The authorities in Texas actively look for people who are not following the law. Under those laws, if you are caught driving while intoxicated, you face serious legal consequences. Many drivers soon learn that even if they are behind the wheel after only drinking one or two alcoholic beverages, they are breaking Texas law. You may not feel the influence of your drinks; however, in Texas even if your blood concentration (BAC) is lower than what the law defines as ‘Intoxicated,’ you can still be arrested. This technicality is why many people find themselves facing multiple DWI charges, and why you need an experienced defense attorney working for you to limit your consequences.

What Defines DWI Under Texas Law?

Each state has its specific laws governing DWI regulations. While it is illegal in each state to drive while drunk or drugged those different laws define the offense and list the individual penalties one will face if convicted of DWI. Texas defines its DWI laws under Penal Code Title 10, Chapter 49, and describes the term ‘intoxicated’ in two separate ways:

  • If your blood concentration (BAC) reads at .08 percent or more, you will be charged with DWI.
  • If you display to the law enforcement officer stopping you that you do not have the normal use of physical or mental faculties because you have consumed alcohol or used drugs, they can arrest you for DWI.

There are separate laws for different classes of drivers. If under the age of 21, the BAC is lower as you are not allowed to have consumed alcohol, therefore any detectable amount of alcohol in your system is illegal. The BAC for commercial drivers is set at .04 percent, and anything over will allow law enforcement to arrest you for DWI.

Penalties and Sentencing for DWI in Texas

The first time offense for DWI in Texas as long as no aggravating factors are existing in your case will be filed as a Class B misdemeanor.  If convicted of this charge, you will face a fine up to $2,000 and a jail sentence anywhere from 3 days to 180 days. If arrested for a second DWI and convicted, you will then be charged with a Class A misdemeanor. This conviction would result in a fine up to $4,000 and a jail sentence anywhere from 30 days to 365 days.

Getting arrested for a third DWI charge means you are facing much more severe penalties and sentencing. A third arrest for DWI in Texas is a third-degree felony which includes a fine up to $10,000 with prison time of two to ten years in TDCJ (Texas Department of Criminal Justice). If you have prior sentencing on your criminal record which involved TDCJ incarceration, you will then be charged with a second-degree felony, fines up to $10,000, along with two to twenty years in TDCJ.

A fourth offense of DWI with a prior TDCJ incarceration on your criminal files means you are now facing a second-degree felony charge, a fine up to $10,000, along with possible sentencing of two to ten years in TDCJ. Four or more DWI offenses with two prior TDCJ incarcerations will have you sentenced with an enhanced felony, up to $10,000 in fines, along with 25 years to life imprisonment in TDCJ.

  • Class A & B misdemeanor crimes are the most serious misdemeanor charges for the State of Texas. A misdemeanor is a criminal charge which carries the possibility of a jail sentence for one year or less. When arrested and convicted for a Class A or B misdemeanor offense, it can stay on your criminal file forever.

    Texas misdemeanor laws can be tricky to understand and carry serious repercussions if you are unaware of how the law works.

    If you should be convicted of a Class A or B misdemeanor, you will have stringent probation requirements to follow.

    This conviction can carry community service requirements, lengthy classes you will have to attend at your cost, and possible stiff fines. You will have this conviction placed on your criminal record, which can affect your ability to obtain gainful employment, receive financial aid for schooling, or rent an apartment.

  • Third-degree felony crime in Texas is the fourth most serious category on the State’s level of sentencing for a crime. The sentencing guidelines are a set of standards put into place to create a rational and consistent sentencing practice within a jurisdiction. The level of felony sentencings helps the courts determine what punishment will be assigned to which crime. With the third-degree felony conviction, you are facing charges more serious than misdemeanor charges and could be looking at prison time from two to ten years, a fine as high as $10,000 and possible community supervision.

    Examples of a third-degree felony crime would be a third offense for DWI, intoxication assault, tampering with evidence, stalking, escape from felony custody, deadly conduct with a firearm, aggravated perjury, or jumping bail.

