When it comes to blood alcohol concentration and DWI allegations in Texas, there are several crucial details you need to be aware of. The legal threshold for alcohol intoxication is .08%, but regardless of your specific BAC levels, an officer could detain you when they suspect that you are driving while intoxicated. In this blog, we'll take a look at BAC under Texas DWI statutes, and show how it can be used in a DWI case.
What is BAC?
BAC/Blood Alcohol Concentration refers to the percentage of alcohol a person has in their blood.
The legal threshold for BAC in Texas, as in almost every other jurisdiction, is 0.08 percent. However, you could still face a DWI charge even with a BAC of less than 0.08. This could happen if alcohol impairs your ability to function normally and you are unable to drive safely. Your ability to drive could be impacted by a blood alcohol concentration as low as 0.02%.
If the arresting officer believes you were intoxicated by the alcohol concentration in your bloodstream (even though your BAC was under the permissible threshold), you risk facing DWI charges. The following are indicators of impairment that officers often take note of:
- Irrational behavior
- Signs of confusion, or disorientation, being in a dazed state
- Slurred speech
- Engaging in combative behavior
- Fumbling acts
- Signs of lethargy
How Texas Authorities Measure BAC
The kind of chemical tests the authorities use to determine your BAC during a traffic stop can vary.
BAC Breathalyzer Test
The majority of law enforcement authorities in Texas utilize the Intoxilyzer 5000 device to assess the level of alcohol in a sample of breath. The Intoxilyzer analyzes the breath sample using infrared light. The greater the percentage of alcohol, the more light from the device the alcohol absorbs.
BAC Blood Test
Certain legal requirements for collecting a blood sample for blood alcohol concentration testing are outlined in the Texas Transportation Code. But unlike breathalyzer tests, the sample and testing procedures are not well-defined.
In general, the testing facility can run tests at its convenience provided it complies with the Code of Criminal Procedure guidelines as well as the Texas Department of Public Safety Crime Lab accreditation regulations.
BAC Urine Test
Even though urine tests for BAC aren't often used by the Texas police, it does give them another legal way to determine intoxication levels. Similar to blood tests, the laws do not specify how urine samples will be tested. As a result, the testing facility is authorized to utilize any generally accepted analysis technique it prefers.
A blood alcohol test could be administered to determine whether you:
- Were driving while intoxicated. The statutory blood alcohol threshold for motorists in the country is 0.08 percent for those who are above the age of 21
- Drivers under the age of 21 are not permitted to possess any amount of alcohol in their systems while operating a vehicle
- Were legally intoxicated. Each state has a different permissible alcohol limit when it comes to public intoxication
- Have consumed alcohol while enrolled in a treatment program where it is forbidden.
- Are experiencing alcohol poisoning, a condition that can be fatal when blood alcohol levels reach extremely high levels. Basic bodily processes like respiration, heart rate, and even temperature can all be negatively impacted by alcohol poisoning
A person is regarded as officially intoxicated in Texas if their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is at 0.08% or above. You could face a Class B misdemeanor Driving While Intoxicated conviction if you operate a vehicle while at or over the legal threshold. However, if your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is.15 or higher as you're operating an automobile, you could face a Class A misdemeanor penalty, which is a more serious charge.
How BAC Findings are Used in a Commercial Driver’s DWI Case
Commercial Driving While Intoxicated offense is governed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). Comparatively speaking, commercial vehicle operators are subjected to a stricter standard than regular motorists. Commercial drivers have a legal limit for blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.04%, which is half the legal limit for regular motorists of 0.08%.
When a commercial driver's blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is at 0.04% or greater, the operator will be automatically barred from undertaking safety-sensitive duties, such as operating a commercial automobile. Drivers who are found guilty of commercial DWI are prohibited from operating commercial vehicles for up to a year.
If commercial drivers fail or refuse to submit to a chemical test, they could also lose their driving privileges. As per the FMCSA, refusing to take part in a drug/alcohol test typically results in a positive BAC result.
Consequences of a Positive BAC Result
The following are some of the consequences a commercial driver could incur if their BAC is found to be at or over the legal limit of 0.04%:
Suspended Commercial Drivers License
A commercial driver who has been charged with DWI must deal with both the criminal court proceedings as well as the administrative procedures for driver's license suspension.
