Have you been charged with DWI in Texas? It's time to connect with professionals who truly understand the system - Cofer & Connelly, PLLC. Our Austin-based attorneys have over 100 years of combined experience and have handled more than 25,000 criminal and family law cases. We've successfully navigated over 370 jury trials, mastering complex cases and delivering winning results. With a rich legacy of serving as prosecutors, judges, and holding offices appointed by Presidents, Governors, and Mayors, we are advanced in Texas law. We understand the system like the back of our hand. Don't wait - your future could depend on it. Call us today at 512-991-0576 or contact us online to start discussing your case.
Travis County DWI Attorney Information Center
- Travis County DWI Laws Explained
- Understanding Travis County Enhanced DWI Offenses
- Defenses To A DWI Charge In Travis County
- Travis County Pre-Trial Diversion: A Second Chance For DWI Offenders In Texas
- Travis County DWI Court Program: A Chance For Rehabilitation
- Frequently Asked Questions About DWI In Travis County
- Travis County DWI Attorney
Travis County DWI Laws Explained
Understanding the law isn't always straightforward, especially when you're staring down the barrel of something as serious as a driving while intoxicated (DWI) charge. We’re here to break down the Texas DWI statute to help you better understand what you're up against.
DWI 101: The Basics
First, let's break down what Texas considers a DWI. Essentially, if you're driving while drunk or high in a public place, you're committing a crime. The offense is specifically about operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated, and the key part is it has to happen in a public place.
Crime Classification: Class B Misdemeanor
Normally, this offense falls under what the law refers to as a Class B misdemeanor. If you're convicted, you could face a minimum of 72 hours behind bars. To translate that, if you're caught driving while intoxicated, you're looking at spending at least three days in jail. The offense is punishable by up to a $2,000 fine, up to 180 days in jail, or both.
Hold The Bottle: The Open Container Rule
Things get more serious if you're found with an open alcohol container in your vehicle at the time of the offense. If you're caught red-handed with a beer can or a bottle of spirits in the driver's area, you can expect to spend a minimum of six days in jail. Yes, that's double the punishment for simply having an open alcohol container in your immediate reach.
Heavy Drinking: The 0.15 Rule
The law takes into account how drunk you were during the incident. If a blood, breath, or urine test shows an alcohol concentration level of 0.15 or more (almost twice the legal limit in many states), your DWI charges escalate to a Class A misdemeanor. The offense is punishable by up to a $4,000 fine, one year in jail, or both.
Understanding Travis County Enhanced DWI Offenses
Section 49.09 of the 2022 Texas Penal Code covers enhanced offenses and penalties related to DWI.
Repeated DWI Offenses: Steeper Penalties Ahead
First off, the laws in Texas get stricter if you're found guilty of DWI more than once. If you're convicted for the second time, what was initially a simple misdemeanor is elevated to a Class A misdemeanor. This can land you in jail for a minimum of 30 days.
DWI Convictions: Once Is A Misstep, Twice Is A Felony
The penalties increase if you've been previously convicted of a similar offense under certain sections of the Texas Penal Code. If you've been found guilty once under Section 49.08, your offense is considered a third-degree felony.
A third-degree felony is also the consequence if you've been convicted twice for offenses relating to operating motor vehicles, aircraft, watercraft, or even amusement rides while intoxicated.
The High Cost Of Injuring First Responders
The laws get particularly strict if your DWI incident resulted in injuring someone, especially first responders. If you caused serious bodily injury to a firefighter or emergency medical services personnel while they were performing their duties, you're looking at a second-degree felony.
However, if the injured party was a peace officer or a judge, it becomes a first-degree felony.
Causing Death Or Severe Brain Injury
First-degree felony charges also apply if your offense led to the death of individuals protected under the previously mentioned subsection. Moreover, if you cause someone else to suffer a traumatic brain injury resulting in a persistent vegetative state, it's considered a second-degree felony.
For the purpose of enhancements under this law, a conviction counts whether the sentence was imposed or probated, provided the conviction was after September 1, 1994. If you've been placed on deferred adjudication community supervision for the offense, it's also considered a conviction.
