Whether you are being charged with a drunk driving offense for the first time or you are being charged with committing serious felony offenses, it is crucial that you obtain representation from a skilled team of criminal defense attorneys.
Here at Love DuCote Law Firm, LLC, we represent clients facing any form of DUI/DWI charge. Our Harris County DWI lawyers have a long history of successful cases under their belts, and we have won numerous favorable outcomes for clients in similar situations to you.
We know that being arrested for a DUI/DWI crime in Harris county can be both embarrassing and scary for clients, and we are always ready to commit our full resources to defend our clients and protect their future.
Just because you have been arrested for either a DWI or DUI in Harris County does not mean that you committed said offense. Law enforcement is not infallible, and officers often make mistakes or collect evidence in the wrong manner. These mistakes could lead to a dismissal or reduced punishment.
Each and every experienced DWI defense lawyer on our team has handled numerous DUI and DWI cases, and they can draw upon this past experience to tailor a bespoke strategy for defending your case. They have extensive knowledge of the Harris County criminal courts and can utilize this knowledge to help your case.
What Are DUI/DWIs
DWI stands for Driving While Intoxicated, and DUI stands for Driving Under The Influence.
They both have a similar meaning and, essentially, are used when a driver is operating a vehicle and committing a crime while they have either taken drugs or are over the legal blood alcohol limit.
While these terms are often used interchangeably, a DUI usually refers to the behavior of a driver, while a DWI generally refers to the blood alcohol limit. Being intoxicated under DUI laws means that the driver has a blood alcohol limit of 0.08 or over.
How Long Do I Have To Save My Driver’s License?
To begin with, the sooner after your DWI arrest you get in touch with a DWI attorney, the better your chances of saving your driver’s license.
After you have been arrested for a DWI case, you have up to 15 days to request a court hearing. This court hearing will allow you to plead your case to avoid having your license suspended.
This hearing is called an Administrative License Revocation hearing or ALR.
If you fail to request this hearing within those 15 days, there will be an immediate suspension, which is why it is crucial that you get in touch with a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. They will be able to guide you through each stage of your DWI charges.
If, however, you have refused a breathalyzer test or BAC tests while being arrested, there may be an instant suspension of your driver’s license.
ALR – Administrative License Revocation Hearing
Set up by the State of Texas Department for Public Safety, the ALR hearing is designed so that the court can hear if the individual refused or failed the breathalyzer test at the scene of the arrest. A DWI charge includes both a criminal charge and a civil charge. The civil charge involves the suspension of the driver’s license if necessary.
If it is found in this meeting that the driver did, in fact, refuse the test, there is a strong likelihood that they will be given a 180-day license suspension.
If the driver fails the breathalyzer test, it is likely that the driver will receive a 90-day license suspension.
This reduction in suspension is to encourage drivers to take the breathalyzer test at the scene of the arrest.
We highly recommend that you obtain representation before you go to your ALR hearing. An attorney with strong knowledge of the Harris County Court system will know how to advise you on the best course of action.
First Time DUI
With any first-time DWI/DUI offense, you will be facing a Class B Misdemeanor. The punishment for this could be between 3-180 days in county jail, a fine of up to $2000 dollars, and a suspension of your license for between 90 and 365 days.
First-time offenders have the strongest chance of having their cases probated. For first-time offenders, your Harris County DWI lawyers will work their hardest to secure this outcome, allowing the individual to be placed on probation for 12 months or in certain cases up to 2 years.
During this probation, failure to follow the conditions may lead to jail time.
Potential Probation Terms
- Respecting the Texas laws or any other state they visit.
- Paying fines, including court costs and probation fees, are usually $60.
- Reporting to the probation officer.
- Community service participation – a parole officer will set this up and could be between 24-80 hours to be completed over the course of the probation.
- Abstaining from alcohol and drug use, and not becoming intoxicated.
- Not entering any bars or nightclubs.
- Attend a Victim Impact Panel and a DWI education class.
- Maintain a job or full-time student status.
- Support their dependents.
- Taking a drug or alcohol dependency evaluation which could lead to attending a treatment program.
- The installation of an Interlock device on your vehicle (this is similar to a breathalyzer which you must provide a sample for before being able to drive).
Depending upon the situation, the probation will be set by the Harris County parole officer that is assigned to them. The parole officer will take into account the defense and case presented by your attorney, which means the better your attorney, the better the chance of reduced consequences.
Second Time DUI
For those that have prior convictions for a DUI/DWI-related offense while in control of a vehicle, the charges are upgraded to a Class A Misdemeanor. The fact that the individual has already committed an offense means that the punishments will be more severe.
With a second offense, the punishments can include 30-365 days in county jail, a license suspension of up to 2 years, and a fine that could go as high as $4000.
A second-time DUI can result in between 30 days and one year in county jail, a license suspension between 180 days to two years, and a maximum of $4000 in fines.
The chances of seeking probation instead of jail time are much lower with a second DWI charge. However, an experienced DWI lawyer may still be able to secure it for you if you get them involved as early as possible.
