Austin, TX

Austin DWI Lawyer

Experienced DWI Lawyer In Austin, TX

In Texas, if you are convicted of driving while intoxicated (DWI or DUI), you could face severe penalties such as license suspension, jail time, heavy fines, community service, Texas DPS surcharges, and probation. Moreover, your car insurance premium may go up as an indirect penalty. We understand how stressful this time can be, but it’s critical that you take control of your DUI defense as quickly as possible.

Being arrested for a DWI offense can result in severe penalties that may affect your future. But, an arrest doesn’t always mean a conviction. Thus, if you are charged with DWI, it’s crucial to seek help from an experienced Austin DWI lawyer. At ATX Legal, we can identify flaws or contradictions in the prosecutor’s case that could result in a reduction or dismissal of charges. If you’re facing DWI charges in Texas, contact our office today for a free consultation and to learn more about how we can help.

Understanding DWI Laws In Texas

Under Texas law (§ 49.04), if someone operates a vehicle in a public place while unable to have normal control over their mental or physical faculties because of drugs or alcohol, they are guilty of DWI. To be considered intoxicated in Texas (§ 49.01), an individual must have lost normal control over their faculties due to drugs or alcohol.

If a person’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is .08 or higher as indicated by a chemical test, they can be deemed intoxicated. Even if they are able to demonstrate normal control over their mental or physical faculties, they will be arrested if their BAC is above the legal limit.

The police in Austin and Texas highway patrol officers may administer chemical tests such as breath tests, blood tests, and field sobriety tests to check if your blood alcohol content (BAC) is too high. You have the right to decline a DUI test, but only if the police do not have a warrant. If you refuse a test, your license will be suspended. However, you can ask for an administrative license revocation hearing to challenge the suspension, with the help of your Austin DWI lawyer, if you make the request promptly.

Proving Actual Physical Control In DWI Cases

To be charged with a DWI in Texas, the prosecution needs to demonstrate that the defendant was in control of the vehicle during the offense. If an officer witnessed the defendant driving the car before stopping them, it’s easy to prove. In Texas, it is important to understand that being in physical control of a vehicle does not necessarily require you to be driving it. Factors such as these are often used to determine physical control.

  • Has the vehicle been recently driven, is it drivable?
  • Where the defendant was in relation to the vehicle
  • Whether or not the defendant was in the driver’s seat
  • Were the keys in the ignition, or otherwise in the defendant’s possession?

It can be tough to prove actual physical control and individuals can still face charges even if they weren’t driving the vehicle. However, with the assistance of a skilled DWI lawyer in Austin, you could potentially argue that you were not in actual physical control of the vehicle when you were charged.

DWI Penalties In Texas

If you have been charged with a DWI in Travis County, it’s important to understand that Texas has strict rules and harsh penalties for this offense. The basic components of a DWI charge under Texas Penal Code § 49.04 are clearly defined, so it’s important to familiarize yourself with these laws.

First DWI Offense In Texas

In Austin, Texas, a first-time DWI offense is considered a class B misdemeanor and will result in a permanent addition to the offender’s criminal record. Drivers who drive while intoxicated may also receive fines of up to $2,000, face a maximum of 180 days in prison, and have their driver’s license suspended for up to one year after the offense.

In Travis County, it is a class B misdemeanor for an offender to drive a vehicle with an open container, which can result in a jail time of 6 to 180 days and a fine of up to $2,000. If a first-time offender has a blood alcohol level of 0.15 percent or higher, they will be charged with a class A misdemeanor, which carries a penalty of up to a year in prison and a fine of up to $4,000.  Often, Courts will also require an Ignition Interlock Device for any DWI.

Second DWI Offense In Texas

If you have been convicted of a DWI a second time in Travis County, you may find it challenging to dispute your guilty verdict. The possible penalties for this offense include up to a year in jail, a fine of up to $4,000, and the suspension of your driver’s license for a maximum of two years. To avoid receiving the maximum sentence for a DWI felony repetition, it is recommended that you seek out the assistance of an Aust DWI defense lawyer.

Third DWI Offense In Texas

If you have committed a third DWI offense in Texas, you could face severe penalties such as a fine of up to $10,000, a two to ten-year jail sentence, and losing your driver’s license for up to two years. To deal with the consequences of a DWI felony charge, it is vital for third-time offenders to seek legal counsel from ATX Legal as soon as possible.

