You Got a Texas DWI for WHAT?

Texas DWIDrunk driving is a problem across the nation. At this moment, there is someone making the unwise decision to get behind the wheel and drive under the influence. If caught in Texas, they will be subjected to penalties of both administrative and judicial varieties. Everything is bigger in Texas, including DWI punishments.

Like all states, the standard blood alcohol concentration (BAC) for a Texas DWI is .08%, but there are other ways to get a DWI. If your BAC is under .08% but you’re exhibiting signs of intoxication or fail a sobriety test, you will still be charged with a Texas DWI. You can also have increased penalties levied against you in certain circumstances when there are aggravating factors present. Aggravating factors can include things like a BAC over .15% or causing a non-fatal injury at the time of your DWI.

Texas has a “zero tolerance” policy when it comes to underage drinking and driving. If your BAC is .02% or more you will be charged with a Texas DWI which can have lasting effects on your life when it comes to career and college choices. Be wise and don’t drink and drive so that you have every opportunity available to you for your future. If you possess a CDL and drive while intoxicated you can lose your career and income if you are caught with a BAC over .04%.

Texas also has no look back period. This is not good news for the repeat offender. Even if you got a DWI 30 years ago, it will count against you if you are being prosecuted for a second offense and will increase your penalties. Penalties such as mandatory ignition interlock device installation are becoming the norm, too.

Bottom line is don’t drink and drive, but if you make a mistake and are caught, you need an attorney on your side to make sure you’re rights are protected and to help find ways to reduce your sentence. The legal system is often confusing and convoluted. Having a professional on your side is the best choice you can make for your future.

A Texas Aggravated DWI Only Costs Your Freedom

Texas aggravated DWIEvery day in the United States, people drink and drive. This isn’t a rare occurrence and it is the cause of many horrific traffic accidents. Texas is cracking down on drinking and driving by passing stricter laws with harsher sentences for offenders. If you are convicted of a Texas Aggravated DWI, you are convicted of a felony, with its long-reaching consequences that will affect you for the rest of your life.

A DWI charge is elevated to a Texas Aggravated DWI when the DWI was not the only offense you committed. The following offenses will raise your drunk driving charge to a felony:

  • Your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is over .15%.
  • Being convicted of a third DUI offense.
  • A minor under the age of 15 was present in your vehicle at the time of the incident.
  • You caused an accident that resulted in serious bodily harm or death.

If any of these circumstances apply to you at the time you are pulled over for a suspected DWI, police can charge you with a felony DWI. This will severely increase your penalties if you are convicted. Texas Aggravated DWI offenders can be sentenced to anywhere from six months up to 20 years in prison. If you caused a fatal accident and were subsequently charged with a felony DWI, you can face up to 15 years in jail and your fines, alone, for a Texas Aggravated DWI can be close $10,000. That doesn’t even include the costs of installing an ignition interlock device, reinstating your driver’s license, and paying your legal fees.

When in Texas, do as the Texans do and don’t drink and drive. The saying “freedom don’t come free” is true and you’ll never realize it more than in the wake of a felony when you realize that losing your freedom also doesn’t come free. You will pay for the rest of your life for that loss.

Weird DWI: Lawnmower Driving STILL Illegal

texas weird dwi lawnmowerOne would think that after all of these years, and all of these weird DWI headlines, that people would stop and realize that drinking and driving is dangerous and illegal. Oh, and that drinking and driving any type of vehicle is grounds for a DWI or other drunk driving charge. Even on a lawnmower. Even in Texas.

It isn’t a weird DWI if it keeps happening. What is weird is that this wasn’t even a DWI, it ended up as a public intoxication charge.

A Texas DWI charge requires two things: an intoxicated driver and a motorized vehicle. A lawnmower can be just as dangerous as a regular vehicle based solely on the idea that a person who has been drinking has pretty bad judgment. Their first mistake is thinking that it is okay to drive in that state of mind. The next mistake is assuming it is okay to drive a lawnmower because it isn’t a scary regular vehicle.