  • Second-degree felony crime in Texas is the third most serious category on the State’s level of sentencing for a crime. This conviction is more serious than the third-degree felony and carries harsher sentencing and penalties. Punishments, when convicted of a second-degree felony, include two to twenty years in prison, a fine as high as $10,000, and the possibility of community supervision. 

    Examples of second-degree felony crimes are third DWI offense with prior jail time on a file, aggravated assault, sexual assault, robbery, a second offense for stalking, evading arrest, online solicitation of a minor, improper educator-student relationship, indecent contact with a child, arson, or bribery.

  • First-degree felony crime in Texas is the second most serious category on the State’s level of sentencing for a crime. The first-degree felony is one level down from the Capital felony, and it carries much harsher penalties than misdemeanors or the previous felony charges. A conviction on a first-degree felony places you at risk to serve from five years to live in State Prison, along with a fine up to $10,000 and possible community supervision.

    Examples of first-degree felony crimes are four or more DWI convictions with prior prison time, solicitation of capital murder, attempted capital murder, escaping custody when serious bodily harm is involved, trafficking persons under the age of 14, burglary with the intent to commit a felony, and aggravated sexual assault against a child.

    Examples of first-degree felony crimes are four or more DWI convictions with prior prison time, solicitation of capital murder, attempted capital murder, escaping custody when serious bodily harm is involved, trafficking persons under the age of 14, burglary with the intent to commit a felony, and aggravated sexual assault against a child.

  • An enhanced felony crime in Texas is applied as the State allows for stricter punishments for repeat and habitual offenders. If a person has been repeatedly convicted of certain crimes such as multiple DWI’s, the State can then enhance your amount of penalties, then the current charge would dictate.

    An enhanced felony allows the range of punishments to increase the minimum range to a higher classification of the crime. An enhancement occurs based on the fact that a person has been previously convicted of certain crimes and continues to repeat their criminal behavior. Texas mandates that multiple DWI offenses, four or more convictions, receive a higher range of punishment than would normally be sentenced.

    If you have multiple DWI convictions on your criminal record and have once again been arrested for this charge, it is crucial for you to fight the charges. A first-time conviction for a DWI in Texas can change your life; multiple DWI convictions puts you at risk for the worst possible consequences. Remember, an arrest does not mean a conviction. Having experienced legal representation could make all the difference in having charges reduced or dismissed.

Proving Intoxication for DWI

Police officers can employ a variety of methods when investigating if a driver is intoxicated by either alcohol or drugs while operating a motor vehicle. Objective measures they can use include a urine test, breath test, or testing your blood for alcohol levels. What is important to remember; however, is an arrest can occur if the officer suspects you are intoxicated, that is if they have probable cause, whether or not your BAC levels are over the legal limit or not.

If an officer observes your appearance and behavior as well as if they can smell the presence of alcohol, they have probable cause to suspect you are intoxicated. They can also arrest you based on what they consider improper performance while driving, or if they feel you have not passed the field sobriety tests. These observations can have you arrested and charged for DWI, but it does not mean you will be convicted of the charges. Proper legal representation can have these charges dismissed if all requirements are not present for the prosecution to convict you.

Multiple DWI in Texas

Many police officers look for ways to make an arrest. If you have multiple DWI convictions on your criminal file, you have made yourself an easy target. Some strategies could help you get your charges dismissed on these new charges. One of the possibilities is how your arrest was conducted.

The police officer should have had a good and reasonable cause for pulling you off the road and be able to sustain that it was not because you were unfairly targeted. A red flag on the officer’s conduct would be if they did not immediately tell you why you were stopped. Other defense tactics against the arrest would be:

  • How were you treated or spoken to when the officer stopped you?
  • Did the officer conduct a thorough sobriety test if they stated the stop was due to suspected DWI?
  • How quickly was the breathalyzer test performed once the stop was made?

Your defense attorney will be able to use the answers to these questions when building a defense against multiple DWI charges. The more information you have regarding the actions of the arresting officer, the more it is possible your defense attorney can build a more positive outcome on your case.

