A DWI offense in Texas carries different penalties. They can vary from the first offense conviction receiving a fine up to $2,000 and up to 180 days in jail to a second offense carrying a fine up to $4,000 and up to 2 years in jail. The penalties increase for a third offense, which carries a fine up to $10,000 and a possible prison sentence up to 10 years. These penalties involve a BAC reading of .08 to .14 at the time of your arrest. If the BAC reading is .15 or higher, penalties and sentencing increase substantially. Contact the Fort Worth DUI Defense Lawyer if you have been charged with a DWI.

Why Penalties are Stricter for BAC of .15 or Higher

It was recorded in one year that more than two-thirds of the drivers in the United States caused alcohol-related deaths with BAC levels of .15 or more. The National Conference of State Legislatures did the research. Test results such as these are the reason DWI offenses are taken more seriously and punished more severely.

Drunk driving is often a victimless crime, but it has the potential for tragedy. Lawmakers are responding to advocates’ requests against these crimes by writing stricter laws and punishments. Texas revised its Penal Codes in 2003 elevating a DWI with a BAC of .15 or higher to Class A misdemeanor. Less than .15 BAC levels are charged as a Class B misdemeanor.

Penalties in Texas for DWI with a BAC of .15 or Higher

Texas laws take DWI very seriously. If you arrested for driving while intoxicated by either drugs or alcohol, you are facing severe legal consequences. Law enforcement actively watches for drivers who violate this law and have been trained to spot drivers who appear to be impaired, even the slightest. When pulled over, many are surprised to learn they can be charged with DWI with having consumed only one or two drinks. Those who have consumed more and are driving with a BAC of .15 or higher are in for even bigger surprises when they learn the consequences for this charge under Texas law.

Under the Texas Penal Code 49.04, any person driving while intoxicated is committing a DWI offense. This offense is charged as a Class B misdemeanor with jail time of 72 hours to 180 days. If while operating the vehicle the driver is found to have an open container in their immediate possession, the offense is also punishable as a Class B misdemeanor; however, the sentencing increases to a minimum six days in jail.

If while performing the BAC testing, it shows an alcohol concentration of .15 or more, the offense is then considered a Class A misdemeanor, which is a second-degree charge. This level of alcohol in your system when arrested also falls under the state’s Driver Responsibility Act, and if convicted carries the highest mandatory administrative surcharge.  The administrative, or civil surcharge is the highest allowed by law for a person who is permitted to have a driver's license.

Under Chapter 49.04 of Title 1 in the Texas Penal Codes, if it can be shown at your trial that an analysis of your blood or urine had an alcohol concentration level of .15 or higher, the offense is considered a Class A misdemeanor. When arrested, the police may conduct field sobriety exercises or use a chemical test, including tests to check your breath, urine, and blood to determine your BAC levels.

You are allowed the right to refuse any DWI test if the police do not have a warrant. Refusing to take the test; however, violates Texas’ implied consent law and you face automatic suspension of your driver's license. If your license is suspended, you are entitled to an administrative license revocation hearing or ALR to challenge the suspension. When attending an ALR, you will want the Fort Worth DWI Defense Lawyer by your side.

  • Texas’ Implied Consent Law

Texas’ Implied Consent Law states when you are arrested by an officer of the law who has witnessed probable cause to think you had been driving while intoxicated; then under this law, you give your consent to one or more chemical tests automatically to measure your BAC (blood alcohol content).

The Implied Consent Law states that by choosing to drive on the highways and roads in Texas, it is assumed you have agreed to these tests. Your consent, however, can be withdrawn to provide a blood or breath sample.

If you refuse to voluntarily provide the officers with a sample of your blood or breath to conduct the test and determine your BAC levels, you will face additional penalties. When you refuse the field sobriety tests by the police, you will have administrative penalties added to your standard DWI penalties.

If you refuse the testing, the police officer has the option to request a search warrant in order to obtain a sample of your blood. If the warrant is granted, you will then have no choice but to comply with the testing. Contact Fort Worth DWI Defense Lawyer if you have been arrested and want to refuse to test. You will need expert advice on how to proceed with your processing of this arrest.

The police officer should advise you that the refusal of the testing can be used against you in a court of law, and you will have your license suspended for not less than 180 days. Not submitting to a chemical test at the time of your arrest can have serious consequences; however, in some cases, your refusal can help you avoid a DWI conviction.

The administrative penalties can sometimes cause you significant inconveniences, but these penalties are much less severe than the penalties you face with a DWI conviction. The Texas’ Implied Consent Law is challenging to navigate through the legal system, and you will want an experienced attorney with you to ensure your consequences for these charges are minimal.

