In the State of Texas, driving while intoxicated (DWI) is a serious offense that should not be taken lightly. It is a direct violation of Texas state law that prohibits individuals from operating a motor vehicle while drinking, impaired, or intoxicated.
Depending on the frequency, nature, and severity of the offense, as well as a person's criminal history, individuals who are charged with a DWI offense in the Fort Worth area may face serious fines, DWI probation, prison time, and license suspension. (Learn how much does it cost to get your license reinstated after a DUI)
The experts at Sparks Law Firm can help those charged with a DWI navigate the legal process and help lessen the severity of the repercussions associated with this charge.
What is the Difference Between a DUI and a DWI?
Understanding the difference between DWI and DUI is important. Both terms are often used synonymously but refer to different things. DUI stands for driving under the influence. This refers to an individual who operates a motor vehicle while intoxicated or under the influence of other drugs, such as medications. The medications may include any kind of prescription drug, over-the-counter drug, or illicit drug that impairs an individual's ability to drive.
A DWI stands for driving while intoxicated. The driver may be drunk, intoxicated, or impaired. The conditions of DWI vary from state to state. In either case, a Police Officer could charge an individual with either a DUI or a DWI if they suspect the person is unfit to safely operate a motor vehicle per the laws outlined in the state of Texas.
How Does a Law Enforcement Officer Test for DUI or DWI?
If a police officer suspects a person is operating a motor vehicle under the influence of either drugs or alcohol, they could pull the person over and request a sobriety test. It is important to note that these tests are voluntary, not required. An officer may request one, but an individual could deny it.
There are three common types of tests that a law enforcement officer may use that include:
The "Walk and Turn" test
The "Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus" test, commonly referred to as HGN
The "One-Leg Stand" test
These tests can help determine whether an individual is under the influence of drugs or alcohol while operating their motor vehicle in Texas.
The Walk and Turn Test
The Walk and Turn test is likely familiar to many individuals. It is often the test typically seen on television shows and is used to assess whether a person can do two things simultaneously. If an individual agrees to perform this test, the officer will ask them to stand heel-to-toe with their arms hanging down by their side. The officer will then have the individual walk a series of steps, in a line, to assess their balance, pace, and other factors.
The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) Test
This standardized test is typically administered first should a person agree to take it. The Police Officer will ask the individual to follow a stimulus, like a small light, for example, with their eyes in different directions. The officer will pay close attention and carefully note when the pupils begin to jerk involuntarily. This is called "nystagmus," and it is thought to indicate intoxication if it takes place at a 45-degree angle.
The One-Leg Stand Test
Similar to the first test described, this test also assesses an individual's ability to concentrate on two things simultaneously. In this test, the law enforcement officer will ask the suspect to balance on one leg. With the other, they must keep their foot raised at least six inches above the ground. The officer will then ask them to count, out loud, while they remain balanced on one leg. During this time, the police officer is noting the individual's ability to balance, their posture, whether use their arms or if they are unsteady.
How Effective Are These Tests?
These standard sobriety tests are used by law enforcement officials and have been deemed effective in validating intoxication in an individual who is over the legal limit per Texas law. However, there are a few key considerations to keep in mind.
The first is that these tests should be administered by a trained law enforcement official otherwise there may be room for error with implementation and assessment. Additionally, there are other physical and mental impairments or conditions that may prevent an individual from successfully performing these tests even without being under the influence of any drugs or alcohol. All these things must be noted in an official report and considered.
What Happens After an Individual Agrees to Undergo One of These Tests?
Again, it is important to note that these field sobriety tests are not required of an individual who is apprehended for suspected intoxication while operating a motor vehicle. They are simply requested. However, if an individual refuses, it may cost them more in the long run especially if it is not a first-time offense.
Whether an individual refuses or agrees to take the field tests and is found to be over the legal limit, either way, they will need to contact a criminal defense lawyer for assistance as they follow the criminal procedure pathway.
First Time DWI Conviction Cases
If an individual is a first-time offender, a DWI conviction will likely result in probation - not jail time. However, this offense does not come without serious repercussions.
Though first-time offenders may not face jail time, they can come to expect hefty fees and, potentially, a suspended license. The effects can be financially dramatic and emotionally tolling. Not to mention that because a DWI charge in Texas is considered a Class B misdemeanor, it becomes part of the individual's permanent record.
While probation is not jail time, it still should not be taken lightly. A probation sentence in the State of Texas can be strict and, if violated, can result in jail time. Individuals in the Fort Worth area who have been charged with DWI can rest assured that an expert criminal defense attorney at Sparks Law Firm can help.
What is Probation?
Probation represents a period in which the individual charged, or the "probationer," is subject to strict, ongoing observation and evaluation.
Rather than jail time for a first-time DWI offense, the judge and the individual who has been charged enter into an agreement that typically lasts anywhere from six months up to a full two years depending on the unique circumstances of the situation. Probation serves as a trial period that must be completed before the probationer receives more flexibility or freedom.
What Does DWI Probation in Texas Involve?
In the state of Texas, DWI probation is also referred to as "community supervision." A set of probationary requirements are set forth by the state and apply to everyone who has been charged with DWI. A judge, however, may waive various requirements for an individual depending on the circumstance of the case, while other requirements are mandatory and cannot be waived.
Typical Probationary Requirements for DWI in Texas
Here is a list of some of the most common community supervision requirements for DWI charges in Texas:
An evaluation to assess drug and/or alcohol dependence
DWI classes that typically need to be completed within 6 months
Community service hours (typically anywhere from 24 up to 100 hours)
Randomized drug testing during the probationary period
Strictly no alcohol or drug use during the probationary period
Fines, probation fees, and other associated court costs
The list mentioned above is by no means exclusive. Other community supervision requirements may be deemed necessary by the judge depending on the DWI offense. During their probation period, an individual will have to meet regularly with a probation officer to ensure they aren't committing any probation violations.
