From first-time drunk driving to felony DUI offenses, The Love DuCote Law Firm LLC handles all DWI (driving while intoxicated) and DUI (driving under the influence) cases in Houston, TX.
Being arrested for this type of crime can be scary and embarrassing. However, our criminal defense attorneys are committed to defending their clients through every step of the process.
An arrest for a DWI or DUI, does not mean that you committed the offense. There are some incidents where law enforcement has made mistakes or not collected evidence thoroughly, which could be the difference between a conviction or a dismissal of DWI cases.
Our criminal defense attorneys have a wealth of experience from supporting a range of DWI and DUI cases and continuously use this knowledge to support future clients. In the event of a DWI arrest, a Houston DWI attorney from The Love DuCote Law Firm LLC, can defend individuals facing the serious consequences of a criminal law case.
What Is A DUI And A DWI?
The terms DWI (driving while intoxicated) and DUI (driving under the influence) have similar meanings and are often used interchangeably. The definition is regarding a driver operating a vehicle and committing a crime by being under the influence of either drugs or alcohol, in turn endangering themselves or others.
Across many states in the United States, these two terms are interchangeable. However, DUI is generally used to refer to a driver’s behavior, whereas DWI tends to refer more to the blood alcohol content of the driver. In many states, DUI laws describe being intoxicated as having a 0.08 blood alcohol content level.
How Long Do I Have To Save My Driver’s License?
Once an individual has been arrested for a DWI case, they then have 15 days to request a court hearing that prevents their driver’s license suspension. This type of court hearing is called an Administrative License Revocation hearing or ALR and is provided to determine the criminal charges from the alcohol-related charges.
However, if the accused does not request a hearing within the given time, their license suspension will immediately occur. This is why it is imperative to contact a Houston criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible to support you through the early stages of a DWI charge.
It is commonly known that refusing a breathalyzer test or a blood alcohol content test can lead to the automatic suspension of a driver’s license. Whether you refused or failed the test, you will require an experienced DWI lawyer to defend your driving privileges and save your driver’s license.
Administrative License Revocation Hearing
Once an individual has been charged with a DWI, they face both criminal charges for being intoxicated whilst driving and a civil hearing to suspend the driver’s license. This type of hearing is called an Administrative License Revocation (ALR) hearing. This hearing is set up by the State Of Texas Department for Public Safety to provide evidence that the driver either failed or refused the breathalyzer test.
If the driver refused the test, they can expect a 180 days license suspension. If the test is failed, the driver can expect a license suspension of a minimum of 90 days. This significant difference in license suspension days is to encourage drivers to take a breathalyzer test when requested by the police. Our expert DUI defense attorneys will be able to provide advice regarding your ALR hearing.
First Time DUI
A first-time DUI offense is a Class B Misdemeanor. This can lead to between 3 days and 180 days in county jail, a maximum fine of $2000, and a driver’s license suspension for 90 days to one year.
For many first-time DWI offenders, a Houston DWI lawyer will work hard for this misdemeanor to be probated, putting the individual on probation for a year. There are some circumstances that can result in longer probation, however, it will not exceed two years. During the probation period, the individual must follow the conditions of the probation, and failure to do so can lead to jail time.
These conditions of the probation can be –
- Respecting the Texas laws or any other state they visit.
- Paying fines including court costs and probation fees which 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).
The conditions of an individual’s probation will be determined by the Harris County parole officer that they are assigned. This can be supported by your Houston criminal defense attorney through the defense they provide in court; the better the defense, the less significant the consequences.
Second Time DUI
If it is proven that an individual already has a prior conviction for an alcohol-related offense whilst operating a vehicle, they will be facing a Class A misdemeanor. As this individual has already committed one DUI offense, the second carries higher consequences because the legal system believes the individual should have learned from the first occurrence of the crime. 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 possibility of probation is not automatic with a second DWI, however, with an experienced DWI lawyer it could be arranged. Due to this being the second DWI offense, probation will be longer (commonly this is two years), community service will be required and an Interlock device is imperative. This device will ensure you cannot drive your vehicle whilst intoxicated over the legal limit.