Even though the motorist is not found guilty, the administrative procedures could result in their license being suspended. The window to seek an administrative license revocation hearing is only 15 days, therefore if you're a commercial vehicle operator and wish to contest the administrative driver's license suspension, you should get in touch with a DWI attorney right away.
A commercial vehicle operator who has a first-time Driving While Intoxicated will have their commercial driving license suspended for an entire year. A license can be suspended for three years if the driver has a commercial DWI when driving a vehicle that is carrying hazardous materials. A CDL will be permanently suspended after a 2nd commercial DWI.
A DWI charge with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08% or above, or driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs will lead to a suspended license, regardless of whether the motorist was driving their car. A commercial vehicle operator who has been arrested for DWI must inform their employer. Commercial drivers won't be permitted to drive while their license is suspended.
Criminal Penalties For A Commercial Driving While Intoxicated
Criminal sanctions for a commercial drunk driving charge are comparable to those for a non-commercial charge. The majority of first-time DWI offenses will result in Class B misdemeanor charges. A first conviction carries three to 180 days behind bars, a license suspension, as well as fines amounting to $2,000.
Texas Occupational CDLs
Although drivers of personal vehicles facing DWI charges are frequently capable of obtaining occupational permits to drive to and from their workplace or to school despite having a suspended driver's license (although with considerable limitations), there isn't any equivalent for Commercial Driver's Licenses. Even though you can get a hardship driver's license to operate a passenger car temporarily, when your License has been suspended for a DWI, you won't be allowed to operate commercial automobiles for one year following your first arrest.
BAC and Under 21 Texas DWI
Motorists below 21 years are not permitted to purchase alcohol, and it is a violation of Texas laws for a minor motorist to have any traceable level of alcohol within their system. In Texas, violating the zero-tolerance rule could lead to the suspension of your license, fees, as well as community service.
Laws regarding DWI in Texas are partially based on the motorist's age. Anyone under the age of 21 is considered a "minor" as per DWI rules. According to the zero tolerance statutes for underage motorists, a minor who's operating a vehicle with any measurable level of alcohol on a public road will face DUIA by a Minor charge.
Any concentration of alcohol, even a 0.01% blood alcohol concentration, is sufficient to warrant a DUIA by a Minor accusation. Half a can of beer could be sufficient to cause a driver to exceed the legal blood alcohol limit even if they are not intoxicated.
The minor will be taken into custody and their car may be seized if the authorities suspect alcohol intoxication. A minor's driving license could be suspended for 6 months for the initial violation if a breathalyzer or BAC test reveals alcohol within the minor's system. The license may be suspended for 120 days after a second violation and 180 days after a third.
When an underage driver declines to take a blood, breath, or urine BAC test, they could face a license suspension of180 days, regardless of whether they even were completely sober.
How a Positive BAC Finding Will Impact Your Underage DWI Case
Both adult and juvenile offenders may face fines as well as jail time as potential consequences for a Driving While Intoxicated conviction. The seriousness of the charges as well as the potential penalties may increase if aggravating factors, including operating the vehicle with an open vessel, having a blood alcohol concentration of over.15 percent, driving while drunk with a juvenile in the vehicle, or gravely hurting or taking someone's life, occur.
Texas has a strict policy against minors consuming alcohol or operating a vehicle while intoxicated. Even though minors are unlikely to go to jail for their initial violation, additional factors and subsequent offenses could make the penalties more severe.
According to Texas Code Section 10, under Chapter 49, operating a vehicle while inebriated is widely defined as possessing a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent or above and/or being unable to use one's mental or physical faculties normally as a result of alcohol, drug, or any other substance usage.
Even the initial violation of a minor operating a vehicle while drunk carries several consequences. In Texas, first-time offenders often do not serve jail time; punishments including fines, license suspension, probation, and community service are intended to prevent repeat offenses. However, the consequences for a juvenile who commits a subsequent crime get harsher with each one, possibly even including time in jail.
DWI Penalties for Minors Under 17
DUI committed by a juvenile under 17 for the first time is considered a Class C Misdemeanor. Among the consequences are fines amounting to $500, between twenty and forty community service hours along with a driver's license suspension of between sixty to a hundred and eighty days. The parent of the minor as well as the juvenile could be required to take part in an alcohol awareness program.