If they do manage to secure you probation, it will be longer than it was for the first offense. There will also be compulsory community service, and an interlock device will need to be fitted to prevent you from driving your vehicle while intoxicated.
If you are charged with an intoxication assault, you face an automatic third-degree felony.
In order to be charged with intoxication assault, the prosecutor will need to prove that there was serious bodily injury caused to another party as a result of the driver being intoxicated.
To be classified as serious bodily injury, the injuries must pose a serious risk of death or cause serious disfigurement or the impaired function of a limb or organ.
The severity of the injuries will be important, as the charge could result in between 2 and 10 years in prison with a fine that could go up to $10,000.
If the case is less serious, your attorney may be able to seek community supervision, but even if granted, the victim will still need to spend at least 30 days in county jail. There will also be community service of between 160-600 hours.
Intoxicated manslaughter occurs when a person operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs causes an accident where somebody is killed. This is a crime that is actually specific to the state of Texas.
If you are charged with Intoxicated Manslaughter, you will be facing between 2 and 20 years in jail, a fine of up to $10,000 dollars, and up to 800 hours of community service.
This charge results in a second-degree felony, a serious charge with severe penalties which include between 2-20 years in jail, a maximum fine of $10, 000 and between 240 and 800 hours of community service.
Any offense after your second DUI offense will automatically be upgraded to a felony DUI offense. The consequences you face for a felony offense are much more serious, and your case becomes much harder to defend.
A felony DUI offense could land you up to 10 years in jail, and you may not be eligible to seek community supervision.
In order to protect your future, you need to get in touch with a criminal defense lawyer immediately.
Driving with a Child Passenger
A DUI charge might be upgraded to a felony charge if there was a child in the car at the time of the arrest. In these cases, the victim may be charged with endangering the child.
This offense carries punishments, including a license loss of 180 days and up to 2 years in prison. It may also include a penalty fine of up to $10,000.
Commercial Drivers DWI
Commercial truck drivers have the potential to cause catastrophic injury. Commercial trucks can weigh 20x that of a passenger vehicle, and this means that when accidents happen, the forces involved and the potential for injury are much higher.
Due to this increased potential for serious harm, the laws surrounding commercial drivers in Texas have changed drastically. In order to meet the regulations stated by the Federal Motor Carrier Improvement Act, Texas has changed the penalties that a commercial driver may face following a DWI charge.
A commercial driver’s license could be suspended for:
- Leaving the accident scene
- Any alcohol or drug-related offenses
- A DUI or DWI
- Reckless Driving
If a driver leaves the scene of an accident, they could have their Commercial Driver’s License suspended for up to a year. The same is true if they are involved in a felony or alcohol-related offense.
If your commercial vehicle was holding hazardous materials at the time, this suspension might be upgraded to a 3-year suspension.
Other penalties include:
- Life imprisonment for your commercial vehicle being used in a felony crime
- 120 days in county jail for three serious traffic violations within three years
- 60 days in county jail for two traffic violations within three years
- A Commercial Driver’s License will be permanently disqualified on the second traffic violation – to reinstate this license, the individual must meet the suspension requirements set by the Department of Safety
Loss Of Livelihood for Commercial Drivers
If a commercial driver is charged with a DWI or DUI for the first time, even if they are driving a non-commercial vehicle, Texas law means they will lose their commercial license for at least a year.
Second offenses committed by a commercial license holder will mean that they may have their license removed for life. These penalties can even apply if the driver is charged out-of-state.
Losing a commercial driving license may result in the individual suffering a loss of livelihood and will impact future earning potential and employment opportunities.
Fighting these charges is crucial, and you need to speak to an attorney immediately if you want to protect your future.
Further Consequences Of DUI Charges
In addition to fines, jail time, community supervision, and the installation of an interlock device on your vehicle, there are many other ways that a DUI charge could impact your life. The consequences of being a convicted offender mean difficulty finding appropriate housing, employment, and maintaining relationships.
If this is your second or third DWI charge, it is unlikely that an attorney can seal your records, meaning a new employer will quickly become aware of your conviction when you apply for a new job. A conviction for an alcohol-related crime could indicate an addiction, resulting in missed days at work and frequent lateness, which would not be beneficial to an employer.
Under the Civil Rights Act, an employer cannot discriminate against those who have a criminal record, unless it is proven to impact the job role. However, if your conviction results in a lengthy jail sentence, it is likely you will lose your employment.
Any professions within the health sector, driving roles, or the insurance industries are more commonly stricter against employing those with DUI convictions.
A DUI charge can impact your housing arrangement if you lose your job as a result and then become unable to make your rental payments. In many cases, this then leads to a breakdown in relationships and difficulty in maintaining a stable future. To prevent these consequences on your life, an experienced defense attorney may be able to reduce or dismiss your case, resulting in a clean record.
Defending Against DUI Charges
If, as a result of your DUI/DWI arrest, you are required to appear in court, you need to secure the strongest possible representation to fight your case and provide the best possible defense. They will be able to provide reasonable doubt, and this may mean that your case is dismissed.
