When you think of a drunk driver, you most likely think of someone who drives with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or above. However, what you may not know is that you can be arrested for DWI in Texas, even if you are below the legal limit. Unfortunately, a recent news story details how an Austin man learned this in a rather harsh way.
In 2013, police in Austin pulled over a man for allegedly running a stop sign. During the stop, the suspect was subjected to a battery of sobriety tests. When the man was given a breath test, he registered a BAC of 0.00. In addition, to the breath test, the man consented to a blood test, which later tested negative for alcohol and drugs.
Despite these results, the police arrested the man for DWI pursuant to the department's "take-no-chances" policy. Under this policy, if the police believe that the driver is impaired, regardless of the results of a breath or blood test, they are instructed to arrest the driver. Following the arrest, the man spent a night in jail and was only able to get the charges dismissed after a year of court battles.
Legality under Texas law
Although studies have found that the "take-no-chances" policy, which is common among police departments in Texas, has resulted in a high number of charges being dismissed (about 30 percent), it well within the boundaries of Texas law. Under the driving while intoxicated law, there are several ways that motorists may be charged with the crime. Under the law, the driver is considered to be intoxicated if:
- He or she has a blood alcohol level of .08 or above; or
- His or her mental and physical faculties are impaired by the use of alcohol, drugs, controlled substances or a combination thereof
Pursuant to the law, the police can arrest the driver if they believe that alcohol or drugs has impaired his or her mental of physical faculties, regardless of the results of a breath or blood test. However, in order for the arrest to result in a conviction, the police must introduce evidence that proves the driver was intoxicated, such as erratic driving or poor motor skills.
First-time offenders convicted under the law face severe penalties including:
- Up to 180 days in jail
- Community service
- Fines up to $2,000
- License suspension up to one year
- $1,000 per year license surcharge for three years
Since the law surrounding DWI is rather complex, if you have been arrested, it is important to seek the assistance of an experienced criminal defense attorney. An attorney can explain your rights and work on your behalf to secure the best possible outcome.