to justify his eventual arrest — and that decision to arrest likely was made much earlier. That decision can be, and often is, based largely on the officer's own subjective determination, or "hunch." DWI is an opinion-based crime.

How Can This Be?

Well, the police officer is in the business of making arrests. No officer wants to take the risk of letting an intoxicated person go, then assume responsibility for that drunk person killing someone. And let's face it — the officer doesn't know you, how much you've had to drink, or how you respond to alcohol. He certainly isn't going to take your word for it when you tell him you are okay to drive. He is taking you to jail and letting the court system work out whether you are guilty or not.

It's All About Timing

If the simple act of becoming intoxicated was illegal, then you'd expect alcohol itself to be illegal as well. But, of course, that's not reality. In fact, people get drunk at home and at bars and restaurants all the time. There's nothing illegal about that. What's illegal is being intoxicated at the time of driving. Your blood alcohol level at the time your breath or blood test was taken is only an indication of your level when you were driving. That's where it gets tricky. Unless there is certain information about the type and amount of alcohol consumed, as well as when the first and last drinks were consumed, it is scientifically impossible to determine with a certainty what the blood-alcohol concentration was at the time of driving. So the prosecutors are often left to assume or guess.

Shaky Science

There are three common ways of testing for blood alcohol concentration. The most common is a breath test. Second, a sample of your blood can be tested. And rarely, a sample of urine may be tested. Blood samples are considered to be the most reliable; but they are inconvenient, cause delay, and are costly. This leaves breath testing — it is the most economical, convenient and common method used by the police in the country. The problem is, breath tests are conducted on an old machine called the Intoxilyzer 5000 ("the breathalyzer"). There is considerable debate within the legal and scientific community regarding the accuracy of this machine. Some common complaints include:

  1. The machine commonly reads other substances found in the breath and falsely attributes them to alcohol
  2. We don't know how the machine works, and we aren't allowed to test it. The DPS won't allow anyone to test the reliability or accuracy of this machine. The science behind the machine is "proprietary." This means that the way it works is essentially a trade secret, and therefore, not subject to peer review. Since it cannot be tested, opponents argue that its conclusions shouldn't be regarded as scientific evidence.
  3. The maker of the machine does not warrant that it is reliable – the manufacturer says that it does not warrant that it is fit for any particular purpose.
  4. The machine's formula relies on the assumption that every single person tested is the same. In other words, the machine assumes an average person without regard to differences in size, weight, age, tolerances, blood/breath rations, etc.

As you can see, breathalyzer cases are a point of much controversy. It is a machine used by the police. It is not a medical instrument. The weaknesses in the machine's reliability are of particular importance in breath test cases that are borderline, i.e. just at or a little over the 0.08 mark. A skilled and knowledgeable DWI attorney will know how to take advantage of this weakness if possible.

Intoxication Defined

Intoxication can be defined several ways. Under Texas law, a person is intoxicated when she has:

1. A blood-alcohol concentration of 0.08 or higher; or

2. Lost the normal use of her mental faculties; or

3. Lost the normal use of her physical faculties.

Actual scientific evidence of intoxication is not required to sustain a conviction for DWI in Texas. The police officer can arrest you for DWI even if you refuse a breath or blood sample. This is referred to under Texas law as "implied consent." By driving on Texas roads, you implied consent to providing a breath or blood sample when asked. You can be arrested even if you did not consume alcohol. You can be arrested for DWI even if you are taking doctor-prescribed medication!

The Officer's Job

Whether or not you consent to a breath test, the police officer will make his report based upon observed driving behavior, how you performed on field sobriety tests (if you didn't refuse them), as well as your general demeanor, words and actions. More often than not, a DWI report will allege an odor of alcohol, red and watery eyes, and often slurred speech (among other things). It is the officer's job to justify the stop of your vehicle and the arrest.

Summary

Don't make the mistake of assuming your case is a lost cause. There are many ways a case can be won that aren't always clear on the surface. It is one thing to allege intoxication on paper, but quite another thing to prove it in court. A skilled and knowledgeable DWI attorney will take advantage of every favorable opportunity — from challenging the legality of the stop and suppressing illegally obtained evidence, to challenging the accuracy of field sobriety tests or even the breath or blood test. Every single case is unique. Call The Hardy Law Firm to discuss your case for free.