While there is not much danger of a high speed, head-on collision when driving a lawnmower while intoxicated, there are other dangers, including:

  • Flipping the lawnmower over, causing injury to the driver and potentially creating a hazard on the road.
  • If the lawnmower is actually on the road while the driver is driving it, it can be a hazard, too.
  • Lawnmowers have very large, sharp blades on them, and while that is not necessarily a driving hazard, it can be a problem for a person who is intoxicated and already making bad choices.
  • Really, the absurdity of this is a crime in itself. Don’t drink and drive ANYTHING.

Steering clear of a weird DWI or any type of drunk driving incident is pretty easy. If you know you will be drinking, have a plan for a safe ride home that does not include you driving anything. That includes lawnmowers, skateboard, and even your own two feet. You risk more than a night in jail, the frustration of court, a bruised ego, and the possibility of an ignition interlock requirement.

Ready to Drive after a Texas DWI? Not So Fast!

driving after a Texas DWIOur freedom and our independence are always top concerns, even when we haven’t acted like the model citizens we wish we were. Too many times after drinking an offender still thinks its “okay to drive,” even if that’s the same kind of attitude that ended in a Texas DWI. We get that we made a mistake, but it is really hard to get back and forth to work or school with a suspended license. It may even be easy to just jump into a car and run down the street to the store. Unfortunately, unless you’ve done your job by properly reinstating your license after a Texas DWI, you’re just running into more trouble for your efforts.

Your direct path to getting your license back after a Texas DWI includes:

  • Immediately getting an ignition interlock installed and then bringing that proof to the Texas DPS.
  • Waiting for your restricted driver’s license to arrive in the mail.
  • Driving safely, paying any additional fines as required by the DPS.
  • Attending all service appointments for interlock maintenance and calibration.

Once you get your ignition interlock device installed, you still have to remember the reasons you have the interlock to begin with, so that you don’t make the same mistake again. That means you don’t have any amount of alcohol before you drive your interlock vehicle, and that you only ever drive your vehicle with the device installed. That way, you have a breath test on record each time you drive, and it is never over the preset limit.

Remember that in some cases, any amount of alcohol detected on an interlock test could be grounds for a subsequent Texas DWI charge.

Being ready to drive after a Texas DWI is more than filling out paperwork and paying fines. Your commitment to being a sober driver is the most important factor in a successful recovery, and reentry into your life of freedom and independence.

Use It or Lose It: Texas Ignition Interlock Violations

texas ignition interlock violationBlood alcohol concentration (BAC) is not only what legally defines a DWI in Texas (and across the U.S.) but it is also what is measured by ignition interlock devices after a DWI conviction. Failing a BAC test is a Texas ignition interlock violation and a big obstacle in resuming life as normal. Texas law has specific penalties for those ignition interlock violations, all of which ensure that the roads are kept safe from future drunk driving incidents.

Ignition interlock devices prevent 67-90% of subsequent drunk driving incidents, but only when they are used.

Depending on the circumstances of the drunk driving incident, a Texas DWI offender was given the choice (or required) to install an interlock by the court or through the DMV (or both). Texas ignition interlock violations become much less understandable given that there is once again a choice being made by the offender: whether to drive sober or attempt to get around the system and/or device.

Texas ignition interlock violations include tampering with the device, asking another person to blow into the interlock, driving a vehicle that does not have an interlock installed, or registering a BAC above the preset limit.

Penalties for any of those Texas ignition interlock violations include:

  • Revoking the interlock privilege and restricted driver’s license completely.
  • Ordering the offender to wear a Secure Remote Alcohol Monitoring (SCRAM) bracelet.
  • Disallowing any participation in interlock or probation programs, and instead enforcing a jail sentence.

If you are an offender who uses your Texas ignition interlock device as instructed and has no problems with failing the ignition interlock test, you’ll be ahead of the curve in no time. Risking Texas ignition interlock device violations is never worth the restrictions that quickly follow as a result of those actions. Just drive sober and do your part in showing your commitment to safety.

