Austin DWI Attorney
Representation for Drunk Driving Charges in Texas
Have you been accused of drunk driving? If so, you do not have to face these charges alone! Our Austin DWI attorneys at Smith & Vinson Law Firm are here to protect your rights, your freedom, and your driver’s license. Representing clients across Austin, we have a unique understanding of both sides of DWI proceedings, as one of our partners is a former prosecutor. We use this knowledge to benefit our clients as we fight to protect their interests.
DWI defense counsel is the primary focus of our practice. A conviction for driving while intoxicated can have many consequences, some of which are not immediately apparent. If you want the best opportunity at avoiding a DWI conviction and these serious penalties, you need to put a strong Austin DWI lawyer on your side.
Types of DWI Cases Our DWI Lawyers in Austin, TX Handle
- ALR Hearings
- Breath Tests & Blood Tests
- Felony DWI
- Field Sobriety Test
- Intoxication Assault Defense
- Intoxication Manslaughter Defense
- Multiple DWI
What is the Difference between DWI and DUI in Texas?
Depending on what state you are in, you’ve probably seen both the terms DWI (driving while intoxicated) and DUI (driving under the influence).
In Texas, the difference between DWI and DUI is subtle, but it does exist. It is a matter of age whether you are likely to be charged with a DWI or DUI. If you are over 21 and are pulled over after drinking and driving, and your blood alcohol concentration is above .08 percent, you will likely be charged with a DWI. But even if you are below .08, you can still face drunk driving charges because Texas is a zero-tolerance state for alcohol impairment on the road.
If you are under the age of 21, however, you can be charged with DUI if you are caught driving with any measurable amount of alcohol in your system, regardless of your BAC. This is true even if you do not appear impaired. Even if you are under 21, the arresting officer may still decide to charge you with a DWI.
The major difference between a DWI charge and a DUI charge is the severity of the penalties. While both DUI and DWI charges will lead to a suspension of your driver’s license, the suspension periods are much shorter for DUI than they are for DWI. For DUI, your license will be suspended for 60 days after the first offense, 90 days after the second offense and 180 days after the third offense. These periods can be increased if you are charged with any other alcohol-related offenses, such as open container in the vehicle. The penalties for DWI are much higher.
Will My License Be Suspended?
A DWI arrest will initiate license suspension proceedings by the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS), but you have 15 days to request a hearing to challenge the suspension of your license. This hearing is separate from your criminal DWI case, and we recommend involving an Austin DWI attorney to handle your hearing as well as your criminal charges. License suspension is a possibility, but we can help you avoid this.
Requesting Administrative Hearing in TX
Please note that you have only 15 days from the date of your arrest to request an administrative hearing regarding your driver’s license. Your license will be automatically suspended if you do not request this hearing!
DWI Conviction Lasts Forever
A conviction for DWI can have life-long consequences. Texas has some of the toughest DWI laws in the nation. For example, you will never be able to seal your record. A DWI conviction will make it much more difficult to get into college, the military or find a decent paying job. Further, a conviction for DWI could, and likely will, include many fines, fees, probation conditions, jail time, increased insurance costs and driver’s license suspensions.
DWI Punishments in Texas
In Texas, a first offense DWI is usually a class B misdemeanor. This is punishable with a fine up to $2000 and/or up to 180 days in the county jail. There is no deferred adjudication in Texas for DWI. Also, if you accept any form of probation, this is a criminal conviction.
A second offense DWI is usually a class A misdemeanor. This is punishable with a fine up to $4000 and/or up to a year in the county jail.
A third offense DWI can be charged as a third-degree felony. This would be punishable by up to a $10,000 fine and/or 2 to 10 years in prison.
Exercise Your Constitutional Rights
It is important for you to know your rights. Unfortunately, many people are not fully informed on what their rights are when pulled over for DWI. You can and should:
- Refuse ALL tests.
- Refuse the standardized field sobriety tests (SFST’s).
- Refuse the breath test.
- Refuse to give blood.
- Force the police to get a warrant and draw your blood.
- Be polite to the officer but refuse to answer their questions.