DWI Penalties Under The Law

The following are statutory penalties under Texas law. They do not include possible conditions of bond release or probation.

ced DWI Penalties

  • DWI with an Open Container of alcohol: A DWI with an open container carries a possible punishment of 6 days in jail and up to a fine of $2,000 (Class B Misdemeanor).
  • DWI with a Child Passenger: A DWI conviction with a child passenger at the time of driving carries punishment from 6 months to two years in state jail, and a fine of up to $10,000.
  • DWI Assault: A DWI conviction involving an accident where serious bodily injury occurs as a proximate cause of intoxication is a third degree felony. It carries a punishment from 2 years up to 10 years in prison, and up to a $10,000 fine (3rd Degree Felony).
  • Intoxication Manslaughter: A DWI conviction where a death occurs as the result of intoxication is a second degree felony. It carries a punishment from 2 years up to 10 years in prison, and up to a$10,000 fine (2nd Degree Felony).

Punishment

In some cases, you may be eligible for probation upon conviction or a guilty plea. Generally probation is offered for misdemeanor DWI offenses. However, there is never a guarantee that a judge will probate your jail sentence or fines. Other alternatives to straight jail time include labor detail, jail release, or weekend jail time. In each alternative a person will serve out the sentence by either reporting to labor detail or jail. Again, there is no guarantee a person will be eligible or that a judge will grant it.

What To Expect On Probation

If eligible, a probationer will be required to:

  1. Report to a probation officer at least once per month. The Tarrant County Supervision & Corrections Department has several field offices throughout Tarrant County. You will report to whichever office is closest to your home address.
  2. Pay $60 per month while on probation.
  3. Commit no law violations while on probation (Class B misdemeanors and up).
  4. Avoid persons of disreputable character (i.e., felons).
  5. Maintain suitable employment.
  6. Support dependents.
  7. Complete a Substance Abuse Evaluation. Based upon the assessment (generally paid for by the county), a counselor will determine whether there is a risk for substance abuse, and recommend counseling and other programs accordingly. These programs may include AA or NA meetings, or more intense treatment.
  8. Successfully complete a three-day DWI-Education program.
  9. Attend a one-time DWI "Victim Impact Panel."
  10. Work a pre-determined number of community service hours.
  11. Depending on the case, a probationer may be prohibited from consuming alcoholic beverages while on probation.
  12. Submit to random urinalyses tests at the direction of the probation officer.
  13. Depending on the case, a probationer may be required to install an ignition interlock device at his or her expense. This device requires a probationer to blow into and pass a breathalyzer before starting a vehicle.
  14. Any other conditions as determined by the court.

Probation in Tarrant County can be time-consuming and quite expensive. The goal is to allow offenders to serve their punishment while maintaining their livelihood, and hopefully, achieving some rehabilitative benefit from the experience. One additional advantage for first time DWI probationers is that there is no driver's license suspension (with completion of the DWI-Education course). A jail sentence, though less time-consuming, will result in a driver's license suspension. (This is in addition to any ALR suspension, see below).

Cleaning Up Your DWI History (brand new 2017 law)

It is a question asked often: "Can I seal my DWI conviction?" The simple answer is: "It depends." Until just this year, anyone with a conviction for DWI was not eligible to have that record expunged or sealed. That record of conviction would stay with the person for life. However, a new law, passed under the so-called "Second Chance" bill, would give offenders a chance at sealing that record. That can be accomplished with an Order of Non-Disclosure.

Requirements to Seal (Order of Non-Disclosure) your DWI conviction and arrest:

  • You have never received a conviction or deferred adjudication probation for any criminal offense (other than a Class C misdemeanor);
  • The DWI you wish to seal was your first and only DWI offense;
  • Your blood-alcohol concentration is less than 0.15;
  • There was no accident involving another person;
  • You successfully complete probation or imposed jail time (including restitution, fines and court costs); and
  • Your mandatory waiting period has passed: 2 years as part of the sentence the person maintained an ignition interlock device on his vehicle for at least six months; or 5 years as part of the sentence there was no interlock requirement

Contact Us Today To See If You Are Eligible To Have Your DWI Sealed

The aim of this new law is to give non-violent citizens the ability to become productive citizens, and lessen the stigma one often has with a conviction for DWI. Our attorneys are happy to help you take advantage of this new law.