A second violation is punishable by $500 fines, a maximum of sixty-hour community service, a suspended license ranging from 120 days to two years, and participation in an alcohol awareness program.
It's a Class A Misdemeanor to commit a second violation. Second-time offenders face fines that could amount to $4,000, jail terms of between thirty days to a year, as well as license suspensions lasting anywhere between 180 days to eighteen months as punishment. A third offense is considered a felony DWI, punishable by two to ten years in state prison, a $10,000 fine, and a 180- to 2-year license suspension.
Alcohol possession is illegal for anyone under age 21—even if they aren't driving. Possession of alcohol by a minor in Texas is an offense prosecuted as a Class C Misdemeanor. First-time offenders face fines amounting to $500/five hundred dollars, community service of between eight to twelve hours, a suspended license for thirty days, as well as the requirement to complete an alcohol awareness program.
Other violations by juveniles that aren't connected to drinking and driving include:
- Buying alcohol, or trying to do so
- Lying about your age when buying or ordering alcohol, or
- Having a drink that contains alcohol
Other Long-Term Consequences of Having a BAC Above the Legal Limit
Although getting a DWI has serious legal ramifications, it also has far-reaching repercussions. A DWI charge will raise your vehicle insurance prices for a minimum of 5 years. If you have a DWI and are enrolled in college or looking to enroll in one, you risk being kicked out or having your application declined. Employers are permitted to inquire about your criminal background. You could be turned down for a position simply because you have one.
Frequently Asked Questions on Texas BAC
The following are some of the frequently asked questions on BAC:
How Is BAC Calculated in Texas?
To measure BAC in a motorist's system, a testing facility would measure the number of alcohol parts per 1,000 parts of blood. Since the per se standard of drunkenness in Texas is a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08, you will need the chemical analysis to indicate one part of alcohol for each 800 blood parts. If a person had one part of alcohol per each 1,000 blood parts, they will get a blood alcohol concentration of 0.10.
What Factors Determine a Motorist's BAC?
The following are some of the elements that affect a motorist's blood alcohol concentration.
- The kind of alcohol you had
- How much time you spent drinking
- How much of the alcohol you tool
- Your health status, weight, and age
- Your gender
- Whether you take any prescription drugs
- If you consumed other foods or beverages
The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission provides a helpful, albeit broad, guide regarding how much alcohol drinking over 1 hour could result in intoxication for both women and men.
Why Are BAC Tests Essential?
In many DWI prosecutions, BAC is used as a crucial piece of evidence. Your DWI defense attorney must understand how to challenge the results of chemical tests. Your attorney should have tried-and-true defense strategies that will succeed in casting doubt on the accuracy of chemical tests, leading to the rejection of the evidence and the dropping of the charges.
Could I Lose My Driver's License If My BAC was Less Than 0.08?
If you've been accused of DWI for the first time and found guilty after being caught driving with a blood alcohol concentration below the legal threshold of 0.08, you might lose your driver's license for approximately a year. A person could lose their driving permit for a maximum of two years for a 2nd or subsequent conviction. Keep in mind that for a conviction, authorities must demonstrate that your mental and physical abilities were compromised.
What Do the Findings Indicate?
Results of blood alcohol tests can be reported in a variety of ways, including percentages of the BAC. Average outcomes are shown below.
- BAC of 0 percent means you are sober
- BAC of.08 indicates legal intoxication
- A BAC of 0.08 to 0.40 means you are very intoxicated. If your blood alcohol concentration is this high, you can have trouble speaking and moving around. Other symptoms could include disorientation, nausea, and fatigue
- A BAC of above 0.40% puts you at risk of significant consequences. You run the risk of going into a coma or passing away with this blood alcohol concentration
Find a Fort Worth DWI Defense Attorney Near Me
Regardless of the facts of your case, driving while intoxicated violation in Texas carries severe penalties. As a motorist on Texas roads, you could be charged, prosecuted, and incarcerated for being intoxicated rather than being over the legal BAC limit. If you're facing DWI charges in Fort Worth, our seasoned legal team at Fort Worth DWI Defense Lawyer can help have your charges reduced or dismissed entirely. We have experience in such cases and are available to vigorously defend you against these charges. Call us today at 817-470-2128.