DWI AND DUI

 

Charged With Driving While Intoxicated in Tarrant County?

 

Along our Texas roadways, we see signs that the Texas Department of Transportation posts saying, “DWI – You Can’t Afford It.” This may not be an exaggeration… If your are convicted in Fort Worth of a DWI first offense (with a high BAC) you could be looking at up to a year in Tarrant County jail, $4000 fine, driver’s licenses suspension, thousands of dollars in surcharges, and other serious penalties. The penalties are even worse for “repeat” or “habitual” DWI offenders.

 

Tarrant County has “No Refusal Weekends” practically every holiday. The Texas legislature is passing harsher laws as they are continuously lobbied by organizations like MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) and TDCAA (Texas District and County Attorney’s Association). If you are accused of Driving While Intoxicated, get the help of experienced Fort Worth DWI attorney, and you may be able to avoid or minimize penalties.

 

James Luster is an experienced Fort Worth DWI lawyer with extensive experience and training to fight any DWI charge (misdemeanor or felony).  He is committed to staying on the cutting edge of DWI defense.  Not only has James defended DWI cases, but he has also prosecuted hundreds. He knows how the government will try to present the DWI case against you, and he is ready to battle them every step of the way.  James is well versed in the Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (SFST).  He has undergone hours of training in the classroom, in the courtroom, and in the field.  Whether the evidence against you is field sobriety test, breath specimen, or a blood specimen, James is ready to fight to win your case.  He will attack the government’s case starting with the first time the cops laid eyes on your car until they had you booked into jail.

 

Your fight against a DWI charge has many smaller battles along the way. This includes trying to avoid a driver’s license suspicion. James, as a Texas DWI lawyer, is ready to jump on your case and fight the administrative process to keep your driver’s license while the case is pending and after resolution.  He will help you get an occupational driver’s license if your license has already been suspended.

Roadside or Stationhouse Standard Field Sobriety Tests

 

In most DWI cases, the reliability of standardized field sobriety tests comes into question. There is a long list of field sobriety tests, but the most commonly used are referred to as “standardized.” These three tests are supposed to be the most reliable — the horizontal gaze nystagmus test, the walk-and-turn test, and the one leg stand test. The margin for error in these and other field sobriety tests remains far too high for them to reasonably support a conviction for DWI. Unfortunately, everyday people are convicted of DWI based on these tests. This is a topic for discussion with your Fort Worth DWI lawyer.

 

Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN)

After a traffic stop, if police smell alcohol they will attempt to collect “evidence,” including asking you to perform what the call the HGN Test. This test is supposed to detect Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus. Nystagmus is a jerking of the eye or a bouncing eye motion that can be caused by multiple factors. Police may see “pendular” movement or swinging back and forth in a regular rhythm like a pendulum or jerking of the eye slowly away from a fixated point and then rapidly correcting (aka saccade). Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) is a form of jerk nystagmus where the saccadic movement is towards the direction of the gaze. If HGN is present, it is an involuntary movement of the eye that you cannot control.

 

Police will testify about six “clues” or three in each eye:

  1. Lack of smooth pursuit
  2. Distinct and sustained nystagmus at maximum deviation
  3. Onset of nystagmus prior to 45 degrees

 

The officer will testify that if he thinks he sees 4 or more “clues” then you have a BAC of at least 0.08 or you are impaired.

 

Walk and Turn

After police attempt to have someone perform the HGC “test,” the police will ask you to perform second “test,” the Walk-and-Turn.

 

In reference to a real or imagined line, the officer will give you some variation of these instructions:

  1. Put your left foot on the line and put your right foot in front of it with your right heel touching your left toe. Keep your hands at your side. The officer should demonstrate this.
  2. Do not start until I tell you to.
  3. Do you understand the directions?
  4. When I tell you to begin, take nine heel to toe steps on the line, turn around keeping one foot on the line, and return nine heel to toe steps. The officer should demonstrate this, but the officer will likely on demonstrate a few steps.
  5. On the ninth step, keep the front foot on the line and turn by taking several small steps with the other foot. The officer should demonstrate the turn
  6. While walking, watch your feet at all times, keep arms at side, count steps out loud. Once you begin, do not stop until test is completed.
  7. The officer should ask, “Do you understand the instructions?”
  8. Finally, the officer will say, “You may begin the test.”