Driver's License Suspensions For A DWI Arrest

Upon arrest for suspicion of DWI, a person's driver's license will be confiscated. Texas law permits a peace officer to confiscate a person's driver' license if the person either fails or refuses a chemical test. Once taken, a temporary license will be issued permitting the person to drive for 40 days from the date of the arrest. Unless the person requests an ALR hearing, the person's driving privileges will be suspended after the 40th day. There is a 90-day suspension for failing a test, or a 180-day suspension for refusing a test. There are longer suspensions for repeat offenders.

ALR Hearing

As stated above, a person may request an ALR hearing to contest the license suspension. ALR stands for "administrative license revocation." It is a civil hearing, and is separate and distinct from the underlying criminal DWI proceeding.

WARNING: YOU HAVE ONLY 15 DAYS FROM THE DATE OF YOUR ARREST TO REQUEST AN ALR HEARING!!

Aside from the possibility of saving your driving privileges, there are other benefits to be gained from an ALR hearing. Your lawyer may subpoena your arresting officer and require that officer's attendance at the hearing. During the ALR hearing, your attorney will have the opportunity to cross-examine the officer and question the officer regarding your offense. It is a great opportunity to determine, among other things, whether there was sufficient reason under the law for the initial stop of your vehicle. This testimony may later be used at trial. A skilled DWI attorney will know how to fight for and protect your rights at this hearing.

ALR CHECKLIST

If you've been arrested for drunk driving in Texas, you have the right to request a hearing on the suspension of your driver's license. The following information provides general information on how to request your hearing.

1. Locate all paperwork relating to your DWI arrest.

You should have received a paper titled "Notice of Suspension / Temporary Driving Permit," with the notation "DIC-25" in the upper right corner. This paper will serve as your temporary driving permit until the administrative law judge makes a decision in your case. It also explains how to go about requesting a hearing on the suspension of your driver's license.

2. Obtain all necessary information regarding your arrest.

Be prepared to provide general information about yourself as well as your Texas driver's license number, the date of your arrest, county of arrest, the arresting agency, as well as whether you failed or refused a breath test. Most of this information can be found on the DIC-25 form.

3. Request the ALR hearing immediately.

YOU HAVE ONLY 15 DAYS TO REQUEST AN ALR HEARING. Request the hearing yourself, or if you have an attorney, have your attorney request the hearing for you. See below for phone, fax and Internet contact information. Do not make the mistake of waiving this important right simply because you believe yourself to be guilty of DWI. There are numerous advantages in requesting your hearing, and often an ALR hearing can be won for reasons unrelated to the merits of your case. If you fail to request an ALR hearing within the 15 day deadline, your suspension will begin on the 40th day after your arrest.

4. Hire an experienced DWI attorney.

Your DWI defense attorney will request all necessary documentation (discovery) including the police officer's sworn report, statutory warning forms and any additional paperwork relating to your arrest. This information will be used by both your attorney and the attorney for the Department of Public Safety in making arguments to the judge.

5. Plan ahead.

While you wait on the judge's decision (usually just a day or two), plan on obtaining an Occupation Driver's License in the event your driver's license is suspended (hope for the best/plan for the worst). Your DWI attorney will prepare and file a petition for you. Read my guide on Occupational Driver's Licenses.

Occupational Driver's License

If your licensed is suspended, your attorney may file a Petition for an Occupational Driver's License (ODL). This license, also called an "essential need" license, will permit you to drive for limited purposes during the suspension period. The ODL will generally permit a person to drive to and from work, and perform basic and essential household duties such as driving to the grocery store, doctor, and school. Depending on the circumstances, a judge may tailor the permissible driving hours to conform to a person's particular needs. If a hearing is required, a skilled attorney will know how to argue on behalf of a client in need of an ODL.

Arrested for DWI? Contact the Hardy Law Group, PLLC.

Whether it is your first offense or your third, the attorneys at Hardy Law Group, PLLC, will fight for you. Call our office in Fort Worth, TX, at 817-953-6265 or write us through our Contact page. We offer free and confidential consultations.