Dallas County & Tarrant County Drunk Driving Lawyers
If you have been arrested for DWI, you have already been through a lot. You had to pay bail. The police probably took your driver’s license. You had to get your car out of the impound. And everything you hear or read tells you how severe the consequences of a DWI conviction can be. While much of this is true, hiring the right lawyer can make the process much easier on you, even helping you completely avoid a DWI conviction.
An Arrest for DWI Leads to Two Cases Against You
In Texas when a person is arrested for DWI, there are really two cases that begin. The first is a civil administrative driver’s license case (ALR). The second is a criminal case (DWI). These cases are different — so different that they take place in different courthouses, with different prosecutors, different judges, and different rules altogether.
ALR & Driver’s License Hearing Request Lawyers
The first is a civil case. If you have ever heard of the implied consent law, this is it. Here, the Department of Public Safety is trying to take away your driver’s license, or privilege to drive in Texas. If you received a document titled “Notice of Suspension and Temporary Driving Permit,” this is basically a lawsuit against your driving privileges. Depending on the circumstances, the suspension could be anywhere from 30, 60, 90, or 180 days, all the way up to 2 years. It is important that you contact a lawyer to request a hearing within 15 days of receiving this notice. Otherwise, your license could automatically be suspended. As long as you request a hearing, your license remains valid until your lawyer actually has a hearing.
At the hearing, DPS must prove three things:
- The officer had a legal reason to stop or detain you
- The officer had probable cause to arrest you for DWI
- The officer offered you a breath or blood test that you either refused or failed
There are several defenses to these three elements. The lawyers at Westfall Sellers have helped clients keep their driver’s licenses. And in some cases, we have helped commercial driver’s license (CDL) holders avoid losing their livelihood. Contact us today to see if we can help you keep your license.
Experienced Tarrant County DWI Charge Defense Lawyers
The second case is your DWI criminal case. Here the state of Texas, through a district attorney, is trying to convict you (find you guilty) of driving while intoxicated. To do this the DA must prove you:
- A motor vehicle
- In a public place
- While intoxicated.
Each of these elements has a specific legal meaning. For example, intoxicated does not mean “drunk.” It means not having the normal use of your mental or physical abilities due to consumption of alcohol, drugs, dangerous drugs, a controlled substance, any combination of these, or any other substance. And as you can see, you can be arrested and convicted of DWI even if you have not had a drop to drink. As one Court of Criminal Appeals Judge put it, “Under current law, if a person eats too many M&Ms either alone or in combination with alcohol, drugs, water, or whatever such that his mental and physical faculties are impaired, he may be prosecuted for DWI.”
If you have been charged with DWI, especially DWI while taking prescription medications, you need the help of an experienced DWI Lawyer. The lawyers at Westfall Sellers have won dismissals and Not Guilty verdicts in cases involving prescription drugs, blood tests, and breath tests. Call us today to see if we can help you avoid the consequences of a DWI conviction.
Potential deferred adjudication for DWI charges
As of 2019, clients facing their first DWI charges may be eligible for deferred adjudication. Deferred adjudication allows defendants to plead guilty or no contest without receiving a criminal conviction. The sentence is instead “deferred” by the judge and defendants are placed on a type of probation, during which they may need to complete community service and attend educational programs.
If the deferred probation period is completed successfully, the judge dismisses your case and you are cleared of your charges. However, should the defendant be brought in on DWI charges a second time, the second charge will be treated as a second offense and the defendant will incur enhanced penalties.
Not all drivers facing their first DWI charge are eligible for deferred adjudication. There are exceptions and rules for eligibility, including:
- The driver’s BAC must have been under .15
- The driver cannot hold a learner’s permit or a commercial driver’s license
- The driver must not have had a child in the car at the time of the alleged DWI
- The driver must not be charged with offenses involving flying while intoxicated, intoxication assault, or intoxication manslaughter
- The offense must not qualify for enhancement due to location (school zones, construction sites, etc.)
- The driver must agree to use an ignition interlock on their main source of transportation for the duration of the deferred probation.
- The DWI charge must have been brought after Texas HB 3582 came into effect on September 1st, 2019.
Consequences of a DWI Conviction
The consequences of a DWI conviction are severe, even more so for “final convictions”. Depending on your criminal history and your blood test result, the consequences can vary:
- First Time DWI Conviction: Class B Misdemeanor, which carries a possible range of punishment of 3-180 days in the county jail or up to 2 years probation; a $3,000 fine on final convictions; potential 1-year driver’s license suspension; possible interlock requirement; and up to $3,000 in surcharges to keep your driver’s license.
