Drunk driving in any state is a serious issue that carries the potential for life-long consequences and potential accidents. Under Texas law, Driving Under the Influence or Driving While Intoxicated can lead to criminal penalties that stay with a person forever.
A central element in these cases is the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of the driver. The level can determine whether a person receives a misdemeanor conviction or a criminal charge and possible jail time for first DUI and others. Driving with a high BAC is extremely dangerous and is treated accordingly.
Understanding the laws for BAC levels in Texas is essential to determine what type of charge could come as a result of an offense. What is a high BAD in Texas, and how can it affect the person being charged?
What Is BAC?
BAC stands for either Blood Alcohol Concentration or Blood Alcohol Content. Driving over the legal limit of alcohol concentration or content can lead to a DUI or DWI arrest. How high the level is after testing decides how severely the offense gets treated.
What Is a DUI or DWI?
DUI stands for Driving Under the Influence, and a DWI offense is Driving While Intoxicated. In Texas, DUI charges only apply to minors. Any driver over the age of 18 caught driving with a BAC above the legal limit faces a DWI charge.
A DWI is tried under Texas Penal Law, so it is a more severe offense. If convicted of a DWI in Texas, it stays on your record forever. Even if you go 40 years without a second offense, the initial charge stays with you and carries all the same clout as it did at the time. The same applies if you are wondering how long does a DUI stay on your record.
DWI and DUI charges can affect people's ability to find work, significantly increase insurance premiums, and have an unshakable stigma that people have to live with. Anyone facing a DUI or DWI conviction in Texas should contact an expert defense lawyer as soon as possible.
What Blood Alcohol Concentration Level is High for a DUI/DWI?
The standard legal limit for BAC in Texas is 0.08. Anybody whose blood test, or breath tests, come back any higher than 0.08 automatically faces an arrest and charge. A high BAC in Texas is 0.15. Tests that come back at this level more the offense into a new category with more severe punishments.
Because a person testing at 0.08 BAC is already considered legally intoxicated, and 0.15 is almost twice as high, it is considered to be reckless and dangerous driving and usually carries enhanced penalties.
Anybody who has a confirmed BAC of 0.15 or higher should seek legal counsel as soon as possible.
Blood Alcohol Content Laws In Texas
According to the Texas Penal Code, the definition of intoxicated is:
An alcohol concentration of more than 0.08
Diminished use of normal mental or physical functions and faculties because of the consumption of alcoholic beverages, drugs, or controlled substances.
The level of intoxication determines how the offense is handled and what type of charges are pressed.
Class B Misdemeanor
Usually, a DWI offense in Texas is a class B misdemeanor. Between 0.08 and 0.14 BAC falls into this category. The person should receive a minimum of 72 hours confinement (under the Texas Penal Code). Driving privileges are usually revoked for some time following a DWI charge.
Other likely penalties for a Class B DWI offense include a possible 180 days in jail and a fine of up to $4500. Both punishments can be applied together. This applies to someone who commits their first offense. Any subsequent offense requires elevated penalties.
Class A Misdemeanor
If the driver has a BAC of 0.15 or higher- confirmed by a chemical test- it is considered a Class A misdemeanor. In this case, the maximum fine rises to $6000, and the possible jail time increases to up to one year.
The driver's license is also revoked for a minimum of 90 days on a first offense. A second offense or any further offenses require longer suspension.
Additionally, the driver must have an ignition interlock device installed on any vehicle in their name. Ignition interlock devices are mandatory and require the driver to complete a breath test before starting their car. If they fail the test, the vehicle does not start.
Other Possible Penalties for Drunk Driving In Texas
The Texas Penal Code for DUIs and DWIs is extensive and strict. There are many possible consequences for driving with a high BAC (over 0.15) anywhere in the state.
Driving privileges are one of the first things people lose, especially if they are repeat offenders. The ignition interlock device is become more common, even for a first offense.
According to the Texas Transportation Code, anybody driving over the legal limit of BAC with a child passenger is committing a felony crime, not a misdemeanor. The fine and incarceration are up to $10,000 and two years in jail, plus an automatic suspension of the driver's license for 180 days. They may also be charged with child endangerment.
All potential punishments for any DUI and DWI charge in Texas can increase if the following applies:
The driver has a criminal record with previous felonies
The driver has been charged previously with a DUI or DWI
Somebody is injured in the process
A crash happens that results in a fatality
How to Defend Against a Texas DWI Conviction
When somebody is arrested for driving while intoxicated, especially with a BAC of 0.15 or more, they need to pursue legal guidance immediately. The sooner an attorney gets involved, the better chance there is of a favorable ending.
Please note that the Travis County DWI Court and any other judges are less likely to go easy on somebody with this level of alcohol, but an experienced defense attorney can push for the best possible outcome, given the circumstances.
Because it is hard to claim that the person did not realize they were intoxicated or over the limit when the BAC is so high, the best defense is to get the DWI test discarded as evidence. There are several regulations for how testing must happen and how the equipment should be handled, and a lawyer can go down this road to mitigate the results.
Usually, a police officer uses a breathalyzer at the roadside and again later at the police station. Breathalyzers must be regularly maintained to produce accurate results. Questioning whether or not the BAC was over 0.15 could make a significant difference to the charges.
Consent to testing is another possible defense. The legality of a police officer taking a blood sample can be questioned in some cases. If the test was taken without consent, it could be invalidated- even if the person's bac is over 0.15.
The exceptions to that rule are if:
an accident resulting in a fatality or severe bodily injury occurs because of a drunk driver
there is a child passenger in the car of the alleged offender
the driver in question has previous convictions for intoxication-related offenses
it is not the first time the alleged offender has been charged with drunk driving
Out of these circumstances, a person must voluntarily submit to testing. Otherwise, the results could be inadmissible in court.
There are possible routes that can mean the charges are dropped or expunged- if a person is facing their first offense. Although Texas law is tough on drunk driving, there are ways to limit the impact it can have on a person's life. A BAC of a little over 0.08 is easier to defend, especially for first-timers.
How Can an Experienced Defense Attorney Help?
Texas statutes and laws surrounding DUIs, DWIs, and any type of drunk driving are tough. Defending against a high BAC of 0.15 or more when driving a car is a tall order. Experienced Fort Worth DWI lawyers know the ins and out of state legislatures and the stricter laws imposed in the state. They can use their expertise to pursue the optimal outcome for their clients.
Without legal guidance, it is extremely difficult to avoid the maximum penalties for a Class A misdemeanor DWI with a BAC of 0.15 or more. The law simply does not make easily-accessible provisions for this type of situation. A professional and aggressive criminal defense attorney can find the cracks and help the accused stand a fighting chance in court.
Contact Sparks Law Firm Today for a Free Consultation
You can't find a more dedicated, advanced, and reliable legal team in the great state of Texas than Sparks Law Firm. We operate strictly under the attorney-client relationship from the first conversation. If you are facing a drunk driving charge- particularly with a high BAC- do not waste any time before contacting us.
The sooner we come on board, the more we can help. Our years of experience in this field have helped us become one of the leading authorities in Texas DWI law and defense. Let us use that authority to assist with your case.