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DWI Defense Questions

DWI Defense

What Are the Penalties for a First DWI Offense?

In Texas, the penalties for a DWI conviction are structured to increase with each subsequent offense. The specifics of these penalties are determined by the driver’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) at the time of the arrest, whether a minor was present in the vehicle, and the number of prior DWI convictions.

If you have a clean criminal record, there was no minor in the vehicle, and your BAC was less than 0.15, you will likely be charged with a Class B Misdemeanor.  The punishment range is up to 180 days in County Jail, fines up to $2,000, and a potential license suspension from 90 days to 1 year.  Additional penalties may include a DWI Education Course, community service (depending on the County of arrest), and installation of ignition interlock device (IID).

If you have been arrested for a first-time DWI offense, there are numerous ways to fight the case and hopefully obtain a dismissal.  A DWI conviction can have devastating and long-lasting consequences – even for a first-time offense.  To protect your future, it’s critical to speak with an experienced Texas DWI Attorney as soon as possible to discuss your case and the best ways to resolve your case.  There are important deadlines involving your license and other issues that a DWI Defense Attorney can explain and help you understand.

What Are the Penalties for a Second DWI Offense?

In Texas, the penalties for a DWI are enhanced for each subsequent offense.  If you have a prior DWI conviction (even from a different State) and were arrested for a second DWI without a minor in the vehicle, you are facing a Class A Misdemeanor, with a punishment range between 3 days and 180 days in County Jail, fines up to $4,000, and a potential license suspension from 180 days to 2 years.  Additional penalties may include a DWI Education Course and community service hours (depending on the County of arrest).

Most Texas Courts also require installation of ignition interlock device (IID) before the case is resolved, especially for high blood alcohol concentration (BAC) results and may require continued installation if you’re found guilty and convicted.

To answer your questions regarding a second DWI offense, please call the Westbrook Law Firm at 281-888-5581.  With more than 20 years of experience in Texas, Mr. Westbrook can help.  Start protecting yourself today.

What Are the Penalties for a Third or More DWI Offense?

In Texas, the penalties for a DWI (Driving While Intoxicated) increase to a serious felony for a third or more DWI offense.  Failure to challenge these felony offenses could result in 2 to 10 years in State Prison, major fines up to $10,000, and a potential license suspension from 180 days to 2 years.  You could also face significant community service and other education programs.

Texas Courts require installation of an ignition interlock device (IID) before the case is resolved (typically within 30 days of the first setting or Arraignment) and continued installation if you’re found guilty and convicted.  Depending on the facts of your case, the Court may also impose a travel restriction (limiting the Counties where you can drive) and even prohibit you from driving for an extended period of time.

Facing a felony DWI can be stressful and overwhelming.  The State is more aggressive for repeat offenders and will do everything possible to obtain the harshest punishment against you.  The Westbrook Law Firm can help.  Over the years, Mr. Westbrook has successfully defended serious DWI felony cases in Houston and Southeast Texas through dedicated and skillful representation.  To discuss your case and explore your options, please call us today at 281-888-5581.

What if I was Arrested for DWI with an Underage Passenger?

While a first or second DWI offense is usually a Misdemeanor in Texas, the penalties for a DWI drastically increase to a felony if your DWI involves an underage passenger.  Driving while intoxicated with a child under the age of 15 automatically elevates your offense (even a first or second DWI) to a State Jail Felony.  The consequences of this situation can change your life forever.  If convicted, you could receive 180 days to 2 years in a State Jail Facility, fines up to $10,000, and a potential license suspension from 180 days to 2 years.

Shortly after your arrest, Texas Courts will require installation of an ignition interlock device (IID) or a SCRAM device (ankle monitor) to ensure you avoid alcohol and drugs while the case is being resolved.   The Court may also impose strict travel restrictions and even prohibit you from driving for an extended period of time.

Will I go to Jail After a First DWI Arrest in Texas?

Generally, the answer is No.  While there’s no guarantee on the outcome of any case (even for a first-time DWI offense), the State is usually more focused on rehabilitation, as opposed to jail time.  Even with difficult facts, such as a high blood alcohol concentration (BAC) or a vehicle accident, there are ways to effectively negotiate with the State to avoid jail time.  There are numerous programs that can help resolve your case without jail time, including some that may result in a dismissal.

At the Westbrook Law Firm, we provide tailored advice and build a defense to reduce your penalties as much as possible. We can help demonstrate your personal responsibility, like AA Meetings, alcohol education and community service, which can help obtain a beneficial outcome.  By taking proactive steps and having a strong legal defense, the risk of jail time decreases, protecting your freedom and future opportunities.

If you’re facing any DWI charges in Texas, the Westbrook Law Firm can help.  We will guide you through the system, negotiate potential penalties and punishments, and pursue the most favorable results.  To start defending yourself and avoiding possible jail time, call us today at 281-888-5581.

Can I Refuse a Breath Test or Blood Test?

