When you are charged with driving while intoxicated (DWI) in Texas, you face the risk of very serious penalties. This can include high fines, jail or prison time, and the loss of your driver's license. At a time like this, it may feel hopeless and like you should just plead guilty and get it over with. However, there are defenses you can raise to defend yourself against these charges, even in the most serious of cases. Not every case is as easily proven as the prosecutor wants you to believe, and there are often ways to defend your case that may be apparent only to a highly experienced DWI attorney.
If you are charged with a DWI in Texas, contact Texas DWI lawyer Jason S. English to fight for your rights and help you get on with your life. You are not alone, and you can fight this.
Texas DWI Attorney
As a highly experienced Texas criminal defense attorney, Jason S. English has the knowledge and skills necessary to represent you in your DWI case. With 15 years of experience as a prosecutor, he has the trial experience necessary to ensure you are well-represented throughout your criminal case. He knows the prosecutor playbook and will keep you prepared and ready to fight for your constitutional rights. You have the right to defend your charge or get a second chance after a conviction. Never assume that you are guilty just because you were charged with a crime.
Defending Your DWI/DUI Case in Texas
Under Texas law, there are very specific requirements the prosecutor must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that occurred before you can be found guilty of a DWI/DUI. With the help of your experienced DWI defense lawyer, you can closely analyze your case to find defenses that apply to you. These defenses can result in a reduction of the charges against you to a less serious crime, or may even result in your being found not guilty.
Traffic Stop Defenses
You have rights under the United States and Texas Constitutions against unreasonable search and seizure as it relates to traffic stops. For example, it is not permissible for a Texas law enforcement officer to pull you over simply because he or she "thinks" or "suspects" you may have been drinking. Officers often pull people over after they have left a bar, even when they have not actually seen any crime being committed.
Officers are required to have a reason to pull you over, such as a traffic violation. Officers often claim they saw violations such as:
- following too closely
- crossing the median
- failure to maintain control
- headlight or taillight violations
If the traffic stop can be shown to have been inappropriately begun in violation of your constitutional rights, all evidence that was collected as a result of that illegal traffic stop can be kept out of court. This could result in dismissal of the charges against you.
Constitutional Violation Defenses
Other types of constitutional violation defenses exist to help protect your rights against unwarranted or illegal charges of DUI/DWI. This especially applies to unconstitutional searches or seizures of your car, your person, or other aspects of the traffic stop. Constitutional violations can result in making the evidence collected as a result of the illegal search inadmissible, meaning the prosecutor cannot use it against you.
Another common constitutional violation occurs when law enforcement officer fails to properly follow the law regarding sobriety checkpoints. These checkpoints are designed to catch intoxicated drivers on the road by screening each passerby that goes through the checkpoint. However, law enforcement is expected to ensure that the checkpoint meets all of the constitutional requirements, otherwise any evidence collected is inadmissible. An experienced lawyer knows how to analyze your unique situation for constitutional violations that can be used as a defense in your case.
Field Sobriety Test Defenses
Field sobriety tests are notoriously inaccurate methods of determining whether a person is intoxicated at the time they were driving. There are three primary tests law enforcement officers use to determine if a person is intoxicated while behind the wheel:
- One Leg Stand Test
- Walk and Turn Test
- Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test
These so-called "tests" rely on the officer's interpretations of the result of the test, which can be inaccurate, to say the least. These "tests" are also susceptible to false positives when a person has a physical or mental condition that may interfere with the testing, such as:
- difficulty balancing
- injuries to legs or feet
- natural nystagmus of the eye (or nystagmus caused by medication)
- advanced age
The results of a field sobriety test can be challenged in various ways to show that the officer was inaccurate in his or her observations.
Blood Draw Defenses
Blood samples are often taken from DWI/DUI suspects following an arrest. They are typically taken back at the station during processing and are generally considered to be more accurate a form of test than are breath or urine samples. However, there are very specific procedures that law enforcement must follow if they are going to draw and test your blood. Failure to follow these very specific protocols for a blood draw can result in the evidence obtained from that blood draw being thrown out of court.
In order to order a blood draw, police are required to have either your consent or a valid warrant. A person's blood is subject to a higher level of privacy interest under the 4th Amendment to the U.S. constitution, therefore a violation of those requirements will result in the inadmissibility of the blood results.
Most challenges to a blood draw in a DWI case involve challenges to the way the sample was taken or challenges to the validity of the sample itself. The following are some of the most common reasons a blood draw is challenged.
- False promises of leniency by law enforcement made to obtain the sample.
- Defective warrant used to get a blood sample.
- Threats made by law enforcement during the blood sample process.
- The blood sample was taken by individuals without the proper qualifications - a blood sample requested by police must be taken by a physician, qualified technician, chemist, registered nurse, or licensed professional nurse.
- The sample was improperly labeled or stored.
- Alcohol swabs to swab the skin prior to taking the sample.
- Police destroyed all blood samples and failed to preserve samples for retesting.
- Improper calibration of equipment used to test the sample.
- Failure to take a blood sample in a sanitary place.
If any of these or other defects exist, you can challenge the results of the blood draw and effectively defend yourself against this evidence.
Breath Test Defenses
Breath tests occur through the use of a device called a breathalyzer. The breathalyzer analyzes the amount of alcohol in your blood through the breath sample you blow into the machine. If it determines your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is above the legal limit, you can be arrested and charged with a DWI/DUI. These tests are considerably less accurate in the portable mode as compared to the test back at the station. Even the breath test at the station is less accurate than a blood test, and its accuracy can be challenged in a number of ways.
Breath tests all too often create false-positive indicators of intoxication. A breath test can detect the presence of alcohol when you have not been drinking, such as when:
- you recently used mouthwash
- you have taken certain medications
- you recently burped
- you have diabetes (detection of acetone in breath)
You can also challenge the accuracy of breath test results due to other issues with the testing or your particular body situation. For example, a person with a high body temperature (i.e., from a fever) will have a higher diffusion of alcohol into your lungs. If you had a fever at the time of your arrest, it can cast doubt on the breath test.
Other health conditions can also impact the breathalyzer test, such as having COPD. Those with COPD may not be able to produce an accurate breath sample. Those who are diabetic naturally produce acetone in their breath, which can incorrectly read as alcohol on a breath test.
Challenging Breath Test Calibrations
All breath tests, both portable and those at the station, are expected to be properly calibrated and routinely checked for accuracy. This must be done by a person who possesses the proper licensing qualifications to perform these checks. The prosecution is required to provide this information to the defense. Any issues with the improper calibration of the test can result in the inadmissibility of it.
The same is true if the test is not administered according to the strict protocol put in place. Breath tests must be performed after a 15 minute waiting period or the results can be inaccurate. If performed incorrectly, the breath test can be deemed inadmissible as evidence against you.
Consult an Experienced DWI/DUI Attorney in Austin, Texas
If you have been charged with a DWI in Texas it is important to speak to a criminal defense attorney right away. Contact Texas DWI lawyer Jason S. English online or call (512) 454-7548. With his many years of experience, Jason S. English is prepared to fight for your constitutional rights.