When convicted of a High BAC, .15 or more, you are facing serious sentencing. This conviction will result in jail time, probation, community service, expensive fines, loss of your driver’s license, possible expensive license surcharge fees, and higher insurance premiums for your auto coverage. If convicted, it will also impact your future employment and educational opportunities.

This charge will impact your future immensely, and you will want an experienced attorney on your side to fight for your freedom and rights. The prosecution's case may have inconsistencies that would introduce reasonable doubt into your defense, and an experienced attorney familiar with Texas law and their court systems will be able to find them. Fort Worth DWI Defense Lawyer looks for ways to possibly avoid a trial and find a way to reduce or even dismiss your charges.

Criminal Penalties for BAC Level of .15 or Higher

The criminal courts not only consider what your BAC level was at the time of an arrest, but they also look at any prior criminal records you may have when they impose sentencing. A first-time DWI offense with a BAC lower than .15 is a Class B misdemeanor and receives sentencing from 72 hours to 180 days in jail along with a fine up to $2,000.

The charges of a DWI offense with a BAC of .15 or higher are enhanced to a Class A misdemeanor, which means you are facing 30 days to one year in jail along with fines up to $4,000. This conviction would also mean losing your driver’s license for up to two years.

Administrative Penalties for BAC Level of .15 or Higher

On top of the criminal penalties for a conviction of DWI with a BAC of .15 or higher, you will also face administrative penalties. Under Texas law, you get assessed a mandatory annual surcharge, which is a fee you are required to pay to the Texas Department of Public Safety. The administrative fee has to be paid for three years as a condition for you maintaining a driver’s license. If this fee is not paid, it results in an automatic suspension of your driver’s license until you submit all due amounts.

The Class A misdemeanor conviction for DWI with a BAC level of .16 or higher imposes an annual surcharge of $2,000 for a period of three years according to Texas Statutes, Title 7, Chapter 708.10. The DWI surcharges for the state of Texas are paid to the DPS (Texas Department of Public Safety) are:

  • A first offense of DWI- $1,000 per year for three years
  • A second offense or any subsequent DWI offenses- $1,500 per year for three years
  • DWI offense with a BAC of .16 or higher- $2,000 per year for three years

What does it Mean to Have .15 BAC?

BAC (blood alcohol content) is the percent of alcohol in your bloodstream. If your BAC test shows .15, this indicates you have 15% of your blood supply containing alcohol. Equivalents are measured as one part of alcohol for every 1000 parts of blood. The factors that determine a person’s BAC include:

  • The number of standard drinks they have consumed
  • How long it took them to consume alcoholic beverages
  • The person’s body weight
  • The person’s gender
  • Whether the person is taking medications or not, and the type of medicine
  • How much food the person consumed in conjunction with the drinks

There are different physical and mental effects which occur at the different BAC levels:

  • .01- .03 You should show no apparent effects except a slight elevation in your mood.
  • .04- .06 You should be feeling more relaxed with a sensation of warmth. There may be a minor impact on your reasoning and memory.
  • .07-.09 This level shows an indication of mild impairment of your balance, speech, vision, and control.
  • .10- .12 At this level, you will be experiencing significant impairment of your motor coordination, your speech will become slurred, and you exhibit loss of judgment.
  • .13- .15 You will be displaying gross impairment of your motor control, vision will be blurry, and there is a significant loss of balance. At this level, there is generally an onset of dysphoria, which increases anxiety and restlessness.
  • .16- .20 Dysphoria will dominate your reactions, and you may experience nausea. People at this level are often referred to as ‘sloppy drunk.’
  • .25-.30 This level is severe intoxication. You would need help walking, experience extreme mental confusion with continued dysphoria and vomiting.
  • .35- .40 At this level of intoxication you will in likelihood lose consciousness. This level puts you at the brink of a coma.
  • .40 and higher is the onset of a coma and in all likelihood respiratory failure and death.

What are the Field Sobriety Tests for BAC

If an officer pulls you over and asks you to get out of your vehicle, you have to comply. If they ask you to perform a series of field sobriety tests, you can refuse as they are voluntary. If the officer is asking you to perform these tests, it is because they have seen you driving in what they would define as an impaired state. This driving pattern has led them to believe you are driving while intoxicated (DWI).

The police officer is requesting you to take these tests to gain probable cause of this belief, and they need proof to arrest you and administer the chemical tests at the police station. While you have the right to refuse the tests, the refusal is all the officer needs to arrest you and take you to the station for the chemical tests anyway.

If you have not been drinking, it may be better and simpler to take the test to prove your sober and the officer will send you on your way. If you are not sure your BAC level is low enough to be in the legal limit, you may be better off refusing the testing until you have secured legal counsel with Fort Worth DWI Defense Lawyer.

There are three main field sobriety tests the officers can request you take.