It’s a Big Deal: Your Second Texas DWI

second texas dwiIt used to be that a Texas DWI was not a big deal, especially for a first offense. However, times are changing and even that first-time drunk driving incident carries some pretty strict penalties. Second Texas DWI convictions have much harsher consequences, both in the courtroom and through the Texas DMV. All of those offenses add up to one obvious answer: drinking and driving in Texas is just a big mess we can all avoid with just a little bit of careful planning.

There is no state look back period, so a second Texas DWI can happen even decades after your first. However, if more than one offense occurs within five years of another, you will have a mandatory ignition interlock restriction on your license. The benefit to an ignition interlock, aside from allowing you to continue driving after a second Texas DWI, is that you could be eligible to have your conviction deferred if all other requirements are satisfied.

Other consequences for a second Texas DWI include:

  • Up to $4,000 in fines.
  • Minimum jail time of one month, maximum one year.
  • Two-year license suspension.
  • A minimum fee of $1,000 to reinstate driver’s license (up to $2,000).

With the recent Texas ignition interlock law giving access to the devices to all Texas DWI offenders, it’s much easier to resume life after a conviction in that state. However, the conviction will have consequences. In some cases Texas will label you a habitual offender after a second offense, depending on the circumstances surrounding the incident. Habitual offender status will cause additional penalties, which may include a longer license suspension, alcohol addiction screening and/or treatment programs and community service.

Any DWI or drunk driving conviction is a big deal, no matter the circumstances. Avoiding the trouble is as simple as calling a taxi or a friend for a safe ride home.

Coming Soon: The New Texas DWI Second Chance Bill

Texas DWI second chanceAny drunk driving conviction is a problem for those harmed during the incident, as well as for the driver behind the wheel. A Texas DWI can carry strict consequences for the offender, some of which carry over well past the day they have satisfied all requirements of their conviction. In particular, the criminal conviction itself can be a barrier to leading a normal life once the DWI dust settles.

Criminal background checks are a standard part of looking for a new job, a place to live or sometimes as a part of applying to certain schools or educational programs. As such, the Texas DWI second chance bill (House Bill 3016) will be enacted September 1, 2017, to allow offenders a better chance at life after a drunk driving conviction.

HB 3016 allows the opportunity for many Texas DWI offenders to have their misdemeanor record sealed after completing a six-month ignition interlock requirement or five years after satisfying all other requirements of the conviction. Texas has expanded access to ignition interlock devices for all offenders, but they are not mandatory in many simple, first-offense convictions.

This second chance is only offered to certain Texas DWI offenders, however. To be eligible, you must:

  • Have no other DWI or alcohol-related convictions on your record.
  • Not have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level of .14 percent or higher when you were arrested for the incident.
  • Not have caused any harm to another person, neither pedestrians nor other drivers.

A sealed DWI record will still be visible to law enforcement and to the court system but would be hidden from background checks used for employment, housing or educational purposes. That way, offenders are still required to fulfill consequences for their bad judgement, while not being penalized unfairly as they move on from the incident and into a new, better life.

Putting the Brakes on Texas DWI Checkpoints

Texas DWI checkpointTexas DWI checkpoints were established to help increase safety on the roads. The events serve to weed out drunk or intoxicated drivers, with the additional benefit of discovering people with outstanding warrants or other problems. However, DWI checkpoints in Texas and across the U.S. all have one big problem: the danger posed to the law enforcement officers trying to keep the rest of us safe.

How to navigate a Texas DWI checkpoint safely:

  • If you see a checkpoint ahead in the distance, do not try to make a U-turn or otherwise turn your vehicle around. Other officers are watching and will take measures to ensure you are sober behind the wheel and not being evasive by driving away.
  • Politely answer questions and hand over your driver’s license, insurance card and other car documents upon request.
  • If you are asked to submit to a breathalyzer test, remember that if you refuse, you could be charged with an implied consent violation.
  • Keep your speed to a minimum until you are given the signal that you can drive away, and then do not speed or make any other actions beyond carefully driving away.