Second Strike Within Five Years: Breathalyzer Installation
If you've committed a second or subsequent DWI offense within five years of the most recent one, you'll need to have a deep-lung breath analysis mechanism, aka a breathalyzer, installed in your vehicle. This device makes it nearly impossible to operate your vehicle if alcohol is detected in your breath.
You must pay for this device and provide evidence of its installation to the court. If you're unable to pay, the court may allow for a reasonable payment schedule. Failure to comply with this order could land you in contempt of court.
Defenses To A DWI Charge In Austin TX, Travis County
There are several potential defenses that can be raised against a DWI charge in Texas. It's important to note that the following defenses are general in nature and should be discussed with a qualified Travis County DWI attorney who can provide personalized legal advice based on the specific details of your case. Here are some common defenses:
Lack Of Intoxication
One possible defense is to challenge the prosecution's claim that you were intoxicated at the time of operating the motor vehicle. This can involve questioning the accuracy or reliability of the tests used to determine your intoxication level, such as breathalyzer or blood tests.
Improper Traffic Stop
Another defense may be to challenge the traffic stop’s legality. If law enforcement did not have reasonable suspicion or probable cause to pull you over, any evidence gathered during the stop could potentially be suppressed, damaging the state’s case.
Inaccurate Field Sobriety Tests
Field sobriety tests (e.g., walk-and-turn, one-leg stand, and horizontal gaze nystagmus (eye) test) are commonly used by law enforcement to assess a person's level of impairment. These tests can be subjective and may be challenged on the grounds of improper administration or other factors that could have influenced the results.
Your blood alcohol concentration was below the legal limit while driving, but increased to an unlawful level by the time you took the chemical test. This defense depends on the fact that alcohol takes time to be absorbed in your bloodstream.
Violation Of Constitutional Rights
If your constitutional rights were violated during the arrest or during the collection of evidence, such as a failure to read your Miranda rights or an unlawful search and seizure, you may have grounds to challenge the admissibility of evidence or have the charges dismissed.
Mistaken Identity Or Lack Of Proof
If there is reasonable doubt about whether you were the person operating the motor vehicle while intoxicated, or if the prosecution fails to present sufficient evidence to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt, you may be able to successfully challenge the charges.
Challenging Previous Convictions
If you are being charged with an enhanced offense due to a previous conviction, you may have a defense if you can demonstrate that the previous conviction was invalid or improperly obtained. This could involve questioning the validity of the previous conviction or presenting evidence that it does not meet the criteria outlined in the statute.
Disputing Similarity Of Offenses
In cases where an enhanced offense is based on a previous conviction from another state, you may be able to challenge the similarity of the offenses. You could argue that the elements of the out-of-state offense are not substantially similar to the elements of the offense specified in the Texas statute, which could potentially weaken the basis for enhancement.
Travis County Pre-Trial Diversion: A Second Chance For DWI Offenders In Texas
If you're facing a potential DWI (Driving While Intoxicated) charge in Travis County, Texas, there's good news for you. The Travis County Pre-trial Diversion (PTD) program offers an opportunity for eligible individuals to avoid criminal charges and start fresh.
Eligibility: Who Can Apply For The Travis County Pre-Trial Diversion?
To be eligible for the PTD program, your DWI case must be currently unfiled, meaning charges haven't been formally brought against you yet. If your case falls into the Class B category (usually involving no collision or a single-car collision), you will automatically qualify for review. Additionally, individuals with a total refusal to submit to a breathalyzer test and those with minimal criminal history will be considered.
However, there are a couple of exceptions to keep in mind. DWI 2nd cases (a second DWI offense) and cases with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) over .20 are not eligible for this program. For all other DWI cases, eligibility will be determined on a case-by-case basis.
It's worth noting that the PTD program isn't limited to DWI cases alone. Non-DWI cases that are deemed appropriate for pre-trial diversion will also be considered.
How Does The Travis County Pre-Trial Diversion Program Work?
The Travis County PTD program follows a specific process. Here’s a step-by-step breakdown:
Review Of Applications
Your application will be reviewed before the case is officially filed. It's important to note that you, your attorney, or your legal representative must submit the application within six months of the arrest date.
Review By The County Attorney's Office
The County Attorney's Office will review the application and produce any relevant discovery materials before considering your eligibility for the program.
