Texas DWI FAQ
This information is not intended to help provide insight into the Texas criminal justice system and the driving while intoxicated (DWI) process. It is not intended as legal advice.
As every case is unique, you are best served by working with a Dallas DWI attorney who can assess your situation and provide guidance based on that information. Contact The Law Offices of Richard C. McConathy today to learn more information and receive a free consultation.
You can call (972) 233-5700 or send an online message. We’re standing by to assist you during this critical time.
DWI Questions and Answers
- What is DWI?
- What is the legal definition of intoxication?
- What does ‘normal’ mean?
- What is 0.08-alcohol concentration?
- Am I required to answer any questions, take Field Sobriety Tests, or take a breath test?
- Does a person have a choice to refuse being videotaped?
- Are Field Sobriety Tests very accurate?
- What can affect my performance on Field Sobriety Tests?
- What is the State’s burden of proof to prove me guilty?
- Do I have the right to an attorney before deciding whether to take a breath or blood test?
- How long will a DWI arrest stay on my record?
DWI is a criminal offense that says a person may not drive a motor vehicle in a public place while “intoxicated.” The DWI statute does not say driving while drunk or “drunk driving.”
The legal definition of intoxication in Texas is:
- Having an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more
- Not having the normal use of physical faculties by reason of the introduction of alcohol, a controlled substance, a drug, a dangerous drug, a combination of two or more of those substances, or any other substances into the body.
- Not having the normal use of mental faculties by reason of the introduction of alcohol, a controlled substance, a drug, a dangerous drug, a combination of two or more of those substances, or any other substances into the body
The State only needs to prove one of the three ways beyond a reasonable doubt in order to obtain a conviction.
According to the law, the definition of the word normal is the average person. The problem is how do we determine the average person? The law is vague in this subject, which lends itself for good argument to a jury that everyone is different and each has his own normal.
“Alcohol concentration” is defined by statute as:
a. the number of grams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood;
b. the number of grams of alcohol per 210 liters of breath; or
c. the number of grams of alcohol per 67 milliliters of urine.
A 0.02 equals one drink. A drink is 1-¼ ounces of liquor, 1 12oz beer, or 1 glass of wine. It takes one hour for the body to burn off a 0.02 down to a 0.00. Thus, to reach a 0.08 a person must consume four drinks in one hour.
Under criminal law, you are not required to perform any type of test or answer any questions to the police officer. You have the right to refuse any tests and request an attorney. However, if you refuse to attempt these tests, the officer most likely is going to arrest you.
Further, the civil law, which your driver’s license falls under, does not protect you. In fact, when you applied for your driver’s license you unknowingly consented to any future tests, if to which you refused you would lose your driver’s license for a period of six months. The decision is yours and there is a civil risk (your license), but you do have rights, and should not waive them. Always request your lawyer and don’t cooperate with anything if you wish to exercise your rights.
No. However, although a person has no right to refuse being videotaped, he does have the right to refuse to perform any police field sobriety exercises and to refuse to answer any questions, the answers to which, might be incriminating. Unlike breath or blood test refusals, there are no penalties for refusing to perform field sobriety tests or refusing to answer questions while being videotaped.
If performed in a controlled environment in the exact proscribed standardized manner, the tests can be a likely indicator of intoxication. This is hardly done in the street.
The research conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the designers of the tests, concluded the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus is 77% accurate, the Walk & Turn is 68% accurate, and the One Leg Stand is 65% accurate only when administered in the prescribed, standardized manner. Any change from the standardized manner will compromise the tests validity and make any result inaccurate. When not conducted properly it becomes an opinion test of the officer.
Therefore, these tests will inaccurately claim 23% – 35% of the people tested as intoxicated. Which when done incorrectly, which is the norm, can drop the accuracy to a frightening level.
Even SOBER persons can have difficulty with these tests, as stated by The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The reason is as the NHTSA has admitted, are several factors that affect every person, such as:
- Being ill
- The distraction of traffic
- The police car’s strobe lights
- Lack of coordination
- Gusts of wind
- Road or sidewalk conditions
- Head lights of traffic
- Weather conditions
- Being nervousness
- Back problems
- Leg or knee problems
- Inner ear disorders
The State of Texas must prove your guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt”, which is the highest burden of proof in the justice system. It is not defined, by Texas law, but can be easily explained to a jury.
The lowest burden of proof is probable cause. That is how an officer can start an arrest.
The next highest burden of proof is preponderance of the evidence. This is the amount of proof needed in civil courtrooms involving civil suites. A preponderance of the evidence is proof amounting to 51% or who can move the scales of justice.
The next highest burden of proof is clear and convincing evidence. This is amount of proof that will cause a juror or judge to have a “firm belief” in the matter to be proved. This is used in custody cases. Most juries when they hear that the burden of proof is higher than that to take their kids away from them understand the high level of proof.
Beyond a Reasonable Doubt is the highest burden of proof. A jury must have more than that necessary to take your kids away in evidence that you were intoxicated before they could find you guilty. This is very simple, if a juror has a single doubt, based on reason, as to a person being intoxicated, they must follow the law and find them not guilty.
Texas law does not give you the right to speak with an attorney prior to making the decision of whether or not to take the field sobriety tests, the breath test or blood test. However, the law does not require you to perform any field sobriety tests or to take a blood or breath test so continue to ask for an attorney and refuse to cooperate and the likely chances of being found NOT GUILTY can increase!
If you are convicted of the DWI, it will be on your record for life. Furthermore, a DWI conviction can be used for ten years to enhance your punishment of you are arrested for DWI again. If you are found Not Guilty, you can have the arrest and DWI charge “expunged” from your record.