- First Time DWI Conviction w/ Breath or Blood Test Over 0.15: Class A misdemeanor, which carries a possible range of punishment of 0-365 days in the county jail or up to 2 years probation; a $6,000 fine on final convictions; potential year-long driver’s license suspension; interlock requirement; and up to $6,000 in surcharges to keep your driver’s license.
- Second DWI Conviction: Class A misdemeanor, which carries a possible range of punishment of 3-365 days in the county jail or up to 2 years probation; up to a $4,000 fine; potential 2-year driver’s license suspension; interlock requirement; and up to $4,500 in surcharges to keep your driver’s license. If the second offense occurred within 36 months of the first conviction, the fine for final conviction raises to $4,500. $6,000 if blood alcohol content was over 0.15.
- Third DWI Conviction: 3rd degree felony, which carries a possible range of punishment of 2-10 years in the penitentiary or up to 10 years probation; up to a $10,000 fine; potential driver’s license suspension; interlock requirement; and up to $4,500 in surcharges to keep your driver’s license.
A DWI Investigation Has Three Parts
Every officer learns how to investigate DWIs from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s DWI Detection and Standardized Field Sobriety Testing Manual. In it, there are three parts to a DWI investigation: 1) Driving, 2) Personal Contact, and 3) Coordination Exercises.
NHTSA studied driving cues using statistical calculations for those arrested for DUI and the reason for the initial traffic stop. There are 24 driving mishaps officers are taught to watch for, including weaving, swerving, signaling inconsistent with driving, turning too wide, driving without headlights at night, following too closely, accelerating and decelerating rapidly, just to name a few. Interestingly, speeding is not one of the statistically validated driving cues. Everyone speeds.
Once the officer turns his overhead lights on to pull you over, officers are watching your every move. They are taught to watch and see if you attempt to flee, respond slowly, fail to respond, swerve, stop suddenly, or strike the curb when pulling over. The officer will continue to watch your every move after you have pulled over. This is when you move into the second part of the DWI investigation – personal contact.
2. Personal Contact
This is after the officer pulls you over but before the coordination exercises. During this phase, officers look for things they can see, hear, and smell:
- bloodshot eyes
- soiled clothing
- fumbling fingers
- alcohol containers
- drugs or drug paraphernalia
- bruises, bumps or scratches
- unusual actions
- slurred speech
- admission of drinking
- inconsistent responses
- abusive language
- unusual statements
- alcoholic beverages
- “cover up” odors like breath sprays
- unusual odors
Officers are actually taught to try to confuse and distract you. For example, they will ask you for two things simultaneously, like your driver’s license and insurance. They are taught to interrupt you. They will be looking to see if you:
- ignore the question and concentrate only on the license or registration search;
- forget to resume the search after answering the question; or
- incorrectly answer the questions.
Sometimes they will ask you to perform some confusing tasks. NHTSA has never had a test where a person is required to say the alphabet backward, but they will ask you to say the alphabet beginning and ending with letters other than A and Z. For example, starting at the letter L and ending with the letter U. Or the officer may ask you to count backward from one specific number to another, while watching to see if you can remember where to start, how to count, and where to stop.
The officer may ask you to get out of your car. During this step, the officer will be watching for you to mess up by:
- showing angry or unusual reactions;
- failing to follow instructions;
- struggling to open the door;
- leaving the vehicle in gear;
- “climbing” out of vehicle;
- leaning against vehicle;
- or keeping hands on the vehicle for balance.
It is important to remember, you have the right NOT to answer any questions or perform any tests. The best practice is to exercise your right to a lawyer, and your right to remain silent. To do this, you must affirmatively—but politely—say something to the effect of, “I will not answer any questions or perform any tests until I have talked to my lawyer.” You will most likely still be arrested, but you have just made your lawyer’s job much easier.
3. Coordination Exercises
The third phase of a DWI investigation requires you to perform coordination exercises. These exercises are not easy, and are certainly not the best indicator of someone’s “normal” abilities. Nevertheless, the three tests are: 1) Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test (HGN), 2) Walk and Turn Exercise, and 3) Balancing on One Leg.
HGN or Eye Test
This test requires the officer to move a finger or pen in front of your eyes to see whether they track smoothly and at the same time. No one except the officer who gave you the test knows how you did. The officer is not seeing whether you move your head, or whether you follow his pen. He’s looking to see how your eyes move. If your eyes jerk as they move from side-to-side, the officer will claim this is a sign of intoxication. Your eyes should smoothly move from side-to-side, like a marble rolling on glass.