When refusing the officer’s questions, we advise our clients to say, “Officer, I have done nothing wrong and I would like to refuse all tests. If you have submitted to any of the above, contact our Austin DWI lawyers.
Common Defenses Against a DWI Charge
Every day thousands of people are pulled over for suspected driving while under the influence (DWI) scenarios. Unfortunately, many of the accused believe officers have them “dead to rights” because they submitted to a breathalyzer test or they “confessed” to drinking and driving.
Probable Cause & DWI Arrest in Texas
Probable cause is an established legal reason that gives officers the right to exercise their authority. Probable cause impacts a variety of criminal cases because police cannot lawfully search, stop, question, or detain a citizen without first establishing probable cause. This must be established for a police officer to lawfully pull over a driver and make an arrest for DWI.
The state grants its officers certain authorities to do their jobs; one of these authorities is the ability to pull over drivers. However, police can’t go around and pull over whomever they want; they can only pull over drivers when they can establish probable cause. Challenging probable cause is one way to defend a driver against a DWI arrest or charge.
Probable Cause in Traffic Stops
A Texas officer can establish and argue for probable cause in a traffic stop leading to a DWI charge for a variety of reasons such as:
- Having an out-of-date registration;
- Having a broken taillight;
- Driver’s failure to put on turn signal;
- Driver’s failure to turn on headlights in dangerous conditions.
If an officer cannot establish probable cause, he or she cannot legally pull someone over and arrest the driver. Therefore, if an officer pulls someone over without probable cause, then any arrest he or she makes as a result of that traffic stop will typically not hold up in court. As a result, if a driver is charged with a DWI after blowing a 0.08% BAC and failing the field sobriety tests, but was stopped by an officer who didn’t have probable cause, the case will likely not hold up in court.
Probable Cause to Make an Arrest for DWI
Even if an officer makes a routine traffic stop, and has probable cause to do so, they must still have probable cause to administer a breath or blood test, search your vehicle, or make an arrest for DWI. Probable cause could be established if the officer notices an odor of drugs or alcohol coming from the vehicle, physical behaviors, and characteristics indicating intoxication, or drugs, alcohol, or paraphernalia in plain view.
Probable cause is an essential part of every DWI case, as an establishment of probable cause can be the difference between a conviction or a charge getting dropped.
Questioning Police Testimony
We all make mistakes, but for some reason people seem to think police are never wrong. Fortunately, all it takes is a quick Google search to prove that that’s not the case.
Despite the fallibility of officers, many DUI cases weigh heavily on their testimonies. Some traffic stops occur late at night when no one else is around, which means some DWI scenarios become a “he-said-she-said” situation.
Unfortunately, officers don’t always get the facts straight, which can cause innocent people to be accused of crimes they didn’t commit.
As experienced Austin DWI attorneys, we test the authority of an officer’s testimony given the facts. We don’t assume the officer’s story is how it happened; we make sure that his or her story is put under the microscope for inconsistencies; after all, no one deserves to be put in jail because a cop thought they smelled like alcohol.
Moving on from human errors, let’s now talk about testing errors.
The Accuracy of Test Results
If you submitted to a breathalyzer test, you might think the evidence against you is conclusive; but that’s not true. There are many reasons why a breathalyzer test would read inaccurately, but we will home in on just a couple of them.
When someone tests with a blood alcohol content (BAC) close to the 0.08% mark, it makes the accuracy of the test findings that much more important. However, there are a variety of factors that can “tip the scales” of a positive breathalyzer test, and some of them have nothing to do with BAC!
Some factors that can impact breathalyzers include:
- Electrical interference;
- Blood composition;
- Body temperature;
- Presence of other simple chemical compounds;
- Acid reflux;
- Fluids in the mouth;
Anyone of these presenting factors could arguably be the cause of someone going from the legal limit to over the legal limit.
According to data provided by the Jacksonville DUI lawyers at Monroe & King, P.A., police officers will often look for signs of intoxication by administering preliminary tests. For example, statistics show that 83% of people who fail a one-leg stand test will have a BAC above the legal limit, and 88% of people who fail a horizontal gaze nystagmus test will have a BAC above the legal limit.