What Prosecutors Must Prove In A DWI Case, And How To Defend Yourself Against DWI Charges
Driving While Intoxicated in Texas is a serious offense that law enforcement and prosecutors do not take lightly. They will push aggressively for the maximum possible penalties available, based on the circumstances. Penalties can include jail time (up to 25 years in the most serious cases), and thousands of dollars in fines.
Other consequences of a DWI conviction can include:
- Suspension or revocation of your driver’s license, and fees assessed by the DMV;
- Ignition interlock devices attached to your vehicle;
- Lost wages due to an inability to drive to work, or termination of employment;
- Problems applying for new jobs or housing with a DWI conviction on your record;
- Increased car insurance premiums
- Problems obtaining weapons permits if it is a felony DWI conviction.
If you’ve been pulled over and charged with a DWI, you may feel the case is already over and there is nothing you can do. On the contrary, you have several important – and Constitutional – rights and potential defenses. Furthermore, the prosecution bears the burden of proving you violated the law.
A person commits the offense of Driving While Intoxicated under the Texas Penal Code if they are “intoxicated while operating a motor vehicle in a public place.” Note that the statute says “operating” – this can be broadly defined as sitting anywhere in the car with access to the keys and ignition, even if the vehicle is parked.
While a blood alcohol concentration of .08 percent or more is traditionally defined as intoxication, a person can still be charged without this threshold if they were under the influence of drugs (even prescribed drugs) or showed other signs of impairment. A BAC of .15 or more can lead to escalated charges and enhanced penalties, meanwhile.
What the Prosecution Must Prove in a Texas DWI Case
To obtain a conviction, prosecutors must show beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant:
- Was intoxicated, and
- Was operating a motor vehicle
Generally, intoxication is shown through the results of a breathalyzer test or blood draw if the impairment was due to narcotics. Breathalyzer results are not always reliable, however, and police must follow a strict set of field sobriety tests in combination with the breathalyzer. If law enforcement “skips steps” or does not follow a driver’s Constitutionally protected rights during a traffic stop, potentially incriminating breathalyzer results might not hold up in court.
Prosecutors must also prove that a defendant was “operating” a motor vehicle. Sometimes this is obvious from dashcam video or other means. Other times – the defendant was asleep in a passenger seat, for example – it can’t be shown that they were actually operating the machinery.
Field sobriety tests can also be challenged by a DWI defendant. As a matter of routine, field sobriety tests include:
- One Leg Stand Test
- Walk and Turn Test
- Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test
These tests are subjective and ripe for error and misinterpretation. Further, they don’t often account for natural impairments or disabilities a person might have. If the prosecution is relying upon Field Sobriety Tests as part of their case, these can be challenged by an experienced Texas DWI defense attorney.
In addition to problems with breathalyzers, field tests, and blood draws, there may have been issues with the initial traffic stop that led to DWI arrest. A traffic stop made without proper cause can lead to the elimination of any other evidence that came after the stop.
In short, there are a number of ways to challenge a DWI arrest and protect your legal rights. Many people are unaware of these rights and plead guilty, or they are pressured by a prosecutor and public defender to accept a plea deal.
Fight Your DWI Case with an Accomplished Pearland, Texas Defense Attorney That Knows How to Work For You
Regardless of your particular circumstances, you want to work with a skilled Pearland DWI/DUI attorney that can review your case in full detail and assert your rights. If you have been charged with DWI in Texas, you have important Constitutional and procedural rights with regard to evidence. If there are any flaws in the prosecution’s case, you may be entitled to a reduction in charges or dismissal of the case entirely. Contact the offices of Keith B. French Law, PLLC, today or call 832-243-6153 for a free case evaluation to get started.