The fact about multiple DWI charges in Texas is you will need an experienced, trusted, and aggressive defense attorney working for you. An attorney who knows the laws and their way around the court system will provide you have the strongest defense possible. Multiple DWI charges are going to change your life forever, and one change is you could face the rest of that life behind bars.

Multiple DWI Convictions and Probation

There are some incidents where you will be placed on probation for multiple DWI. This option is generally only offered on the second or third conviction, more than that, and the courts will be much harsher on sentencing. If you receive probation, you can expect to follow strict rules and complete several requirements on top of possible jail time.

If sentenced to jail time; once you have completed the time, you will then have to follow the rules defined by your probation. This time for probation generally runs two years for a second DWI and can run up to ten years for a third or more DWI conviction. Probation rules normally involve:

  • Completing a substance or alcohol abuse evaluation and if deemed necessary, then completing a treatment program as well.
  • You cannot commit any new crimes.
  • You will have to allow random alcohol or drug testing.
  • You will be required to pay all fines and court costs assigned to you with your conviction.
  • You will have to complete a DWI intervention program designed to treat repeat offenders.
  • It will be required of you to complete between 80 and 200 hours of community service for a second DWI conviction, and between 160 to 600 hours for a third conviction.
  • You cannot drink alcohol.
  • You will be assigned probation fees, which will be your responsibility to pay.
  • You will report to a probation officer at least once a month, or however, many visits it is deemed you need to complete.

Multiple DWI Conviction and Collateral Consequences

There are several collateral consequences you will have to face when convicted of a second, third or more DWIs in Texas. These consequences are in addition to the statutory punishments assigned by the courts. Your life will be affected in several areas with these convictions on your criminal record:

  • It will become difficult to find a new job or even keep your existing employment
  • It will be a challenge if not impossible to receive financial aid, scholarships, or grants
  • You may lose visitation rights with your child or suffer a reduction in child custody
  • You may lose your right to travel to other countries, such as Canada
  • Insurance rates are going to increase
  • You may experience difficulty getting accepted into college
  • You may be denied the opportunity to obtain a professional license
  • There may be consequences applied if you are in the country on a visa, are waiting on a permanent residency application, or if you have applied for citizenship

There is also the loss of your right to vote if convicted of a felony, and you may also be unable to own a firearm. The loss of your right to ‘bear arms’ would be a lifetime consequence. Multiple DWI convictions are serious, and you will want an attorney who has experience fighting multiple DWI charges to protect yourself and your future.

Suspension of a Driver’s License when Arrested for DWI

Being arrested for DWI and having a BAC over the legal limit, or if you do not take a chemical test, you will automatically face the revocation of an administrative license. An administrative license revocation (ALR) is considered a civil punishment and will start forty days after receiving notice, which would be the day of your arrest. This loss is deemed a civil penalty and not a criminal one.

If you are not willing to provide a blood or breath sample for the first time, then an ALR for 180 days will be imposed. If you are refusing these tests and have a previous refusal on your file, the ALR will be for two years. Taking the test on the first request, but failing it, will result in an ALR for 90 days unless you have failed one previously, which will then result in an ALR for up to one year.

If arrested on the DWI charge, the police will provide you a written notice of an ALR when you are released from jail. This notice will be issued based on whether you refused or failed the blood or breath test at the time of the arrest. You will be given 15 days to ask for an administrative hearing to appeal the ALR, if you do not file within these 15 days, you forfeit your right to appeal. You and your attorney can go before an administrative judge to argue for your driving privileges to stay intact.

Defense Strategies for Multiple DWI

The state will collect various forms of evidence to support their case when prosecuting you for DWI. Even if there is evidence against you for these charges, you and your attorney can still mount an effective defense in your favor. One of the possibilities is challenging the traffic officers right to stop your vehicle and why they arrested you. How the breath or blood tests were conducted can be questioned as well as how the officers questioned you during the stop.

  • Defense of the Traffic Stop. If a person is arrested for DWI in Texas, it means they have been driving a vehicle in public while having a breath or blood alcohol concentration of .08 or more. It can also mean they have ingested a controlled substance or alcohol that has resulted in their loss of rational physical or mental faculties. A lawful traffic stop means the officer must have reasonable suspicion of a law violation. The suspicion has to be based on articulable facts that there was a real threat of criminal activity occurring.