DWI Charge With A Child Passenger

Operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs can pose a significant risk to a child who is also in the vehicle. If caught, the penalties may include up to 180 days of imprisonment and a fine of up to $10,000. These charges are serious, and can also include additional criminal charges. It’s highly recommended that you reach out to an experienced DWI lawyer in Austin, TX as soon as possible.

Underage DWI In Texas

If someone under the legal drinking age is caught driving while intoxicated, they can be charged with a Class C misdemeanor. The consequences include a maximum fine of $500, mandatory alcohol awareness classes, 20 to 40 hours of community service, and a suspension of their driver’s license. Underage DWI charges are serious, especially given the zero-tolerance policy in Texas.  Minors in Texas can also be charged with DUI, a separate crime from DWI in Texas.

Drug-Related DWI

According to Texas Penal Code §49.09, if a person was operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of a controlled substance, they can be charged with a DWI. Marijuana DWI charges are particularly common in Austin, TX. A Drug DWI is just as serious as an alcohol-related DWI, so do not wait, seek legal advice promptly to protect your record and achieve the best possible outcome in your case.

Texas DWI “Superfine”

Unlike the old statute, the new superfine system does not clarify what “finally convicted” means. Most attorneys agree that a “final conviction” means only jail time, but courts issue the superfine even when placing a person on probation. The superfine system also allows the court to waive the superfine for indigent persons (and explains what documentation can be used as proof). The DWI “superfine” is as follows:

  • $3,000 for the first conviction within a 36-month period;
  • $4,500 for a second or subsequent conviction within a 36-month period; and
  • $6,000 for a first or subsequent if it is shown on the trial of the offense that an analysis of a specimen of the person’s blood, breath, or urine showed an alcohol concentration level of .15 or more at the time of analysis.

Standardized Field Sobriety Tests In Texas

Field sobriety tests (FSTs) are used by law enforcement to detect signs of intoxication and determine if someone has lost normal use of their mental or physical faculties. The horizontal gaze nystagmus test, the walk and turn test, and the one-leg stand test are among the tests used by law enforcement. More details can be found on the NHTSA Website.

You have the choice to participate or not in these tests, as they are completely voluntary. During a DWI investigation, law enforcement uses these tests to gather evidence, but they can only do so with your cooperation. Keep in mind that without these tests, it might be harder to provide evidence for a DWI case. It’s important to know that the 5th Amendment gives you the right to stay silent.

Please remember that anything you say or do during these situations can be used against you in court. According to the NHTSA Manual, the SFSTs may not be reliable if any element of the test is not conducted properly. Our Austin DWI lawyer has the expertise to contest the field sobriety tests in court.

Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test (HGN)

The police officer typically starts with the horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) test when conducting three standard tests. Research suggests that HGN can result from alcohol or drug consumption. The purpose of the HGN test is to help the officer determine whether a suspected DWI individual has the kind of uncontrolled eye movement associated with HGN. During the HGN field sobriety test, both eyes undergo three specific checks to verify the presence of this involuntary jerking.

  1. Lack of smooth pursuit;
  2. Sustained nystagmus at maximum deviation; and
  3. The onset of nystagmus prior to 45 degrees.

Walk and Turn Test

The walk and turn test is the second in the SFST battery. Along with the one-leg stand test, it’s meant to evaluate someone’s divided attention. Divided attention means using the body and mind together to get a desired outcome, such as when driving. However, the tests are quite different from driving and have faced significant criticism.

During the walk and turn (WAT) test, the officer will ask you to stand in a heel-to-toe position with your arms down at your sides. This position may be difficult to maintain. While in this position, the officer will give you instructions for the test, which you are expected to listen to and follow along with. The individual is instructed to take nine heel-to-toe steps along an imaginary line and take small steps to turn before taking nine heel-to-toe steps back to the starting point. The police officer is trained to look for these eight specific clues:

  1. Cannot keep his balance
  2. Starts too soon
  3. Stops walking
  4. Misses heel-to-toe
  5. Steps off of the imaginary line
  6. Uses his arms to balance
  7. Takes the wrong number of steps
  8. Turns improperly

One-Leg Stand Test

The OLS is the final test, where the individual stands on one leg and extends the other approximately six inches off the ground with the toe pointing outward. The person is instructed to count out loud from 1 to 20 while trying to hold this position, which can be difficult. The police officer looks for four clues during this test, which they are trained to identify.