What is a Probation Officer?
A probation officer is a member of law enforcement who serves as a gatekeeper between the court system and the individual charged with DWI. A probationer will be required to check in with a probation officer to ensure they are following all the rules and requirements outlined in their community supervision agreement.
The probation officer could make or break the probationer's experience during this time. If an individual is not doing what they are supposed to during community supervision, it could mean further, more serious issues down the line. If the individual is doing what they are supposed to, however, the probation officer could be the ticket to early termination of probation.
How a Criminal Defense Attorney Can Help
A criminal defense attorney from Sparks Law Firm can help lead an individual through the criminal procedure and fight against a DWI charge in court. Whether it is a first offense or the second or third, a Fort Worth attorney specializing in DWI and DUI convictions can help determine the most appropriate next steps in any situation.
While the process is rarely easy, the expert attorneys at Sparks Law Firm in Fort Worth make it seem so. With an intimate understanding of the criminal procedure and the legal process, they utilize various tactics to have a DWI case dismissed or the sentence reduced for their client.
How Does a Criminal Defense Attorney Defend a DWI Charge in a Court of Law?
There are a few key components an attorney at Sparks Law Firm will consider and deploy in conversation to reduce the DWI sentence or dismiss it altogether for their client. These components may include:
The time of intoxication
Probable cause for arrest
Proving the absence of reasonable doubt
Since the human body begins to break down alcohol in the digestive process as soon as it is consumed, the time of intoxication is an important component to consider in a DWI case.
An attorney at Sparks Law Firm may try to piece together and illustrate a timeline that works in the client's favor. The longer it took a law enforcement official to test after an individual was stopped from operating their vehicle, the more difficult it becomes to prove they were drunk at the time they were apprehended.
Another key component an attorney may raise in a court of law is probable cause for arrest. To make an arrest, a law enforcement officer must have probable cause.
Oftentimes, the results of those fields tests described earlier are used to show probable cause. However, the results of these tests are often discarded during the criminal procedure because the officer does not test correctly or fails to consider all the factors that may cause a person to test a certain way in the field.
Proving the absence of reasonable doubt is another discussion point the attorneys at Sparks Law Firm will raise on behalf of their client in court.
For a police officer to pull someone over for suspected DWI, they must have reason to believe the individual is under the influence while operating their motor vehicle. Sometimes, however, the initial reason an officer pulled someone over is at odds with what that person was ultimately charged for.
While there are certainly others, these are a few of the arguments an attorney at Sparks Law Firm may make on behalf of their client in court. The ultimate goal always being, of course, a dropped charge or a reduced charge that results in community supervision over jail time.
What Does This Mean for the Client
The attorneys at Sparks Law Firm can help their clients build a strong DWI defense which can help the offender not only avoid the maximum penalty set forth by prosecutors but also reduce the consequences of any community supervision violations moving forward.
In fighting for the offender, these Fort Worth attorneys can advocate for community supervision versus jail time. With some charges, early termination of probation may be possible depending on the charge. However, getting out of probation early does not apply to any intoxication-related charge, more violent offenses, or any offense that requires one to register as a sex offender in the state of Texas.
To specify, intoxication charges may include things like DUI, DWI, or intoxication assault. Charges that are more violent and often referred to as "3G" offenses, may include things like aggravated robbery, aggravated sexual assault, and aggravated kidnapping. Those offenses that require an individual to register as a sex offender may include prohibited sexual conduct, child pornography, sexual assault, and continuous sexual abuse.
Unfortunately, getting out of probation early is not feasible for those with DWI charges. Though a criminal defense lawyer in Texas will not be able to get an individual off probation early for an intoxication-related offense, they may be able to convince the judge to allow their client to go on pro forma or non-reporting status. While early termination of probation is not possible, this is a good compromise, pending the individual successfully complies with the conditions of their DWI probation and completes certain terms.
In addition to advocating for their client to go on non-reporting status during community supervision, a criminal defense attorney from Sparks Law Firm can assist with helping offenders locate program centers for DWI courses and provide expert guidance throughout the legal process.
Working with Sparks Law Firm: What to Expect
The team at Sparks Law Firm can greatly assist DWI offenders. Whether an individual is pending a first-time offense or is charged with a second or third offense, the attorneys at Sparks Law Firm Fort Worth can help clients navigate quickly and seamlessly through the legal process.
If an individual is charged with DWI, the best DWI lawyers in Fort Worth at Sparks Law Firm are ready to respond. They can push for an appeal for probation in place of jail time for their client. For offenses like aggravated sexual assault or aggravated kidnapping, for example, there is no hope of probation being terminated early. However, for those with DWI probation, there may be room to push for non-reporting status.
Additionally, the team at Sparks Law Firm can help clients access required court-ordered classes, honor the terms and conditions of their probation, prevent probation violations, and prevent repeat DWI offenses.
Having helped hundreds of clients in Tarrant County and the surrounding area, Sparks Law Firm takes pride in the attorney-client relationship and has received numerous five-star reviews. They provide a free consultation to prospective clients to review the specifics of each case and are serious about protecting confidential or sensitive information throughout the process.
Criminal law is their specialty. With a combined experience of over 100 years, Sparks Law Firm employs a proactive, team-oriented approach to combat the toughest criminal cases and best serve clients. Since the attorney-client relationship is so important, they make sure to treat every client with the utmost care and concern and they help them survive the stress of navigating the legal process following a DWI charge in Fort Worth.
For more information, contact Sparks Law Firm at 817-381-7846.