  • One-Leg Stand

The name of this test is self-explanatory as to what the officer is going to ask of you. You are to stand on one leg while you count to thirty. There are many factors with this test that can result in your failure. The type of shoes you are wearing will affect your balance, weather conditions such as the wind could impact your ability to stand, and even the ground levels where you are asked to perform the test can impair a person's balance. This test could be a challenge to a sober individual and particularly difficult for someone with alcohol in their system.

  • Walk-and-Turn

The officer will request that you walk in a straight line as you touch your feet in a heel-to-toe pattern. At the end of what they consider the line, you will be asked to turn and repeat the walk back to them. This test can also be affected by some of the same factors as in the one-leg stand test. 

  • Horizontal Gaze

The horizontal gaze nystagmus is also called the ‘pen test.’ The police officer will hold a pen or flashlight in front of your eyes and ask you to follow its movement. They will watch your eyes for what is called abnormal nystagmus. This condition is an uncontrolled and repetitive eye movement. This test, unlike the walk-and-turn, and the one-leg stand is not recorded on the police camera installed in their vehicle, so the results of it are the officer’s word that you failed or passed.

Besides these three tests, the officer may also want to conduct a breathalyzer test. This test is not mandatory and is a preliminary alcohol screening. The chemical breath test administered at the police station is done in a controlled environment. Your Fort Worth DWI Defense Lawyer can later challenge these tests in court if you refuse to take the roadside breathalyzer test.

There are also a few non-standard tests that might be asked of you when an officer pulls you over with the suspicion of DWI:

  • Saying the alphabet backwards starting with the letter Z
  • Count the numbers of fingers the officer is holding up
  • Lean backward and stretch your arms outward
  • Close your eyes and touch your nose with your finger
  • Tip your head back as you keep your feet positioned together

Some of these tests might feel silly and awkward, but what the officer is looking for is a reason to confirm their suspicions, so they are able to make an arrest. You can refuse any of these roadside sobriety tests and ask that you be able to talk to your attorney before consenting to anything. You are not even required to answer any questions regarding where you have been, and why you were there until your attorney is present.

Defense Against DWI at BAC .15 or Higher

Being arrested in Texas for DWI is serious, and if your BAC is .15 or higher, it means your punishments and penalties are going to be more severe than a regular DWI charge. You need experienced legal representation to help you fight from getting convicted. There are reasons an alleged offender who has been accused of DWI with a BAC of .15 or more chooses to fight the charges. Circumstances and police error can often play a part in getting the charges dismissed or reduced due to:

  • The breathalyzer was not properly calibrated at the time of testing
  • The police did not have a reason or proper cause to stop and pull you off the road
  • The breathalyzer was not operating properly and gave incorrect test results
  • The person operating the breathalyzer was not certified to run the test
  • The police did not conduct an observation period
  • An observation period

When you are taken back to the police station, and the officer requests you take an official test to determine your alcohol concentration level, it should be administered by the State’s DMT machine. You will be asked to provide two breath samples, so your ‘true’ alcohol concentration value can be checked using the lower of the two samples.

This testing is where many errors are found on the police department’s part, as it must be administered consistent with the proper procedures, and the machine must have been calibrated and maintained correctly.

The observation period is required during this procedure. The police officer must watch you for a full fifteen minutes before they administer the test. This step is important as mouth alcohol can interfere with the test results. The officer is to watch you for any belching, burping, vomiting, etc. that could cause alcohol to be present in your mouth.

The machine will not run the test unless time is entered as to when the observation began. One error often made at this step is that the officer will input the time of the arrest and not the time when you were brought into the station for the testing. An officer cannot properly observe you while driving back to the station; therefore, the observation period is incorrect and could result in having your test results dismissed.

  • There was another substance in your system at the time of the test to give a false reading
  • There were errors discovered in the handling of your urine or blood test samples

There are also several defense strategies used against the field sobriety tests:

  • The officer distracted you during the testing
  • The ground was even, your clothing restricted your movement or steps, or even the weather could have impacted the results
  • You are generally a clumsy person or become nervous easily, or have a mental or physical health condition that affected the results
  • The officer did not give you precise and easy to understand directions
  • The officer performing the test was not familiar with them

Find a Fort Worth DWI Lawyer Near Me When Charged With DWI of BAC at .15 or Higher

Having a conviction on your criminal record for any DWI is life-altering if the conviction is from a BAC of .15 or higher, the sentence can be devastating. You want experienced legal counsel if you are arrested with a BAC of .15 or more to ensure your rights are protected and a proper defense strategy is implemented. The Fort Worth DWI Defense Lawyer is the protection you want. Call 817-470-2128 as soon as possible, and we will help you through this legal battle and achieve the best possible outcome.