An intoxication assault is an immediate third-degree felony. For a criminal prosecutor to prove an intoxicated assault, there must be evidence that serious bodily injury was caused as a result of the driver’s intoxication. Serious bodily injury is an injury that could pose a risk of death, causes permanent and serious disfigurement, or the impaired function of a limb or organ.
Depending upon the severity of the injuries, the driver could face between 2 and 10 years in prison with a maximum $10,000 fine. In less serious cases, a driver may be eligible for community supervision. It is a certainty that the driver’s license will be suspended between 180 days to 1 year. Even if the driver has been granted probation, they will need to serve at least 30 days in county jail. Community service will be between 160-600 days and alcohol/drug treatment could be required.
Intoxicated manslaughter is when an individual operating a motor vehicle causes a fatal accident whilst driving under the influence of either alcohol or drugs. This crime is specific to the state of Texas and is only applicable when an individual is driving a vehicle, intoxicated and causes a fatal accident.
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.
After a first and second DUI offense, a third offense is upgraded to a felony offense. As the charge has increased, the consequences become more serious too. The penalties include between 2-10 years in prison. Depending upon previous criminal charges, an individual may be eligible for community supervision, however, this will range from 2 to 10 years. However, many areas will not allow community supervision for a felony DWI charge. Therefore, it is imperative you hire a criminal defense attorney to represent your case and secure your future.
Driving with a Child Passenger
A driving offense with a child passenger can also be a felony DUI charge. In addition to the DUI charge, you can be charged with the endangerment of a child as well. This serious offense can see penalties such as the loss of license for 180 days, a maximum of 2 years in county prison, and a maximum of $10,000 fine.
Commercial Drivers DWI
The laws in Texas for those who hold a commercial driver’s license have drastically changed in recent years. To meet the regulations stated by the Federal Motor Carrier Improvement Act, Texas courts have revised the penalties of DWI convictions for commercial drivers.
A commercial driver’s license could be suspended for
- Leaving the scene of any accident the driver was involved in
- Any alcohol or drug-related offenses
- A DUI or DWI
- Excessive speeding, reckless driving, and other serious traffic violations
Furthermore, a commercial drivers license could be disqualified for at least a year in the event of leaving the scene of an accident, being involved in a felony, and any alcohol-related offense.
This can be extended to at least 3 years if you commit any of those offenses for the first time whilst your commercial vehicle is holding hazardous materials.
Other penalties include
- Life imprisonment for your commercial vehicle being used in a felony crime
- 120 days in county jail for 3 serious traffic violations within 3 years
- 60 days in county jail for 2 traffic violations within 3 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
In the event of a commercial driver’s license holder being involved in a first or other DWI – even when driving a non-commercial vehicle – the driver will lose that license for at least one year under Texas DWI laws. In the event of a second offense, this license can be removed for life. In some cases, if the requirements are met, it may be reinstated after 10 years. These penalties also apply for out-of-state DWI offenses which is why it is imperative to follow the traffic laws of the state you are driving in. For many, the loss of this type of license results in a loss of livelihood – impacting housing arrangements, employment opportunities for the future, and supporting your family’s needs.
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.
Defenses For DUI Charges
If your DWI/ DUI arrest leads to you appearing in court, you will need a strong defense in place to provide a reasonable doubt for the jury and potentially result in your case being dismissed. There are many possible defenses that are used in DUI charges and your defense attorney will need to provide evidence to support this. Below we have detailed some of the defense strategies that are used by experienced defense attorneys.
Every American citizen has the right against unnecessary search and seizure warrants relating to traffic stops. One such example is that a Texas police officer cannot pull over your vehicle because they suspect you have been drinking or you have been seen leaving a bar. A crime must have occurred to issue a search and seizure.
A law enforcement office may claim to have witnessed the following traffic violations before conducting a search and seizure –
- Following another vehicle too closely
- A headlight or taillight violation
- Crossing the median border
- Failing to maintain control of the vehicle
If it can be proven that the traffic stop was unnecessary and in violation of your constitutional rights, any evidence collected thereafter is inaccurate and cannot be used against you in court. This could lead to the dismissal of the DUI charges against you.