Many states with sobriety checkpoints have had issues with law enforcement officers injured or killed during the events. Maryland’s “Noah’s Law” (all-offender ignition interlock law) was named after an officer who was killed during a DUI checkpoint by a repeat drunk driver.

When you have not had a drop to drink and are still forced into a Texas DWI checkpoint, the additional time and effort can be a frustrating experience. However, with a little bit of understanding and patience, you will be well on your way before you know it. The safety of others on the road and that of the law enforcement officers providing the safety service are priorities. Let’s all give these officers and events a break and support sober driving in Texas, and across the U.S.

Your First Texas DWI: Got an Ignition Interlock Device?

first offense Texas DWIThe consequences for a first-offense Texas DWI conviction used to be pretty clear – as long as your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) was on the low side of the spectrum. The state enforced the least restrictive consequences in hopes that you would have an easier recovery after the conviction, and maybe enough incentive to not try to tempt fate again. So you may have had some jail time and a license suspension, but that was about it.

With a first-offense Texas DWI, you also have the option of DWI probation. Instead of serving 72 hours to six months in jail, you could face up to two years of probation. Your probation could include:

  • Regular appointments with your probation officer.
  • Community service requirements.
  • Abstaining from alcohol and night clubs.
  • A substance or alcohol abuse evaluation.

Texas Transportation Code – TRANSP § 521.246: (a) If the person’s license has been suspended after a conviction of an offense under Sections 49.04-49.0849.08, Penal Code, the judge shall restrict the person to the operation of a motor vehicle equipped with an ignition interlock device.

(b) Redesignated in part into subsec. (a) and deleted in part by Acts 2015, 84th Leg., ch. 1067 (H.B. 2246), § 6.

(c) The person shall obtain the ignition interlock device at the person’s own expense unless the court finds that to do so is not in the best interest of justice and enters that finding in the record. If the court determines that the person is unable to pay for the device, the court may impose a reasonable payment schedule for a term not to exceed twice the period of the court’s order.

(d) The court shall order the ignition interlock device to remain installed for the duration of the period of suspension.

With a new, state wide expansion in 2015, a first-offense Texas DWI now means that you can skip your license suspension, as long as you install and maintain an ignition interlock device. Previously, only first-offense Texas DWI convictions with a BAC of .15 percent or higher or multiple offenses had ignition interlock requirements. That meant even those first-time offenders were given fewer opportunities to get their lives back together after a conviction.  That paradox has been fixed with the new ignition law that covers all DWI offenses.

Stop, Police… Why Are Austin DWI Numbers Rising?

Austin DWI numbers are rising... for all the best reasonsHigher drunk driving arrest rates don’t always mean more drunk drivers. Austin DWI numbers are rising, but not necessarily because more people are driving while intoxicated. It seems that there are more Austin DWI charges and convictions because law enforcement is stepping up efforts in order to increase safety on the roads. That’s one big reason we can support for those higher DWI statistics.

Contrary to popular belief, Austin DWI numbers didn’t rise after Uber and Lyft were ushered out of the city, either. Austin police data further shows that DWI fatality rates declined after those services were no longer available. To drive home the point, Uber and Lyft are now operating there again, giving us all a chance to compare numbers.

According to Austin DWI data, “there were 359 DWI arrests from May 9, the day Uber and Lyft shut down, to May 31st… during the same time period (in 2015), there were 334 arrests. That’s a 7.5 percent in the weeks following their departure.”

There is a chilling reality in all of this – that when we see the numbers roll in about lower DWIs, the spin can be misleading. Fewer drunk driving arrests and convictions don’t always add up to fewer drunk drivers on the road. What it likely means is that there aren’t enough resources to keep drunk drivers in check. A solution to that problem is pretty clear, and when we rely on the technology in devices like ignition interlocks, law enforcement resources are able to go after other, perhaps more “hands-on” criminals. More ignition interlock devices also mean fewer DWI arrests and convictions.

For whatever the reasons turn out to be, we are just glad that Austin DWI rates are rising, because that means that more effort is being placed on reducing those numbers.