    The articulable facts is a lower standard than probable cause, and the courts will be deferential to law enforcement regarding reasonable suspicion. The suspicion can be the result of speeding, violating a traffic law, swerving, or erratic driving, which will justify a traffic stop.

    If it is proven the officer did not have reasonable suspicion to make the traffic stop, all evidence collected during the stop, including results from breath or blood tests or the field sobriety test will be deemed inadmissible in court. If the prosecution loses this evidence, the case would have to be dismissed.

    If the officer does have reasonable suspicion to stop your vehicle, they would need probable cause to detain you past the necessary time it would take to effectuate the purpose of the traffic stop. This means if the officer stops you for speeding, they cannot hold you longer than it would take to issue you the traffic ticket unless there is reasonable suspicion you are intoxicated. Reasonable suspicion would include you displaying slurred speech, an emitting odor of alcohol on your breath, observance of an open container in your vehicle, bloodshot eyes, or a lack of motor coordination.

    If reasonable suspicion is present, the officer can legally administer the field sobriety test. They will also be able to administer a test to check your blood alcohol concentration (BAC), and if the results are over .08, the officer has the right to arrest you for DWI.

  • Defense of the DWI Test Results. There may also be grounds to dispute or challenge the administering or the accuracy of the DWI test results. Texas DWI cases rely on the allegation that you are guilty of operating a motor vehicle while your blood alcohol level was more than .08, which is the legal limit. If you and your attorney can argue the accuracy or validity of the results received from your tests, you will have a very effective defense against the charges. If the test results cannot be used by the prosecution to demonstrate your impairment, your case will be left with little or no evidence to continue.
  • Defense of the Field Sobriety Tests. Police officers in Texas frequently perform three field sobriety tests. These tests include the one-leg stand, a walk-and-turn, and the horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN). The tests are designed to measure one’s motor skills or their concentration abilities. It is believed that these three functions will be impaired if a person is intoxicated.

    These tests; however, are flawed as the results can vary depending on one’s medical conditions, physical limitations, fatigue, lack of coordination, or their balance. The test results could be affected by environmental conditions at the time the test was given. The test results rely heavily on the officer’s interpretation of whether or not the person’s actions were normal or a result of intoxication.

  • Defense of the Breath Test. In Texas, the Intoxilyzer 5000 machine is used to perform breath tests. It will measure blood alcohol concentration with the use of infrared spectroscopy. The technology behind this method of testing is not foolproof. Your attorney can argue that your results could be negatively impacted as a result of residual alcohol left in your mouth from mouthwash used with your hygiene practices. The test results can also be impacted by medical conditions, weight, dental work, the temperature of your breath, and whether or not the machine has been calibrated properly.
  • Defense of the Blood Test. If you give consent, a blood test can be administered to check your blood alcohol concentration. Refusing to take the test means the officer will have to obtain a search warrant which will then compel you to give the blood sample. Various ways, including human error, can compromise the accuracy of blood tests. These mistakes can occur during the collection, testing, handling, and even the analysis of the sample.

    If the officer obtained a warrant to administer your DWI blood test, the warrant has to be based on probable cause. Probable cause means the officer had evidence that suggested to them you were committing a DWI offense. If there was no probable cause to request the warrant, the blood test could be contested.

    Having a board certified defense attorney working with you from the time you are arrested for DWI will improve your chances of defending your rights. Mounting strong challenges against DWI evidence, lab technicians, and police officers can prove to be compelling arguments on your behalf. An experienced defense attorney can launch this defense to preserve your rights and possibly your freedom.

Find a Fort Worth DWI Lawyer Near Me

When you need an experienced attorney, knowledgeable with Texas DWI laws, call Fort Worth DWI Defense Lawyer at 817-470-2128. Facing multiple DWI charges means you are at serious risk of life-altering consequences and you want the strongest defense possible against these charges. Call today and protect your rights and your life from serious penalties and sentencing.