Charged with a DWI? discover how a DWI lawyer can help you during a court trial and outside the compound of justice.
Texas leads the country in the number of drunk driving accidents that end with a fatality. In Texas, a person suffers injury or dies in an accident involving alcohol every 20 minutes. Almost 30% of all traffic fatalities are the result of alcohol use.
In 2017 there were 13,177 alcohol-related car accidents in Texas. Seventy percent of the accident fatalities involved an alcohol content of .15 or above. Thirty-three percent of the fatalities were people under 21 years old. Harris County had the highest number of alcohol-related crashes in Texas with a total of 2,896 total.
Even if your blood alcohol level is below the legal limit of .08, there is a possibility you may be arrested for driving while intoxicated.
Have you been charged with a DWI? Let’s take a look at what the penalties are and what a DWI lawyer can do for you.
What is the Difference Between DWI and DUI?
Driving under the influence (DUI) and driving while impaired (DWI) are both crimes. Both involve the operation of a motor vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
In Texas, the main difference in the two charges involves the age of the driver at the time of the arrest. A driver with any amount of alcohol in their system who is under 21 years old will be charged with DUI. The exception is if they have a blood alcohol content (BAC) over the legal limit of 0.08, in which case they may receive a DWI charge.
The difference in these two charges, in addition to the driver’s age, is penalties. The fines for a DUI conviction are usually around $500. In addition, the driver’s license will be suspended. They will probably be ordered to do community service and/or attend educational classes.
When charged with a first offense DWI, the driver will likely encounter loss of their driver’s license, spend time in jail, have thousands of dollars in court costs and fines, plus they’ll have to pay reinstatement fees to get their license back.
You Can Be Charged With DWI When Not in a Car
The most common charge for DWI or DUI is when operating a motor vehicle. The Texas Penal Code Title 10, Chapter 49 covers offenses involving intoxication. All violations involving alcohol result in misdemeanor or felony charges.
The penal code gives the legal description for an intoxicated person. It is someone who is unable to use their mental and physical abilities due to consuming alcohol.
In addition to alcohol, intoxication can be from the use of drugs. The official level of intoxication is a blood alcohol level of 0.08 or more.
DWI is a misdemeanor. There are different misdemeanor class levels depending on various factors. If the driver’s alcohol level is 0.15 or higher the level of the misdemeanor increases. Driving with a minor under 15 in the car while under the influence of alcohol is a state jail felony.
If you are arrested for DWI and have open alcohol in any of the passenger areas of the car your charge will increase. Open means any container with any amount of alcohol that is or has been opened or has a broken seal.
In addition to automobiles, DWI charges can be applied if you are operating any type of watercraft that is powered by anything other than a water current. It is illegal to fly an airplane under the influence of alcohol or drugs. It is a misdemeanor to assemble or operate amusement park rides when intoxicated.
Intoxication Assault and Manslaughter
If you are driving or operating a car, watercraft, airplane, or amusement park ride while drunk and a person suffers injury or dies as a result, you will receive additional criminal charges. If you consuming alcohol causes someone to suffer a serious injury you will be charged with intoxication assault. This is a third-degree felony.
Serious bodily injury is an injury that results in permanent disfigurement or permanent loss of bodily function. If another person dies as the result of an accident or mistakes you make when under the influence, you will be charged with intoxication manslaughter. This is a 2nd-degree felony.
What Can a DWI Lawyer Do for Me?
Drunk driving involves two legal processes. There is a criminal case in which you will be charged with either a misdemeanor or a felony. You will be required to appear in court.
There will also be an administrative hearing with the Department of Motor Vehicles. When you are charged with DWI, the state invokes a mandatory suspension of your driver’s license. You have only 15 days from the date of your arrest to appeal the suspension.
Administrative hearings and the court process involve different legal procedures. A DWI lawyer will have the experience and knowledge needed to handle your case with efficiency and compassion. They understand the process of both the administrative and criminal procedures and appear with you for all hearings.
Meet with a DWI lawyer for a consultation. Bring a copy of the police report, the breath or blood test results if you have them, and any other pertinent information. The attorney will discuss the case with you, review the materials, and provide you with an honest opinion on the best way to proceed.
Bring along a list of any questions you have. Feel free to ask the attorney about their experience and results of cases Check to see if their clients have left any testimonials. This is information that lets you know if the attorney is the right one for you.
If there are records that you do not have that may be relevant to your case, the lawyer will know how to make the requests. They will submit demands for discovery and subpoena any needed records or witnesses.
The lawyer will receive a copy of the arresting officer’s police report and may request any dashcam videos running when you were arrested. These can be vital in determining your actual state of inebriation at the time of the arrest.
It is important you provide the attorney with complete information. This includes any past criminal or drunk driving history you have. The attorney needs to be fully informed so they do not get blindsided by the prosecutor using past history against you.
The more information the attorney has the better position they are in to negotiate your case. The DWI attorney will try to lower the standard plea offer. They will be familiar with the law, legal process, the prosecutor, and the judges. This familiarity works in your favor of receiving the best settlement possible.
The Cost of DWI Convictions
Impairment begins with the first drink. A person’s ability to process alcohol is based on a number of factors. Women and younger people are generally more likely to become drunk with less alcohol than a larger built man.
In addition to gender and body build, every person’s tolerance varies depending on whether or not they have consumed food and how many drinks they have had. Everyone processes alcohol at a different rate based on their personal genetics.
In addition to embarrassment and possible loss of employment, the court costs and fines for drunk driving vary based on the offense.
When a person receives their first DWI they can be fined up to $2,000 and serve anywhere from 3 to 180 days in jail. They will also lose their driver’s license for up to a year. To regain the ability to drive they will have to pay an annual fee of $1,000 or $2,000 for three years.
For a second DWI, the fine is up to $4,000 and the person will spend 1-12 months in jail. The driver’s license will be suspended for two years, and the annual fee for regaining the license will be $1,000, $1,500, or $2,000 for three years.
After two or more convictions within a five year period, the person will be required to have a driver interlock unit installed in their vehicle. This is a device that requires the person to take a breathalyzer before the engine will start and prevents a person from driving drunk.
With the third DWI, the cost increase is substantial, with a $10,000 fine and 2-10 years in prison. The driver will lose their license for up to 2 years and the cost to regain it will be annual fees of $1,000, $1,500, or $2,000 for three years.
In addition to the above, there may be an additional fine of $500 if there was open alcohol in the vehicle. If caught driving intoxicated with a minor child under the age of 15, the driver may be charged with child endangerment. This carries a fine of up to $10,000, up to two years in a state jail, plus the loss of their driver’s license for 180 days.
Many people think they can side-step the system by refusing to take a blood or breath alcohol test. Be aware that refusal to be tested will result in an automatic 180-day suspension of your driver’s license.
Don’t Hesitate to Hire a DWI Lawyer
If you find yourself charged with the crime of DWI or DUI don’t hesitate to contact us. Call any of our three offices, located in Angleton (979) 849-8526, Pearland (832) 554-1283, or Houston (281) 488-1918 to schedule a consultation. Our experienced DWI lawyers will get you the best results possible.