Field Sobriety Tests
A field sobriety test is a group of actions that a law enforcement officer can request a driver to perform at the side of the road to decide if the driver is under the influence. This type of test is infamously inaccurate as it is entirely subjective by the police officer. The actions they commonly request are walk and turn tests, one leg stands, and a horizontal gaze test.
These tests are inaccurate as it relies on the police officers’ decision if the driver is under the influence or not. They are notoriously known for producing inaccurate results which don’t take into account a person’s physical or mental conditions for example, difficulty balancing, obesity, injuries to legs or feet, and old age.
The results of these tests can be discussed in court if there are clear inaccuracies from the police officers’ observations. Any medical evidence that could explain that these tests are not fair could be beneficial to your defense case.
Breath tests are a much more accurate way of recording a person’s blood alcohol content through the use of a breathalyzer. The device will monitor the amount of alcohol in the driver’s blood through a breath sample that is provided by blowing into the machine. If it is evident that the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is over the legal limit, the law enforcement officer can arrest and charge the driver with a DWI.
There are two types of devices, one that is portable within the police officers’ car and one that is used at police stations. The portable device is considered less accurate than the one at the police station. However, both are significantly less accurate than blood tests. There are multiple factors that can impact a breathalyzer test and produce inaccurate results.
A breathalyzer can detect alcohol when you haven’t been drinking alcohol in the following circumstances –
- 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
Similarly, with the field sobriety tests, any medical evidence that could explain the inaccurate test results can be used as a defense in court. An experienced DWI defense attorney can support your defense case and gather the appropriate evidence to defend you in court.
Breathalyzer Devices Maintenance
The two types of breathalyzer device must be routinely checked and thoroughly calibrated in order to produce accurate results. These maintenance checks are performed by experts who hold specific licensing qualifications to ensure the devices are thoroughly cared for. In DUI court cases, the prosecuting team must show that these maintenance checks have been carried out and that the sample provided was accurate. Any problems with the maintenance of the devices can lead to the dismissal of this evidence and potentially the dismissal of the case.
In addition to the correct maintenance of the devices, the test must be performed correctly too under strict requirements. A breath test must be conducted following a waiting time of 15 minutes or the results may be inaccurate. If the test is not performed correctly, the results can be deemed inaccurate and dismissed as evidence in court.
DUI and DWI FAQs
If you or someone you love has been arrested for either a DUI or DWI crime, it is likely you will have many questions. Each intoxicated driving case is individual and will determine the consequences. However, we have compiled the questions that we frequently receive in regard to DUI and DWI offenses.
One commonly asked DWI FAQ is whether you have to take a breath test. It is true that you don’t have to provide a breath or blood test, however, this comes with its own consequences. Refusing a breath or blood test can lead to a longer license suspension than if you failed a breath test – 190 days rather than 90 days. It is in most individuals’ best interests to refuse a breathalyzer test as it is providing the police with evidence that could be used against you further down the line.
At the time of being pulled over for a DWI offense, it can feel that you must perform a roadside sobriety test, however, you do not have to do this. The police officer will not inform you that you don’t have to perform this test and will aim to convince you that you must. You can refuse these tests, but we would always recommend doing so politely and respectfully. There is no obligation to perform this test and it could provide subjective evidence to be used against you by the prosecution.
A 0.08 blood alcohol level means that for every 210 milliliters of breath or 100 milliliters of blood, there were 0.08 grams of alcohol. In the state of Texas the 0.08 alcohol blood level is the intoxication amount, therefore anyone found to be operating a vehicle whilst over this limit can be found guilty. There are many ways that this can be contested in court. However, it is recommended to use a DWI defense attorney who is experienced in DWI charges, the legal process, and trial techniques.
Contact A Houston DWI/ DUI Defense Attorney
As we have detailed, DWI/ DUI charges can be complex and entirely individual to each case. The court proceedings can be complex and confusing to navigate alone, and the consequences can be devastating. To ensure your case receives the best defense and protects your future, contact a The Love DuCote Law Firm LLC defense attorney. Our attorneys are highly skilled and determined to support your case in the best way possible.
To discuss your case and find out how we can support you through every step of the legal process, call 832-843-1691.