 

A testifying officer will talk about eight “clues” (2 in instruction phase, 6 in walking phase) that they are looking for. Even though the test is likely on video for the jury to see an make up their own mind, the court will allow the officer to testify about his opinion as to whether you exhibited any clues and ultimately that the office believes you were intoxicated based on the clues the office thinks you exhibited.

 

One-Leg Stand Instructions (OLS)

The third “standardized” DWI Field Sobriety Test is called the One Leg Stand (abbreviate OLS). This is where an officer makes you stand on one leg and count for a length of time. Like with the others exercises, the office is supposed to look for “clues,” and for this test there are four an office will testify about.

 

An officer will give instructions similar to:

  1. Stand with your heels together and your arms at your side. (Demonstrate)
  2. Do not begin until I tell you to.
  3. Do you understand?
  4. When I tell you, I want you to raise one leg, either leg, approximately six inches off the
    ground, foot pointed out. Keep both legs straight and keep your eyes on the elevated foot.
  5. While holding that position, count out loud; one thousand and one, one thousand and two, one thousand and three, and so forth until told to stop. The office should demonstrate by raising his leg and counting, although not for the same length of time that the office will make you do it.
  6. The office will ask, “Do you understand the instructions?”
  7. Then the officer will instruct you to begin the test.

 

Far too many variables exist that may cause you to “fail” these tests. When you prepare your defense, your Fort Worth DWI lawyer should thoroughly review the circumstances under which you performed the tests. This may reveal one or more issues that need to be communicated to the prosecutor or jury. Of course, all other aspects of the traffic stop and your arrest require careful scrutiny. Preparing a defense in these cases requires a lot of attention to detail with a skilled eye. Then you need a Fort Worth DWI lawyer that can effectively and persuasively present your defense to a jury.

Do You Need a DWI Criminal Defense Attorney?

 

Deciding to just “take your lumps” can lead to a great deal of trouble later in life.  Many counties, including Tarrant County, will use prior DWI convictions that are more than 25 years old to enhance the punishment and grade of offense for people newly accused of DWI. These cases require a skilled and experienced criminal defense attorney.

 

In many ways, DWI is treated like a felony despite the fact the first two convictions are only misdemeanors.  Cops are trained to start building a case against you the second they see your car. Everything you say and do is likely being recorded.  So, the police use what are called “Field Sobriety Tests” to create evidence on the recording. These tests require you to do a variety of tasks that people do not do in their normal daily lives, but later prosecutors will argue that your performance on these tests indicate a loss of normal mental or physical faculties.  After making you do these tests on the roadside you will be asked to provide a breath or blood specimen.  Generally, the best thing to do is be very polite and decline any tests (roadside or jailhouse).  Do not let them manipulate you into providing them with evidence that can be twisted around to convince a jury that you were DWI.

 

Texas DWI Laws and Penalties

First Offense DWI (Class B Misdemeanor):

  • Up to $2000 fine
  • Minimum 72 hours in jail (MANDATORY)
  • Maximum 180 days in jail
  • Up to 2 years Probation if eligible

 

First Offense DWI with 0.15 or higher BAC (Class A Misdemeanor)

  • Up to $4000 fine
  • No minimum jail time
  • Maximum 1 year in jail
  • Up to 2 years Probation if eligible

 

Second Offense DWI (Class A Misdemeanor):

  • Up to $4000 fine
  • Minimum 30 days in jail (MANDATORY)
  • Maximum 1 year in jail
  • Up to 2 years Probation if eligible

 

Third DWI Offense (3rd Degree Felony):

  • Up to $10,000 fine
  • Minimum 2 years in jail (MANDATORY)
  • Maximum 10 years in jail
  • Up to 10 years Probation if eligible

 

There are circumstances that could result in an ENHANCED FELONY DWI charge and enhanced penalties if you are convicted:

 

DWI With Child Passenger (State Jail Felony):

  • Up to $10,000 fine
  • Minimum 6 months in State Jail Facility (MANDATORY)
  • Maximum 2 years in State Jail Facility
  • Up to 5 years probation if eligible

 

DWI Assault (3rd Degree Felony):