  1. Swaying while balancing;
  2. The use of arms to balance;
  3. Hops while attempting the test; or
  4. Puts his foot down during the test.

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s The Difference Between A DUI And DWI?

DUI and DWI are both charges that drivers can face if they are believed to be too impaired to drive. DUI specifically refers to driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs (which can be legal or illegal), while DWI refers to driving while drunk, intoxicated, or impaired. The consequences and specific definitions of these charges vary by state. Impairment can be caused by a range of factors such as alcohol, drugs, tiredness, and other conditions.

Should I Refuse A Breath Test After Getting Pulled Over?

The answer is not straightforward and depends on various factors. Generally, if you have consumed any amount of alcohol, it is advisable to decline a breath test. This is because any level of alcohol in your breath can indicate probable cause for an arrest and can be used as evidence in court. Moreover, people tend to underestimate the number of drinks they have consumed after they start drinking, and it can take just a couple of strong drinks to exceed the legal limit of .08.

In Austin, if you refuse a breath test, you will be required to undergo a blood BAC test, usually with the availability of a Magistrate Judge 24/7 in the Travis County jail. However, it’s important to note that your BAC level fluctuates and decreases over time. If it drops below .08 before the test, it weakens the State’s case against you, which can work in your favor. Also, the State needs to prove that you were intoxicated while driving, not just during the test. The farther away those two events are, the more difficulty the State will have in proving its case.

Should I Refuse Field Sobriety Tests (FSTs)?

Field Sobriety tests (or FSTs)typically consist of 3 tests. 

  1. A test for nystagmus
  2. The “walk and turn” test
  3. The “one-leg stand” test

I have heard of cases where people have “passed” their Field Sobriety Tests and not been arrested, but it’s hard to stress how rare this is. It is more likely that someone who is stone-cold sober will be arrested on the basis of the FST. Why? Because they do not truly pass/fail. Officers already suspect the driver of a DWI and they are seeking evidence to confirm this bias. The tests are carried out in a high-stress situation that will increase mistakes. Officers present these tests as though you have no right to refuse, but that is false. In general, I would advise anyone to refuse these tests. 

Keep in mind that refusal will often lead to an arrest. What many don’t understand is that the arrest was likely to happen whether or not you refused because often the arresting officer has already decided to arrest. By complying and going through the tests, you are only giving the prosecutor ammunition at trial.

Can A DWI Conviction Be Expunged In Texas?

You cannot expunge a DWI conviction from your criminal record in the state of Texas, regardless of whether you were convicted of a lesser charge. The only way to expunge a DWI arrest and charge from your record is if your case resulted in specific outcomes, such as:

  • The charges were never filed
  • The case was dismissed by the court
  • You were found not guilty of the charge
  • Your DWI conviction was overturned on appeal

How Much Is Bail For A DWI In Texas?

In Texas, there is a bail bond system that lets those charged with a crime leave jail and resume their regular activities while the case is ongoing. To qualify for early release, the offender needs to provide bail. To “post bail” means the offender gives the court a specified amount of money as a guarantee that they will show up for all future court hearings.

For individuals charged and arrested for DWI, predicting their bail can be challenging. The state handles thousands of DWI arrests yearly, with most offenders having a specific bail amount based on their criminal record and the nature of the crime. Several factors also influence the bail amount, such as compliance with BAC testing, whether the offender was violent or attempted to escape arrest, and if the drunk driving resulted in severe injury or wrongful death.

If you get arrested for a DWI for the first time, your bail amount will likely range between $1,500 and $7,500. However, in Travis County, there is no fixed bail amount and it’s up to the judge to decide. After the bail is set and your case is reviewed, you can pay the bond and get released early under the condition that you show up for all court dates. Bail in Austin can usually be handled with a free Personal Recognizance (PR) bond.  However, this option is likely not available for serious misdemeanors or felonies.  An attorney may be able to get a PR bond for the more serious cases.

Contact An Experienced Austin DWI Lawyer Today

A DWI with aggravating factors such as a previous DWI conviction or a BAC over .15 can have more serious penalties. You can also check out our Travis County DWI Guide for a more thorough discussion of DWIs. If you or a loved one are facing DWI charges in Texas, do not wait to get help. Contact our experienced Austin DWI lawyer at ATX Legal today for a free consultation and to learn more about how we can help build your defense.

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