Walk & Turn Exercise
During this exercise, an officer can conclude you are intoxicated even before you begin the test. The officer is watching for eight clues:
- can’t balance during instructions;
- starts too soon;
- stops while walking;
- doesn’t touch heel-to-toe;
- steps off the line;
- uses arms to balance;
- loses balance on turn or turns incorrectly; and
- takes the wrong number of steps.
If you break the instruction stance and start before you are told to begin, you have shown two clues. On this exercise and the one-leg stand, even showing a clue one time means you have been counted off for that clue. According to NHTSA, two clues indicate impairment. Therefore, you can fail even before you begin.
Balancing on One Leg
The final standardized test is the one-leg stand. During this task, although the officer gives you a number of instructions, he is only watching for four clues:
- Using Arms for Balance
- Putting Foot Down
The test is supposed to last for 30 seconds, no matter whether you actually count to 30 or not. Like the previous test, if you do any of these things once, you get counted off for that clue. And according to NHTSA, 2 clues indicate impairment. In other words, you can put your foot down 30 times, but as long as you don’t sway, hop, or use your arms for balance, you still pass. Seeing a pattern?
No matter what happened at the scene, you need an experienced DWI Defense Lawyer to defend you. The lawyers at Westfall Sellers have represented tons of people accused of DWI and Boating While Intoxicated (BWI). We know how to showcase the flaws in these tests. We know how to highlight your normal behaviors. Contact us today so we can help you.
Texas Blood Test DWI Lawyers • Fort Worth Breath Test Defense Attorney
If the officer claims you showed impairment, he will most likely place you under arrest. At this point, the officer will generally request you give a breath test or blood test. This is completely up to you. If you decide not to, however, the officer does have the option of applying for a search warrant.
Even if an officer obtains a search warrant, you can still have the result thrown out in court. For example, if the affidavit or request for search warrant was deficient in some important way. Or if the blood was drawn, handled, stored, or tested improperly. It could even happen if the credibility of the person who tested your blood has been undermined in other cases. The lawyers at Westfall Sellers have had judges throw out blood test results, and also convinced juries the result was unreliable.
Breath testing is not perfect either. There are two breath testing machines in Texas. The older, the Intoxilyzer 5000, runs on dated science and a top-secret code. The heart of the machine is a Z80 microprocessor—the same processor in the Atari gaming console. The State of Texas knows it needs to be replaced, which is why they have purchased newer machines. The Intoxilyzer 9000 has similar problems. The source code is completely secret, and no one outside of the manufacturer is able to analyze it. The machine also generates a wealth of data about how the test was administered, but Texas chose to program the machines not to save that data.
Even if you get arrested, you should be polite and remain silent—even in jail.
Throughout this process, it’s always in your best interest to remain silent. You are most likely being recorded at all times. The officer will have a rear-facing camera to record you in handcuffs in the backseat. If you are rude, disrespectful, or belligerent, you can expect the DA to use this as evidence against you. Likewise, even when you are in jail you are being recorded. Jails have started contracting with private companies to record jail phone calls. So when you call and talk to your loved ones or friends, you are being recorded. You have the right to remain silent at all times. Use it.
Make Sure Your Lawyer Has Actually DEFENDED a DWI Case at Trial
Some DWI lawyers will do anything to convince you to hire them. Then, they will find the fastest way to try to convince you to plead guilty. They will say things like they know how the other side thinks because they were a prosecutor once. When the facts are on your side, as they often are for prosecutors, it’s not that hard to go to trial. And you don’t need to know how the other side thinks when you can buy the prosecutor’s playbook off the internet. You need a lawyer with experience DEFENDING DWI cases.
The lawyers at Westfall Sellers have defended hundreds, if not thousands, of people accused of DWI. Our DWI Defense Lawyers have won Not Guilty verdicts for people accused of DWI, including on breath test DWI cases, and blood test DWI cases. This is the type of experience that other prosecutors hear about. This is the type of experience that can help you get your DWI dismissed. Call us now so our attorneys can put experience to work for you.
Contact Us Today • Fort Worth DWI Defense Lawyers
If you have been arrested for a DWI in Tarrant County, you need an experienced DEFENSE lawyer on your side. The lawyers at Westfall Sellers have experience defending breath tests, blood tests, prescription drug, and all other types of DWIs imaginable. Call us today at 817-928-4222 to set up your free case evaluation.