The Tap Bar's nachos are meant for sharing, and so are there dirt-cheap pitchers of beer, so when you and a few coworkers have finished devouring the greasy bar food you are understandably a little buzzed. But that big ego won't let you appear weak in front of your friends, so you march to your truck, draw a deep breath and settle in for a perilous journey. But you don't get far -- you've barely turned east on Texas Avenue when the red-and-blue lights of a police cruiser light up your rear view mirror. Getting stopped for a DWI in scary, and it can happen when you least expect it. Here's some general information about El Paso DWI cases.
What is a DWI?
DWI stands for Driving While Intoxicated, and corresponds to what many other states call "DUI" or drunk driving. DWI is usually defined by a maximum blood alcohol content, or "BAC," and the legal limit is 0.08% for El Paso drivers 21 years old and older. Note that Texas has a zero tolerance policy for drivers under the age of 21, which means they can receive a DWI for driving with any measureable alcohol content.
License and Registration, Please?
Your DWI case begins when you are pulled over by an El Paso police officer. Instead of treating the officer as your enemy, you may want to try cooperating with their requests to put them in a good mood. Turning on your cabin light and placing both hands on the steering wheel while you wait for the officer to approach is a good start!
The officer will likely ask for your license and registration and might ask you some basic questions. If the officer suspects you've been drinking, he will probably begin administering a Field Sobriety Test. We've all seen familiar exercises like the one-leg stand and walking on a line, but more sophisticated officers also test for horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) and pupil dilation. Just listen closely to the officer's instructions and give an honest effort to complete the task exactly as instructed.
If you perform poorly, the officer will probably ask you to submit a breath, blood or urine test. Usually, individuals must consent before such a test is performed, but all drivers in Texas are deemed to have given "implied consent" to the chemical test simply by holding a valid driver's license. You can still refuse the test, of course, but that may just result in an automatic 180 day license suspension. Additionally, prosecutors may be able to argue you knew you'd fail such a test. Last, but not least, the police may forcibly draw blood if you were involved in an accident that resulted in serious injury or death.
First Court Appearance
All court appearances will probably take place at the El Paso County Court, at 500 E. San Antonio, but read the notice to make sure. Your first appearance will likely be the arraignment, where the judge will formally read the charges against you, you'll have a chance to request a public defender, and be offered a chance to enter a plea. Note that El Paso prosecutors are specifically prohibited from accepting a plea bargain for the lesser charge "wet reckless" when your BAC registered above 0.08%, unlike nearly every other state.
At the end of your arraignment, the judge will set bail, which is a deposit that will be returned to you if you appear at all scheduled court dates. You can read more about bail bonds in the Texas Bail Bond Handbook.
Administrative License Revocation
Your license will be revoked automatically following a DWI arrest, even before you've been convicted, for a period between 90 days and two years. However, you can request a hearing with the Texas Department of Public Safety within 15 days of receiving notice of the revocation to determine whether it is valid. Failure to timely request a hearing will result in an automatic suspension on the 40th day after you received notice.
Even if your license was revoked, you may still be eligible for an occupational license, which will allow you to drive to work, school, and other essential locations.
Texas is tough on drivers found guilty of DWI, especially if someone has suffered multiple convictions. A first timer can expect at least three days in jail, a $2,000 fine, and a two-year license suspension. If you suffer a second conviction within five years of the first, you'll face at least 30 days in jail and a $4,000 fine. A third DWI conviction within a ten year period counts as a felony, and you could face at least a two-year prison sentence and up to a $10,000 fine.
Additionally, if you are caught driving drunk with a passenger under the age of 15, you face consequences similar to a third-timer felony conviction. Finally, Texas requires the installation of an Ignition Interlock Device for five years following your second DWI conviction, at your own expense.
For answers to specific questions about a case, you may wish to contact a local DWI attorneys in your area.