Yes, you have the legal right to refuse a breath or blood test in Texas.  However, any refusal triggers an automatic suspension of your driver’s license. This is due to the state’s implied consent law, which presumes that by driving on Texas roads, you consent to blood alcohol concentration (BAC) testing if suspected of DWI.  Refusal might also be presented as evidence in your court case, although it does not ensure a conviction.

Many DWI cases come down to the video (whether body cam or dash cam) to prove intoxication.  Juries want to see if you look intoxicated or not.  For this reason, there is no reason to give the State additional evidence, such as a breath or blood specimen.  Unless you are 100% sure that a breath test or blood test will show little to no alcohol, it’s in your best interest to refuse and defend the case on other grounds.

While you have the right to refuse these tests, most Texas Counties have procedures in place to obtain quick, blood search warrants.  These warrants allow law enforcement to obtain a blood sample – despite your refusal and lack of cooperation.  There are numerous ways to challenge these warrants, as well as the eventual test results.  If you refused breath and blood testing, and the police still obtained your blood with a search warrant, you need an experienced legal team to review all the evidence and establish the best defense possible.  Our firm is dedicated to extensive pre-trial investigations, including whether the warrant was obtained legally and whether the test results have any legal issues or problems. To start protecting yourself and fighting your DWI offense, call us today at 281-888-5581.

Can I Refuse Field Sobriety Tests in Texas?

Yes, and you should.  There is no reason to give the State additional evidence against you.  Even the most sober person can still have problems performing these
“tests”, and if you show any “clues” of intoxication, you are simply penalized for these clues and not given any credit for doing well on the tests.  Although your refusal might be presented as evidence against you, it does not ensure a conviction – and could end up helping in the overall defense.  Less evidence weakens the State’s argument, and could result in reduced charges and even dismissal.

In Texas, there are 3 “standardized” field sobriety tests (SFSTs) used by law enforcement in DWI investigations.

  • Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) Test: This is the only “scientific” test of the 3, but it’s prone for attack, as the police are not eye doctors nor experts on nystagmus.  The test checks for “nystagmus” or an involuntary jerking of your eye by asking you to track a moving object (a stimulus or pen) for an extended period.  The test relies on nystagmus worsening with increased alcohol intake.  There is a total of 6 possible clues of intoxication with the HGN test, where officers examine both eyes and look for smooth eye pursuit (2 clues), nystagmus (2 clues), and onset of nystagmus (2 clues).  If law enforcement finds 4 or more clues across both eyes, they will allege this is a positive indicator of impairment.  Although alcohol can cause nystagmus, there are other legal and medical reasons that nystagmus can occur, and these are ways to defend and challenge your case in court.
  • Walk-and-Turn (WAT) Test:  The Walk-and-Turn (WAT) test assesses physical ability and attention span.  It’s designed to simulate the multitasking needed for safe driving.  Participants take nine heel-to-toe steps, a turn using small steps, and return with nine more heel-to-toe steps.  Officers check for eight clues during this test, such as balance issues or incorrect steps. 2 or more clues may signal impairment.
  • One-Leg Stand (OLS) Test:  In the One-Leg Stand (OLS) test, you stand on one foot, while holding your opposite leg 6 inches up.  You must count aloud by thousands for 30 seconds.  Signs of impairment include swaying, using arms for balance, hopping, and foot placement.  It’s like the WAT, as it tests your balance and focus together.  2 or more clues indicate potential impairment.

With over 20 years of experience, the Westbrook Law Firm has successfully defended all types of DWI cases, including those where our client performed SFSTs. The key is to review the video evidence and counter the State’s alleged “clues” with everything you did well on the tests.  In many cases, the positives outweigh the negatives, and this can help resolve the case.  To discuss your case, and the impact of any SFSTs you performed, please call the Westbrook Law Firm at 281-888-5581.

How Can a DWI Affect My Driver’s License?

This is a primary concern with any DWI arrest.  If you refuse to provide a breath or blood specimen, or you content and the results show a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or higher, your license will be automatically suspended by the Texas Department of Public Safety unless you request a special Administrative License Revocation (ALR) hearing.  You only have 15 days to request an ALR hearing – so it’s important to hire a skilled DWI attorney as soon as possible to request a hearing and avoid an automatic license suspension. This hearing lets you contest the driving suspension before it happens and gain helpful evidence for your criminal case.  You have the right to request all evidence from the arresting officer and subpoena their appearance.  If you fail to request a hearing in time, the suspension will take effect in 40 days.

If the ALR hearing is unsuccessful or you receive a conviction for the DWI offense, you face these potential suspensions:

  • Breath/Blood Test Refusal: 180 days; 2 years if you had a previous “alcohol-related contact” within prior 10 years
  • First-time offenders (over 21 years of age): 90 days to 1 year
  • First-time offenders (under 21 years of age): 1 year (if not probated)
  • Second-time or greater offenders: 180 days to 2 years; 1-2 years if offense committed within 5 years of previous offense
  • DWI with Child Passenger (over 21 years of age): 90 days to 1 year
  • DWI with Child Passenger (under 21 years of age):  1 year (if not probated)

You may also be subject to steep DPS fees to reinstate your license after any suspension.

