DUI and DWI are usually defined as driving under the influence or driving while impaired by alcohol or other legal or illegal substances. In Texas, our DUI law prohibits those over the age of 21 from driving under the influence of an alcoholic beverage, a drug (including certain prescription medications), and the combination of an alcoholic beverage and any drug (legal or illegal), regardless of blood-alcohol level. Under Texas Traffic Code, if a driver is under the age of 21 and has any traces of alcohol in their system, they can be charged with Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol (DUI or DUIA) under Texas’s zero-tolerance policy. This DUI could cost the minor $500, along with a 60-day suspension of their driver’s license, 20 to 40 hours of mandated community service, and required alcohol awareness classes.
To prove a person is guilty of a DUI offense, the state must show certain elements
In order to convict a person for a DUI, the state must show that the person operated a vehicle and, at the same time, was “under the influence”, in that their ability to drive safely was affected to an appreciable degree by having consumed an alcoholic beverage, taken a drug, or combined alcohol and drugs. The Lone Star State considers a person to be legally intoxicated with a .08 blood or breath alcohol concentration (BAC), which is the level at which depth perception, peripheral vision, and reasoning ability all begin to show impairment. Again, drivers may be arrested and charged with a DUI if they seem impaired by alcohol or drugs, regardless of their BAC measurement.
Note that everyone’s tolerance is different, and some people’s driving can be impaired after having consumed even a relatively small amount of drugs or alcohol. On the other hand, someone with a high tolerance could argue that they weren’t under the influence when charged with a DUI, even though their BAC was at or over the legal limit.
To illustrate, let’s look at a fictional example. Cindy Heavyweight left work at 5:00 p.m., and—as she had done every day for the past 20 years—drove straight to the bar. As usual, Cindy had six beers and two shots before setting out for home at 8:00 p.m. While driving home, Cindy was stopped by Officer Smith for a broken taillight. Cindy wasn’t swerving or driving unsafely. When Officer Smith approached Cindy, he could smell a strong odor of alcohol, but Cindy didn’t appear intoxicated. Cindy performed three field sobriety tests perfectly, but a breath test revealed a BAC of .09%. Although Cindy is guilty of driving with a BAC of .08% or higher, she might not be guilty of a DUI based on impairment because there’s no evidence that her drinking affected her driving.
DUI/DWI Misdemeanor and Felony Offenses
First offenses for DUI are usually treated as misdemeanors. Per the Texas Penal Code, first offenders face a fine of up to $2,000, three to 180 days in jail, and the loss of their driver’s license for up to one year. Additionally, drivers must incur an annual fee of $1,000 to $2,000 to retain their driver’s license for the three years following their conviction.
Under certain circumstances, the crime can be bumped up to a felony, which is far more serious. Fines and jail time increase with second and third offenses, as well as with aggravating offenses, such as an extremely high BAC or vehicular assault or manslaughter while under the influence (which means the driver injures or kills someone as while under the influence). Drivers convicted of vehicular assault or manslaughter could go to state prison for several years. Finally, drivers who are operating their vehicle under the influence of alcohol with child passengers (younger than 15 years old) can also be charged with child endangerment, which is punishable by a fine up to $10,000 and a sentence of up to two years in a state jail.
Defender of Those Charged with a DUI in Texas—Attorney Cesar A. Montalvo
Driving while under the influence is treated as a serious offense here in the state of Texas. If you’ve been arrested for a DUI, you should contact an experienced DUI attorney in San Antonio as soon as you’re able to. At the Law Offices of Cesar A. Montalvo, our criminal defense expert believes that every driver is entitled to top-notch legal defense to protect their rights and their driver’s license. When a charge comes with as negative and as long-lasting of consequences as a DUI, you need an expert criminal defense attorney in San Antonio, TX, someone who’s handled complex criminal matters before and has the right kind of connections around town.
DWI attorney Cesar A. Montalvo has been helping Texans mitigate the consequences of their momentary lapses in judgement after drinking for years. He’s well-versed in Texas criminal laws and courts and is ready to craft a customized course of action for you. Whether your DUI offense is a misdemeanor or has been raised to a felony, Attorney Montalvo and his legal team will work to minimize the negative impact of your arrest on your life.