  • Cause serious bodily injury to another person as a result of operating a motor vehicle or watercraft while intoxicated
  • Up to $10,000 fine
  • Minimum 2 years in prison (MANDATORY)
  • Maximum 10 years in prison
  • Up to 10 years probation if eligible

 

Intoxicated Manslaughter (2nd Degree Felony):

  • Cause the death of a person as a result of operating a motor vehicle or watercraft while intoxicated
  • Up to $10,000 fine
  • Minimum 2 years in prison (Mandatory)
  • Maximum 20 years in prison
  • Up to 10 years probation if eligible

Texas DUI (Driving Under the Influence) Punishment

 

For minors convicted of operating a motor vehicle with any detectable amount of alcohol:

First and Subsequent DUI Convictions: A first time DUI conviction is a Class C Misdemeanor. It carries with it a fine that is not to exceed $500.00. It is important to note that if an individual charged with a DUI has 2 prior convictions for DUI, the punishment goes up dramatically. The fine for an individual with 2 previous convictions is not less than $500.00 and not more than $2,000.00. In addition, a judge may give that individual a jail sentence of up to 6 months. In addition to fines and possible jail time, the Department of Public Safety will suspend an individual’s license.

, DWI and DUI

Intoxication Manslaughter in Tarrant County

 

When a person is facing charges of intoxication manslaughter in Texas, they likely have engaged in the exact same conduct as a person who has been arrested for their first DWI. That DWI conduct may have caused the worst possible outcome, someone died.

 

Texas Penal Code § 49.08 says person commits the crime of Intoxication Manslaughter if the person:

  1. Operates a motor vehicle in a public place, operates an aircraft, a watercraft, or an amusement ride, or assembles a mobile amusement ride; and
  2. Is intoxicated and by reason of that intoxication causes the death of another by accident or mistake.

 

Generally intoxication manslaughter is a Second Degree Felony, but is a First Degree Felony if it is shown on the trial of the offense that the person caused the death of a person that is a peace officer, a firefighter, or emergency medical services personnel while in the actual discharge of an official duty. These cases are complex and emotional.

 

In many respects, an intoxication manslaughter case is much like a DWI, but the fact that someone has lost their life creates a variety of complexities and sensitivities. Whereas a DWI probably does not have a “victim,” intoxication manslaughter cases obviously are connected to a death and to others impacted by that death. A skilled criminal defense attorney has to work to separate the emotion from the actual facts in an intoxication manslaughter case. Fort Worth Intoxication Manslaughter Attorney James Luster is a skilled trial lawyer and negotiator that will fight the State’s tendency to propel the case with emotion and passion.

 

Intoxication manslaughter cases require a great deal of legal strategy from the very beginning. If you’re facing these very serious charges of intoxication manslaughter do not wait, call James Luster so he can help you to start building a case. There is no doubt the government is building their case against you. Get a skilled Criminal Defense Attorney to start developing your defense.

 

Second Degree Felony

 

If intoxication manslaughter is charged as a second-degree felony then you may be punished by imprisonment in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice for any term of not more than 20 years or less than 2 years. Further, as with any second-degree felony, you may be punished by a fine not to exceed $10,000. Probation is a possibility for intoxication manslaughter; however, deferred adjudication is not an option under Texas law. This means if you are placed on any kind of probation for intoxication manslaughter you will forever have a felony conviction. The long-term implications of an intoxication manslaughter charge are something you should talk with a skilled criminal defense attorney about.

 

First Degree Felony

 

If the intoxication manslaughter charge is filed as a first degree felony (because the State alleged that you caused the death of a person that is a peace officer, a firefighter, or emergency medical services personnel while in the actual discharge of an official duty) then the intoxication manslaughter punishment may be imprisonment in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice for life or for any term of not more than 99 years or less than 5 years. Further, an individual that is judged guilty of a first-degree felony charge of intoxication manslaughter may be punished by a fine not to exceed $10,000. Like with a second-degree felony charge of intoxication manslaughter, probation is a possibility; however, deferred adjudication is not an option under Texas law. This means if you are placed on any kind of probation for a first-degree intoxication manslaughter charge you will forever have a felony conviction.

 

The long-term consequences of an intoxication manslaughter charge is something you should speak with a skilled criminal defense lawyer about. Call our Fort Worth criminal law office to discuss your Intoxication Manslaughter charges.