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The Far-Reaching Consequences of a One-Time Driving While Intoxicated Arrest

We’ve all seen the commercials—you drink, you drive, you go to jail. However, in the State of Texas, this isn’t necessarily true. Texas law defines “intoxicated” as: 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; or having an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more.

In 2018, the Texas Department of Public Safety (“DPS”) reported 97,660 arrests for Driving While Intoxicated (“DWI”) in the State of Texas.[1] Folks from all walks of life are arrested for DWI every day—and a lot of times, they are not guilty of the offense charged.

This means most people could have one beer or glass of wine with dinner and legally get behind the wheel of their vehicle (assuming their “normal use” of mental or physical faculties was not removed by the one drink).

Unfortunately, counties statewide have adopted “no refusal weekends” that last all year long. If you are stopped by police and they detect the odor of alcohol—even if you had one drink with dinner two hours before they pulled you over—you will most likely be arrested. If you refuse to submit a breath sample or blood test (which you always should), the police will arrange to have a court-ordered needle stuck into your arm to take your blood at the station.

If you think this blood test will instantly exonerate you, we’re sorry to inform you it will not. Your blood will be shipped off to the DPS lab to be “tested” by a technician. This process takes months to complete. In the meantime, you’ll be placed in the county jail’s general population with all the other alleged lawbreakers.

Hopefully, you can post bond quickly to get out of jail and fight your case in court. However, when you refused to volunteer your breath or blood for a specimen to be used as evidence against you in your criminal case, the police have already begun a civil case against your driver’s license.

Essentially, the arresting officer filed paperwork with DPS which will automatically suspend your driver’s license. You have only fifteen (15) days from the date of your arrest to appeal this paperwork and request an Administrative License Revocation (“ALR”) hearing to stop this process. If you consented to a breath or blood test and the results show a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 or greater, DPS will seek a 90-day suspension on your driver’s license. If you do not consent, DPS will look to prevent you from driving for 180 days.

If you miss the appeal deadline for your driver’s license, DPS will automatically suspend your license 40 days from the date you were arrested. If you’re unfortunate enough to have been through an ALR suspension within the prior 10 years, DPS could suspend your driver’s license for up to 2 years.

Imagine trying to be a functional professional without being able to legally drive. How are you going to make it to the county criminal courthouse for your mandatory court settings? There is the option of an Occupational Driver’s License, which will allow you to travel to and from work, medical appointments, and other “essential” home duties. These licenses cost additional money and require a separate court hearing to prove to a judge why you should be allowed to drive while your criminal case is pending.

Speaking of going in front of the judge, most counties now require significant bond conditions—essentially, a separate contract whereby a person charged with a crime agrees to not leave the state without permission, consent to random urinalysis tests, check in with a supervision officer, pay fees, and, most importantly, have an ignition interlock device. These conditions ensure your ability to be “free” on bond while your criminal case is pending.

Imagine being a real-estate agent who must blow into a large device affixed to your car just to get it started—while a potential client sits next to you. Even though you know you were not factually or legally intoxicated, you still have a court case requiring you to have this device in your car.

In addition to all of this, some licensed professionals are required to immediately disclose any arrest to their licensing boards and employers. This could lead to immediate termination, regardless of your actual innocence. Texas is what’s known as an “employment-at-will state,” and any civil lawsuit seeking your reinstatement or damages would likely be very difficult to win.

If you’re over the age of 21, and you’re convicted of DWI without any enhancements (open alcohol container, child passenger, or blood alcohol concentration of above 0.15, etc.), it is a Class B Misdemeanor, punishable by probation or up to 180 days in county jail, up to a $2,000 fine plus court costs, and losing your driver’s license.

This is why it is extremely important to hire experienced attorneys if you or a loved one are arrested for Driving While Intoxicated in Texas. It could mean keeping your money, your driver’s license, and your personal freedom.

[1] See https://www.dps.texas.gov/administration/crime_records/docs/DWIReport/2019-01completeness.pdf

Author: Colm Keane

DISCLAIMER: The information on this website does not contain legal advice or create an attorney-client relationship. Every case is different, and this material is not a substitute for, and does not replace the advice or representation of, a licensed attorney.

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