Evaluation And Assessment
If your DWI case is being considered for the PTD program, you will be referred to Travis County Counseling and Education Services (CES) for an assessment. This assessment, which may include a Driver's Risk Inventory evaluation, will be conducted at your own expense (approximately $55.00) and must be paid for at the time of assessment.
Signing The Program Contract
If you are deemed suitable for the PTD program, you will need to sign a contract. This contract acknowledges the rights you are waiving and outlines the program requirements, which include:
- A 12-month program length.
- Completion of all CES recommendations during the program.
- Participation in a MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) Victim Impact Panel for DWI cases.
- Completion of 25 hours of Community Service Restitution (CSR).
- Agreement to modify bond conditions to include a monitoring device (to be paid directly by you to the vendor) for DWI cases.
- Agreement to a plea agreement and waiver of a jury trial if you are unsuccessful in completing the program.
Monitoring And Compliance
Throughout the program, a judge will monitor your unfiled case. Status conferences will be set at the 3, 6, and 12-month marks to assess your compliance with the program's requirements.
Successful Completion And Expunction
Upon successfully completing the PTD program, the County Attorney's Office will reject the unfiled case, allowing you to avoid criminal charges. Furthermore, an early expunction will be agreed upon to remove the case from your record.
If you find yourself facing a potential DWI charge in Travis County, the Pre-trial Diversion program offers hope for a fresh start. By meeting the eligibility criteria, completing the program requirements, and complying with the court's monitoring, you can avoid criminal charges and take positive steps toward rebuilding your life.
Travis County DWI Court Program: A Chance For Rehabilitation
In Travis County, Texas, there's a program called the Travis County DWI Court that aims to help individuals by providing rehabilitation and support instead of solely relying on punishment. Let's take a closer look at what this program entails and how it can benefit you.
The Mission And Goals Of Travis County’s DWI Court Program
The Travis County DWI Court Program has a clear mission: to enhance safety in the community and improve individuals’ lives via a collaborative approach involving treatment and supervision as well as involvement by the court. The primary goals of this program are to protect the community, encourage a drug and alcohol-free life for offenders via treatment, and reduce the likelihood of repeat offenses.
Key Components Of The Program
Travis County DWI Court Program is a court-sanctioned initiative that specifically targets repeat DWI offenders. The program lasts for at least twelve months, or potentially longer, and brings together various resources such as criminal justice agencies, case management services, and alcohol abuse treatment to help participants instead of resorting to incarceration in certain cases.
The Participant's Responsibilities And Support System
As a participant in the DWI Court Program, you'll have certain responsibilities. You'll typically attend court regularly for a review of your progress, which could take place on a weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly basis. A team at the DWI Court will meet weekly to assess your progress.
Graduation And Eligibility
Upon completing the program and fulfilling all the requirements of the DWI Court along with ongoing abstinence, you will graduate from the program. To be eligible for the program, there are several criteria you must meet:
- You must be 18 years or older.
- You must be a Travis County resident.
- This should be your second or subsequent DWI arrest within two years of your first arrest or conviction.
- There should be no victim involvement in your case.
- You should have no unresolved warrants or holds from other states.
- You should have no ongoing pending cases.
- You should not have previously received an assessment and counseling referral for the same crime.
- Your criminal record is reviewed, but generally, you should have no history of violent crimes, stalking, violation of a protective order, or criminal activities unrelated to substance or alcohol abuse.
Evaluation And Acceptance Into The Program
The District Attorney's and County Attorney's offices review each case and make recommendations. Defense attorneys will submit applications to the CA for review. If you meet the legal eligibility criteria, the CA or DA will notify Adult Probation and your defense lawyer. You will then undergo a clinical assessment with Adult Probation's Substance Abuse Assessment Division to determine your treatment needs.
Once you enter a plea, your case will be scheduled for sentencing. At this hearing, you will appear before the Judge, and if granted acceptance in the program, your legal counsel will be moved to the DWI Court Attorney who will represent you moving forward.
Embracing The Opportunity For Rehabilitation
Facing a DWI charge can be overwhelming, but the Travis County DWI Court Program provides an opportunity for rehabilitation and support. By participating in this program, you'll receive the necessary treatment, supervision, and judicial involvement to help you overcome your DWI-related issues and build a better future. Remember, each case is evaluated individually, so it's crucial to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney and explore the possibilities available to you through this program.
