Shrimp Diablo at the Black Pearl Oyster Bar is too spicy to eat without an accompanying beverage, so a beer (or five) was basically mandatory. You feel a little nervous getting into your car, but just as you started enjoying the Harborside view the unmistakable wail of police sirens sends a pit to your stomach. Most people will be pulled over under suspicion of DWI at least once, so learn what's in store by reading this article on Galveston DWI cases.
In Texas, the charge for drunk driving is called a DWI, for Driving While Intoxicated. DWI is usually defined by your blood alcohol content, or "BAC," and the maximum legal limit depends on your situation:
- 21 or Older: 0.08%
- Commercial drivers: 0.04%
- Younger than 21: Any alcohol concentration
The Traffic Stop
If the Galveston police pull you over for suspected DWI, they will likely administer a Field Sobriety Test, which are simple mental or physical tasks. If you fail, you will likely be asked to submit to a breath, blood or urine test. If the test results indicate that your BAC is above the legal limit, or if you refuse to submit to the test, the officer can arrest you immediately.
Galveston drivers are required by law to submit to blood, breath and urine exams under the "implied consent" law. The Texas implied consent law requires you to take a breath, blood or urine test if you are lawfully arrested for a DWI for the purpose of determining your BAC or the presence of drugs. Refusal to take any of the tests will result in an immediate suspension of your license for 180 days, while a second refusal will result in a two year suspension. Additionally, the police may forcibly draw blood if you were involved in an accident involving serious injury or death.
The smartest thing you can do during the traffic stop is keep your mouth shut. Specifically, don't admit to drinking any alcohol or patronizing a bar that evening, as these statements will be used at trial to prove that you were drunk.
Going to Court
After your arrest you will receive notice of your arraignment. The arraignment and all further court appearances will take place within the County Court system at the Galveston County Justice Center located at 600 59th Street.
At arraignment, you'll have a chance to enter a plea, but pleading guilty at an arraignment is usually a bad idea because you waive any opportunity to review the prosecutor's evidence, file motions on your behalf or evaluate potential defenses. You'll also have an opportunity to ask the judge to appoint an attorney to represent you. 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.
You will face an Administrative License Revocation after a DWI arrest, where your driver's license will typically be revoked for between 90 days and to two years. However, you can request a hearing with the Texas Department of Public Safety within 15 days of receiving notice of the suspension to determine whether the suspension is valid. Failure to timely request a hearing will result in an automatic suspension on the 40th day after you received notice.
If all else fails you may apply for an occupational license. This type of license allows you to drive to work, school and other essential household duties despite a current suspension or revocation. These licenses are usually issued for one year or less and will be accompanied by additional stringent conditions.
Texas law contains specific prohibitions against plea bargains for lesser charges when the driver is found to be driving with a BAC of more than 0.08%. This prohibition differs from almost every other state where prosecutors are permitted to allow a "wet reckless" plea in borderline cases.
Motion to Suppress Evidence
The most common motion filed in a DWI case is a "Motion to Suppress Evidence," which forces the State to prove that your constitutional rights were not violated during the investigative detention. Issues commonly raised in a Motion to Suppress are whether the officer had reasonable suspicion to stop your vehicle and and probable cause to arrest you. If the evidence against you was gathered in a manner inconsistent with the Fourth Amendment, that evidence will be excluded and your charges could be dismissed.
The penalties for DWI are intentionally steep, and your exact sentence depends on the details of your case and the number of prior DWI convictions you've suffered. Texas has a five-year lookback period for your second DWI, and a ten-year lookback period for your third DWI.
- First DWI: 3 and 180 days jail, up to a $2,000 fine, up to a two year license suspension and up to a $2,000 yearly fee to keep your license for a three-year period;
- Second DWI: 30 days and 1 year jail, up to a $4,000 fine, up to a two year license suspension and up to a $2,000 yearly fee to keep your license for a three-year period;
- A third DWI within ten years is a felony in Texas, and you'll face at least a two-year prison sentence. You will also suffer up to a $10,000 fine, up to a two year license suspension and up to a $2,000 yearly fee to keep license for a three-year period.
Additionally, DWI with a passenger under the age of 15 could result in a felony conviction with penalties similar to a third DWI, even if it is your first DWI. Finally, Texas requires the installation of an Ignition Interlock Device for five years following your second DWI conviction.
Now that you have an idea of what's ahead, you may want to explore FindLaw's section on DWI law or get in touch with a local DWI attorney.