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DWI FAQ

What does DWI mean?

“DWI” stands for “driving while intoxicated.” Texas law defines intoxication as “not having the normal use of mental or physical faculties by reason of the introduction of alcohol, a controlled substance, a drug, a dangerous drug, a combination of two or more of those substances, or any other substance into the body; OR (b) having an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more.” “Alcohol concentration” means the number of grams of alcohol per: (a) 210 liters of breath; (b) 100 milliliters of blood; or (c) 67 milliliters of urine.

What is a blood alcohol content (BAC) percentage?

This is a person’s blood alcohol content (BAC) or just blood alcohol level. It is a measurement of how much alcohol is in a person’s system. States generally use breathalyzers and/or blood tests to determine a person’s BAC.

What is the blood alcohol content (BAC) limit?

Currently, each state has set the criminal blood alcohol level at or above 0.08%.

Why does the time of the DWI test matter?

The reliability of a DWI test is always a factor. One factor to consider is the length of time between the actual “offense” and when the test is administered. The number of tests given and the length of time between each test have to be considered, too. It is also important to consider individual characteristics of the defendant. Some people are said to display behavior or mannerisms that could be mistaken for intoxication.

What characteristics and general behaviors affect the DWI/DUI testing?

Characteristics and general behaviors include but are not limited to:

  • Weight and gender
  • Drinking pattern
  • Alcohol tolerance
  • How much the person drank that day
  • What the person drank
  • The duration of drinking time
  • The last time the person had a drink
  • Any food the person consumed prior to, during or after the drinking

What is the field sobriety test, and how does it work?

Texas uses what is called a standardized field sobriety test, or SFST, which is composed of three different tests. These tests include:

  • Horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) test
  • One-leg stand (OLS) test
  • Walk and turn (WAT) test

These three tests, which make up the SFST, were developed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in the 1970s, and law enforcement began using the tests in 1981. It determined that this was the most effective method of determining intoxication of a driver who had a blood alcohol content (or BAC) of 0.10 or higher. The validity of this method of testing depends upon the officer administering the test. If the test is properly administered, the accuracy of each test is as follows:

  • HGN – 77%
  • WAT – 68%
  • OLS – 65%

Of course, you can see why this is concerning. Even in a laboratory setting, each test was wrong by a minimum of 23% of the time. It is imperative that you have a lawyer who knows how to read these tests and analyze the circumstances surrounding the tests. Joseph Lassen spent over 20 years in the New York Police Department and has seen his fair share of intoxicated drivers and field sobriety tests. Let the experience and knowledge of Joseph Lassen of The Law Firm of Joseph Lassen defend you.

Do I have the right to refuse a breathalyzer test, sobriety tests and blood testing?

Yes. However, because of implied consent law, the state can try to take your driver’s license for refusing these tests. However, some believe it is harder for the prosecution to convict you of DWI because it doesn’t have any actual evidence to use against you at trial.

What is a DWI checkpoint?

Also known as a sobriety checkpoint, a DWI checkpoint is a designated location at which law enforcement officers stop and check drivers for signs of alcohol or drug impairment. DWI checkpoint laws vary by state. Refer to the Department of Public Safety or contact Joseph Lassen to learn more about the legality and use of DWI checkpoints.

What happens if I’m arrested for DWI?

The exact legal process will vary depending on your jurisdiction’s laws and your specific situation. However, after an officer has pulled you over and determined you’re driving under the influence (generally using field sobriety tests, chemical tests or both), you can expect to:

  • Have your vehicle impounded
  • Be taken into custody
  • Be charged for driving while intoxicated
  • See variation in the length of custody. Sometimes, it’s until you can get a ride or sober up; other times, it’s until you can go before a judicial officer such as a magistrate and have an arraignment.
  • Pay a bail or bond before being released
  • Have your license temporarily suspended or receive temporary driving privileges
  • Have your official trial scheduled
  • Be assigned a court-appointed attorney (also known as a public defender) or hire your own private DWI lawyer
  • Attend your official hearing and receive your judgment and any associated penalties

Am I automatically guilty if I was arrested for DWI?

No. An officer only needs probable cause to arrest you for DWI. This is not a determination of guilt but simply the officer’s opinion. A judge or jury must have proof beyond a reasonable doubt in order to convict you of an offense. Call The Law Firm of Joseph Lassen to receive a thorough analysis of your case and determine what is the best method to protect you from any further negative impact.

Can I save my driver’s license from suspension?

It is possible. You have 15 days from the date of your arrest to request an administrative license revocation (ALR) hearing to save your license. This is why it’s imperative you contact an experienced DWI lawyer immediately after your arrest.

Can I lose my driver’s license forever?

Driver’s license suspension or revocation is a common DWI penalty. Depending on the circumstances of your case, offense severity and prior convictions, The Law Firm of Joseph Lassen can get your charges greatly reduced and even dismissed in some cases.

Is DWI a misdemeanor or felony charge?

Whether your DWI conviction is a misdemeanor or felony depends on the circumstances surrounding the offense. Most of the time, misdemeanor charges are your basic DWI offenses. Generally, a conviction is a misdemeanor when:

  • Your BAC isn’t too much over the legal limit
  • There was no personal injury or death involved
  • You don’t have prior convictions

On the other hand, felony DWI often involves:

  • High BAC
  • A child passenger
  • A personal injury or death
  • Prior convictions
  • Driving while your license is already suspended or revoked

Needless to say, a felony DWI conviction carries much harsher penalties than does a misdemeanor charge.

Do I get a criminal record for a DWI?

Yes. Driving under the influence is a criminal offense; therefore, it goes on your criminal record. Depending on the specific circumstances, you might be able to have your record expunged.

Does a DWI conviction show up on a background check?

Typically, yes; however, it can depend on how thorough the background check is and how far back the check goes. Keep in mind that criminal background checks – which focus more on criminal convictions than do regular background checks – might always show your DWI conviction (unless your record has been expunged).

Will a DWI affect my car insurance?

Yes. Once you’ve been convicted of driving under the influence, your car insurance provider will view you as a “high risk” driver and typically will either increase your rates or disqualify you from renewing your policy. Also, you might have to file SR-22 or FR-44 forms. An SR-22 form proves you’ve purchased your state’s car insurance requirements and that you keep the coverage for a specific amount of time. An FR-44 form requires you to purchase car insurance limits higher than your state’s minimum requirements. Please contact The Law Firm of Joseph Lassen at +1-210-625-6540 for a free consultation or send your questions.

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