To help avoid a license suspension at the beginning of your case or after the case is resolved, it’s in your best interest to hire an experienced DWI Attorney as soon as possible.  With over 20 years of experience in Houston and Southeast Texas, the Westbrook Law Firm can help.  To schedule your free and confidential consultation, call us today at 281-888-5581.

Can I Fight a DWI Charge in Texas?

Absolutely.  A Texas DWI defense attorney can challenge the charge by questioning the legality of the stop, the accuracy of the breath or blood test and any field sobriety tests, and any other factors that could influence the case.

Every DWI case is unique.  Therefore, it’s always wise to consult with a Houston DWI defense attorney to determine the most effective defense strategy for your specific situation and facts.

To defend a DWI charge, we always check the legality of the initial traffic stop.  Law enforcement need a valid reason to stop you.  If the stop was unjustified (and there are many ways to show this), evidence might be excluded, including all evidence obtained after the improper stop.

Field sobriety tests, which are highly subjective and rely on the officer’s judgment, can also be challenged. Several external factors, such as the driver’s physical condition, weather conditions, and the test environment, can unfairly influence performance on these tests.  Highlighting these variables can sometimes undermine the credibility of the test results.

The procedure for handling and analyzing blood samples for blood alcohol concentration (BAC) testing is another area ripe for defense.  There are strict protocols for the collection, storage, and processing of blood samples. Any deviation can compromise the sample’s integrity.  At the Westbrook Law Firm, we can scrutinize the chain of custody and testing process for errors that could question the accuracy of the BAC measurement.

Certain medical conditions or dietary factors can influence breathalyzer test results.  Conditions like acid reflux, diabetes, or specific diets can lead to falsely high BAC readings.  A defense might focus on how these conditions could have affected the test results, offering an alternative explanation for the observed BAC level.

Finally, if the evidence of intoxication is primarily observational, such as the officer’s notes on the driver’s appearance or behavior, a defense might argue these observations could be attributed to factors other than alcohol or drug use, such as fatigue or stress. This approach can weaken the prosecution’s argument. It offers plausible alternatives to the signs of intoxication.

For more information about your possible defenses, please contact the Westbrook Law Firm at 281-888-5581.  Let us work towards securing a favorable resolution to your DWI case.

What Is an Ignition Interlock Device, and When Is It Required?

An ignition interlock device is a breath alcohol analyzer that is connected to your vehicle ignition.  It requires you to provide a breath sample – free of alcohol – before the engine starts.  In order for your vehicle to start, you must blow a breath sample into the analyzer, which measures your alcohol concentration.  If your alcohol concentration exceeds the designation on the device, the engine will not start.  The company monitoring your IID will submit reports to the prosecutor and Court – so any positive blows can seriously impact your case and license.

In Texas, IIDs may be mandated for first-time offenders, as part of probation, or to obtain an Occupational License during any period of suspension.  According to the Code of Criminal Procedure, Texas Courts also require an IID, as a pretrial bond condition, if you’re charged with a second DWI or higher.  In these cases, you are typically ordered to install the IID within 30 days of your first court setting.

There may be ways to waive the requirement of an IID, depending on your situation and facts of your case.  With over 20 years of experience, Mr. Westbrook can help.  To schedule a free and confidential consultation regarding your DWI charge and ignition interlock devices, please call us today at 281-888-5581.

Can a DWI Charge Be Expunged or Sealed from My Criminal Record in Texas?

Yes – but it depends on the facts of your case and ultimate outcome.

DWI convictions are permanent on your criminal record in Texas.  However, if your case ends in dismissal or you are found not guilty after trial, you may qualify for an expunction to erase the offense and all related records, recordings, and related documents.  Our Firm has assisted hundreds of clients with the expunction process.  This is a separate legal proceeding, filed in the civil courts.  The process can take up to 6 months, but once granted, an expunction eliminates all records and gives you the legal right to deny the arrest and everything connected to the case.  For more information about filing a Petition for Expunction for your DWI case, please call us today at 281-888-5581.

For certain Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) and Boating While Intoxicated (BWI) offenses committed after September 1, 2019, you may be eligible to seal your record through a process called Nondisclosure, including offenses that resulted in a conviction or deferred adjudication probation.  In addition to the general rules governing Nondisclosures, you must show:

  • You were not driving with a commercial driver’s license (CDL) or commercial learner’s permit at the time of the offense;
  • Your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) was less than 0.15 at the time of the offense; and
  • No prior DWI-related conviction for enhancement purposes.

Even if your case has already been resolved, you may still be eligible to expunge or seal your record and avoid harmful background checks going forward.  Consulting with a Houston DWI Defense Attorney can clarify your eligibility for these legal remedies and help protect your future.  For more information, or to schedule a free and confidential consultation, please call us today at 281-888-5581.