top of page
  • Writer's pictureJustin Sparks

Defenses to Driving While Intoxicated: Is Alcohol Addiction a Valid Defense for DWI in Texas?

People who are arrested for any driving while intoxicated (DWI) or driving under the influence (DUI) offense can lose their licenses, be punished with large fines, and be subject to incarceration.

However, charges against people arrested for DWI or DUI don't always have to result in conviction. Individuals can use certain types of defenses to dismiss them or exclude evidence that could be crucial to the prosecutor's case.

Is alcohol addiction a valid defense in DWI or DUI cases? Below is the answer!

Alcoholism and DWI or DUI Arrest

Alcoholism and DWI or DUI Arrest

According to some medical professionals, alcoholism is a disease, which means alcoholics cannot control their drinking habits.

However, many alcoholics are charged with driving while intoxicated (DWI) or driving under the influence (DUI) and are held liable if they decide to operate a motor vehicle after consuming alcohol or controlled substances.

Thus, citing alcoholism isn't always an effective defense to get a DWI or DUI charge dismissed.

Criminal Intent in Texas DWI/DUI Cases

Many offenders argue that they shouldn't be held entirely responsible because they weren't in control of their actions while drunk or intoxicated. However, in Texas, DWI and DUI aren't "intent-based" crimes, which means there's no mens rea requirement.

Mens rea is the mental state element in a case and describes the state of mind that a person possesses when committing a crime. This theory states that an individual can only be held liable if they're aware of their misconduct and there's criminal intent.

However, as mentioned, DWI or DUI doesn't require mens rea in Texas because most people don't intentionally drive while impaired. Many consume alcohol but want to get home alive or believe they have drunk responsibly and are safe to drive until they're stopped by a law enforcement officer and fail the field sobriety test.

Is Involuntary Intoxication a Legal Defense in Texas?

In some states, people can use "involuntary intoxication" as a defense to a DWI or DUI charge. This isn't possible in Texas because state courts have determined that this crime doesn't require intent.

However, although Texas doesn't recognize involuntary intoxication as a valid defense to the commission of this crime, and neither is voluntary intoxication, there is an exception.

People arrested for DWI or DUI charges may present evidence that they were given prescription drugs without their consent or knowledge as a defense to these cases.

Common DWI or DUI Defenses in Texas

Although alcoholism isn't a recognized legal defense for a DWI or DUI charge in Texas, offenders have other options to try to dismiss criminal charges against them.

In this regard, these are the most common DUI defenses and DWI defenses:

Constitutional Rights Violation

Law enforcement officers cannot ignore people's legal rights. Therefore, if they're violated in any way during the arrest, defendants can challenge the charges and request that the evidence collected be dismissed.

Illegal searches or stops and failure to read people's Miranda rights are the most common forms of constitutional rights violation.

Failure to Give Miranda Warnings

If a law enforcement officer fails to read a suspect their Miranda rights when arresting them, prosecutors cannot use their statements as evidence against them at trial.

Illegal Stop

Police officers must have a valid reason to ask a person to pull over on suspicion of DWI or DUI. If there's no probable cause, defendants and their attorneys may challenge the stop and any evidence collected as a result. They can also provide more details about public intoxication laws in Texas.

These are the legal reasons why law enforcement officials can stop drivers:

  • Inconsistent speed

  • Weaving

  • Drifting

  • Swerving

  • Having judgment or surveillance problems

  • Almost colliding with another vehicle or an obstacle

Breath Test Defenses

Breath alcohol testing may be inaccurate in many cases, especially if drivers have diabetes, have recently burped or used mouthwash, or take certain medications. Therefore, breath tests must always be properly calibrated. They should also be checked to confirm they're accurate.

To defend their charges and get a DWI or DUI charge dismissed, people can challenge whether the breathalyzer was properly tested or calibrated. Another common defense is challenging if the party that administered the test is licensed.

Blood Draw Defenses

After a person is arrested on suspicion of intoxication, the police officer will take blood samples to establish the blood alcohol concentration (BAC). Determining if the BAC was above the legal limit is essential in these cases.

However, the tester must follow strict protocols to ensure the results are accurate. If there are issues with the blood sample or how it was taken, people can challenge this test.

Not Actual Physical Control

In Texas, a person who wasn't driving when the police officer witnessed their alleged offense can still be arrested for DUI or DWI due to the legal condition known as "actual physical control."

Conversely, if a person isn't driving when the offense occurred, they or their legal teams can use the lack of evidence as a defense to their cases.

Field Sobriety Test Defenses

Field sobriety tests are also inaccurate, but many police officers still use them when arresting an allegedly intoxicated person.

However, defendants can challenge the results of field sobriety tests alleging that a false positive may have existed, which is often common if the person:

  • Has leg or foot injuries

  • Has difficulty balancing

  • Has a concussion

  • Is elderly

  • Has taken any medication that causes nystagmus of the eye

  • Is obese

Failure to Prove Elements of DWI

A defendant's legal team may also argue that the prosecution doesn't have sufficient evidence to prove "beyond a reasonable doubt" that they committed this offense.

Actually, the prosecution is required to prove each element of the offense, including that the defendant was in complete control of their vehicle when the alleged crime occurred.

Affirmative Defenses

An experienced DWI or DUI criminal defense lawyer can also use an affirmative defense to deny the defendant's criminal liability. Duress or mistake of fact are the most common.

If duress is used as a defense, the DWI or DUI lawyer must prove that the defendant only operated the vehicle because they were under extenuating circumstances. Receiving threats is an example of this. They can help advise on questions such as Should you plead no contest for a DWI case?

A mistake of fact occurs when the defendant can prove that they had a reasonable and honest belief about their actions or behavior.

Other Possible Defenses

In Texas, women may have additional defenses available in DWI or DUI cases, including inflated readings from body temperature.

Female offenders could also present evidence of a skewed body partition ratio or difficulties in obtaining an accurate reading from a smaller lung to try to dismiss criminal charges for DWI or DUI.

Is It Necessary to Contact a Defense Attorney?

Is It Necessary to Contact a Defense Attorney?

A DWI or DUI is a serious offense, and those who have been arrested for this charge should build a solid defense to avoid or reduce possible penalties.

Although there are specialty courses for people with alcohol addiction and other substance abuse issues, alcoholism isn't a legal defense in DWI or DUI cases.

However, those facing these charges can contact an experienced DUI attorney at Sparks Law Firm to build a strong defense and challenge the results of a DWI or DUI investigation. Call us today!


bottom of page