Frequently Asked Questions About DWI In Travis County
What Constitutes A DWI Offense In Texas?
Under Texas law, you commit a DWI if you're operating a motor vehicle (e.g., car, truck) in a public place while intoxicated.
What Is The Basic Penalty For Driving While Intoxicated Under Texas DWI Law?
A basic DWI offense in Texas is a Class B misdemeanor, which carries a minimum jail term of 72 hours. The offense is punishable by up to a $2,000 fine, up to 180 days in jail, or both.
How Does Having An Open Container Of Alcohol Affect The Penalty For A DWI?
If at the time of the offense you had an open container of alcohol in your immediate possession, the DWI offense escalates to a Class B misdemeanor with a minimum jail term of six days.
How Does My Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) Level Affect My Charges?
If your blood, breath, or urine analysis shows an alcohol concentration level of 0.15 or more at the time the analysis was performed, your DWI offense escalates to a Class A misdemeanor. The offense is punishable by up to a $4,000 fine, one year in jail, or both.
Does The Statute Mention The Penalties For A Class A Misdemeanor?
Generally in Texas, a Class A misdemeanor could result in a fine up to $4,000, jail time up to one year, or both.
Should I Consult A Criminal Defense Attorney If I'm Charged With DWI?
Absolutely. The consequences of a DWI conviction in Texas can be severe and may include fines, imprisonment, and other penalties. An attorney can help you navigate the legal process and ensure that your rights are protected.
What Happens If I'm Convicted Of A DWI Offense For The Second Time In Texas?
If you're convicted of a DWI for the second time, your offense will be considered a Class A misdemeanor. This comes with a minimum term of confinement of 30 days.
Can A DWI Offense Be Considered A Felony In Texas?
Yes, if you've previously been convicted of certain offenses, a subsequent DWI can be considered a third-degree felony. These offenses include intoxication manslaughter or two prior DWI offenses.
How Does Texas Law Treat DWI Offenses That Result In Serious Injury To A Firefighter Or EMS Personnel?
If your intoxicated operation of a vehicle causes serious bodily injury to a firefighter or EMS personnel performing their duties, the offense can be considered a second-degree felony.
What Are The Consequences If My DWI Offense Results In Serious Bodily Injury To A Peace Officer Or Judge?
If you cause serious bodily injury to a peace officer or a judge while they're discharging their official duties, your offense can be considered a first-degree felony.
What Happens If I'm Convicted Of A DWI Offense That Leads To Someone Else's Death?
If your intoxicated operation of a vehicle results in someone's death, the law regards your offense as a first-degree felony.
What Happens If I Commit A Second DWI Offense Within Five Years Of The First One?
For a second or subsequent DWI offense committed within five years of the last one, the court may order an alcohol-detecting device to be installed in your vehicle, at your cost. This device will prevent you from operating your vehicle if it detects alcohol in your breath. The device must stay installed for one year.
What Counts As A "Final Conviction" Under Texas DWI Laws?
A conviction is considered "final" and can be used to enhance penalties for future offenses if you're later charged with another similar offense, regardless of whether the sentence was imposed or probated.
Travis County Experienced DWI Attorney: Sound Legal Representation Following DWI Arrests
If you've been charged with a DWI in Texas, it's critical to seek immediate legal help. Let a seasoned DWI / DUI lawyer at Cofer & Connelly, PLLC steer your case towards a positive outcome. With our extensive courtroom experience from more than 370 jury trials and our track record of handling over 25,000 criminal and family law cases, we have the expertise to ensure you're well-represented. We've served in the capacities of prosecutors, judges, and high-level appointees, which gives us a unique understanding of the legal system from all angles. Reach out to us today - you need experienced defenders in your corner. Give our criminal defense attorneys a call at 512-991-0576 or get in touch with us online. Let us help you fight your DWI charge.
"Excellent all around. Highly recommend."W. N.
"I am eternally grateful for all of the efforts they put in to go above and beyond for everyone they help."Former Client
"They really listen to and care about their client's needs and consistently fight for the best outcome! I am eternally grateful for all of the effort they put in to go above and beyond for everyone they help."C.D.
103 Years of Experience