Texas has a strict “zero-tolerance” policy when it comes to drinking and driving. When a driver injures someone in a DUI crash, he can be charged with a felony. Felony convictions often result in harsh penalties, such as having to pay thousands of dollars in fines and serving time in jail or prison.
Keep reading to learn what you can do to protect your rights and possibly even avoid a DUI or DWI conviction.
Texas Has a Zero-Tolerance Policy
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the percentage of adults who admit to drinking and driving in Texas (2.1 percent) is higher than the national average (1.9 percent). To combat these numbers, Texas has strict regulations that police officers must ensure so that people remain safe on the roads.
As with all states, driving with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 percent or higher is considered drunk driving. However, your blood alcohol concentration does not have to be that high for you to be stopped for drunk driving, especially if you are a minor.
Police officers have the right to pull over and demand a blood or breathalyzer test of anyone they suspect of driving drunk. If you refuse to take a test, you might have your license taken away, as stated in the Texas Transportation Code §724.002.
In short, you do not have to be legally drunk to be pulled over for drunk driving. If you are caught driving while drunk—or, worse, if you hurt someone while driving drunk—the penalties can be severe and potentially affect you for the rest of your life.
Penalties for Drunk Driving and DWI Crashes
First, it is important to note that, in Texas, DUIs are different from DWIs and involve different charges.
Only minors can be charged with a DUI (driving under the influence). The punishments are generally lighter than punishments for a DWI (driving while intoxicated), but they are both classified as misdemeanors, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS).
According to the Texas Penal Code §12.21-23, punishments for misdemeanor crimes involve fines, jail time, or both. The severity of these penalties may depend on whether this is your first offense, among other factors. For example, if you had a previous conviction, your punishment may be harsher upon another conviction of the same offense. The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) states that, in addition to these penalties, you might also lose your license for a period of time if convicted.
If you injure someone while driving under the influence, you may be charged with a felony rather than a misdemeanor. A felony conviction carries much more serious penalties. As with misdemeanors, there are different “levels” of felony convictions, and the penalties vary by type of felony.
You Can Hire a Lawyer to Protect Your Rights
A DWI conviction stays on your record forever. This might impact your reputation, self-esteem, future job prospects, and general lifestyle. You will want to do everything you can to avoid a conviction, and this may include hiring a lawyer to defend you.
There are several ways a lawyer can help you. They may:
- Investigate your case: It is your lawyer’s job to understand all the legal aspects of your case. If there is any evidence that the police have mishandled your case or did not tell the truth about what happened, your lawyer may work hard to find it.
- Fight to get the charges dropped: Although police officers are given authority to prevent drunk driving as much as possible, they cannot do whatever they want. They must do so within the perimeters of the law. If the arresting officer violated your rights at any time, your lawyer may be able to get the case dismissed.
- Fight to get the charges reduced: Your lawyer may be able to reduce the charges against you. For example, they may be able to have a felony charge be reduced to a misdemeanor. This might save you from heftier fines and lengthier prison sentences.
- Fight for you in court: Regardless of the charges you end up facing, you have a right to legal representation, and your lawyer will provide it for you. They can ensure your rights are respected and do everything possible to fight for the lightest possible penalty.
When a driver injures someone in a DUI crash, he can be charged with a felony. Still, no matter the charges against you, you still retain your rights, and legal representation can help you protect them. The Law Offices of Randall B. Isenberg can help you prevent a felony conviction from shattering your life. Call us at (214) 696-9253 for a free case evaluation.