There are a wide variety of different defense strategies for a DUI defense, and your attorney will need to tailor a bespoke approach to your case depending upon the circumstances.
Here are some of the defense strategies that may be used:
You have the right to unlawful search and seizure. For example, police officers cannot simply pull you over and test you because you have been seen leaving a dram shop. There must always have been a supposed crime in order for a police officer to issue a search and seizure.
The law enforcement officer may claim that they have witnessed the following:
- Following another vehicle too closely
- A headlight or taillight violation
- Crossing the median border
- Failing to maintain control of the vehicle
However, if, with your attorney’s help, you can prove the traffic stop was, in fact, unnecessary and was a violation of your rights, any evidence found in that search and stop can not be used against you. Without this evidence, there is a strong likelihood the case will be dismissed.
Field Sobriety Tests
The field sobriety test was designed to give law enforcement tests that would indicate if a driver was under the influence or not. However, file sobriety tests are notoriously inaccurate, especially as a result is subjective and is down to the police officer at the time to decide.
Some common tests are:
- Stand on one leg
- Walk and turn
- Horizontal gaze test
The police officer gets to decide if the individual is drunk or not based on these tests and regardless of whether the individual is drunk or not, the decision is there to make. These tests do not take into account a person’s balance, obesity, age or injuries, meaning a person could easily fail, even if they are not drunk.
Your attorney will examine the observations of the police officer in court, and if there are inaccuracies or medical evidence that states the tests were unfair for you, this may be used as a defense.
Breathalyzer tests are a much more accurate way of measuring blood alcohol content. The breathalyzer device can monitor the amount of alcohol in a person’s blood by their breath. A police officer will ask the individual to blow a long continuous breath into the machine, and the machine will analyze the breath and provide a reading.
Breathalyzers come in two types, a portable device that is carried by police officers and a more accurate machine kept back at the station. The portable device is known to be less accurate than the machines kept at police stations and both devices are known to be less accurate than a true blood test.
This is because there is a huge range of different factors that can impact the accuracy of these machines.
In the following situations, the machine may register alcohol incorrectly:
- The driver recently burped
- The driver takes certain medication
- The driver is diabetic, and there is a detection of acetone in the breath sample
- The driver recently used mouthwash
- The driver has a fever which can increase the detection of alcohol even when they have drunk under the legal limit
- The driver has COPD, which can cause difficulty in producing an accurate sample
There may also be a range of medical conditions and reasons that could help explain an inaccuracy in the test and may be used as evidence in court.
A skilled DWI defense lawyer can support your defense and gather the appropriate evidence to defend you.
Breathalyzer Device Maintenance
In order for breathalyzer machines to remain as accurate as they possibly can be, they need to be tested, examined, and calibrated on a regular basis. These tests need to be carried out by specific experts who hold the relevant licenses.
When prosecutors are bringing a case against an individual where a breathalyzer result is being used as evidence, they must be able to show evidence that the machines have been correctly tested and calibrated. If they cannot show this, or if there are any problems with these tests or maintenance carried out, the test results may be dismissed as evidence.
As well as the calibration of the devices, any test given that used a breathalyzer must be carried out under strict requirements. If the test has not been carried out in the right manner, the evidence may be dismissed due to inaccuracy.
DUI and DWI FAQs
Here are some of the questions an experienced DWI attorney is asked on a regular basis:
Do I Have To Do A Breath Or Blood Test?
This is perhaps the most commonly asked question. While it is true you do not need to agree to a breath or blood test, if you refuse, there are consequences to doing so.
If you refuse a test, you will face a longer license suspension. The automatic suspension for a refusal is 180 days, whereas a normal failure results in a 90-day suspension.
The choice to refuse a breathalyzer test is only a smart one if you are certain the results may be used against you later on down the line.
Do I Have To Do A Field Sobriety Test?
Once you have been pulled over, the police officer may decide to administer a field sobriety test. Under the circumstances, you may feel like you have to oblige. The police officer may try to convince you that you must.
However, you do not have to perform a field sobriety test by law!
You are entitled to refuse these tests. However, we recommend that you do so politely and inform the officer that you know that you do not have to take their test.
Remember, there is no legal obligation to perform these tests, and the results may be used against you if you do.
What does 0.08 Blood Alcohol Content mean?
A 0.08 blood alcohol content level means that there were 0.08 grams of alcohol in 100 milliliters of your blood or 210 milliliters of your breath. This is the level that is classed as an intoxication in the state of Texas. This means that if you are found to have this level of alcohol in your system, and you are operating a vehicle, you can be found guilty of a DUI/DWI.
There are a lot of ways your criminal defense lawyers may contest this in court, so ensuring you have legal representation from a good DWI attorney is crucial.
Contact A Harris County DWI/ DUI Defense Attorney
We know how scared you may feel facing a DWI/DUI charge that may change your life and our team is ready to help.
Love DuCote LLC has a long history of successfully defending against DUI/DWI charges, and this gives us an advantage when it comes to new cases.