People tend to use the terms DWI and DUI interchangeably, but there is a difference between the two crimes in Texas. DWI is an acronym for the crime of driving while intoxicated with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or more when a person is 21 years of age or older. DUI is also an acronym, but it stands for driving under the influence when a driver is less than 21 and has any amount of an alcoholic beverage in his or her blood. As it’s against the law for a person under the age of 21 to possess or consume alcoholic beverages in Texas, DUI is enforced on a zero-tolerance basis.
A FEW DUI NUMBERS FOR TEXAS
According to the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), a person is killed or injured in a drunk driving accident in the state every 20 minutes.
Here are some other statewide statistics:
- There were 24,171 DWI-related motor vehicle crashes in Texas in 2018.
- 940 people were reported to have died as a result of the injuries that they suffered in those crashes.
- 136 of those victims were not driven by DWI drivers.
- 133 of them were passengers in vehicles driven by DWI drivers.
- 53 were pedestrians or bicyclists.
FATALITIES BY COUNTY
Harris County led the state with 81 DWI driver fatalities in 2018.
Here are how some other major Texas counties fared:
- Dallas County: 45
- Bexar County: 25
- Tarrant County: 23
2018 DWI INJURIES
Statewide, TxDOT reports that there were 6,240 people who were injured as a result of DWI accidents. Another 3,803 were listed as possibly having injuries that could not be immediately confirmed. As per Texas cities, Houston led the state with 1,908 DWI crashes.
Other major cities follow:
- San Antonio: 1,908
- Dallas: 1,239
- Austin: 1,137
THE GENERAL DWI RULE IN TEXAS
As per the Texas Penal Code Section 49.04, it’s against the law for a person to operate a motor vehicle in any public place in Texas with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or more, or a combination of drugs and alcohol, even if a person’s BAC is less than .08.
What might constitute operating a motor vehicle has been given a very broad interpretation by Texas courts. A person certainly doesn’t need to be driving a motor vehicle to be charged with DWI. The vehicle’s motor doesn’t need to be running, either. Technically, he or she need only be in actual physical control of the vehicle. What comes to issue is the fact that although the Texas Penal Code tells us what motor vehicles are and what a state of intoxication is, the operation of a motor vehicle for purposes of being charged with DWI in the state remains undefined.
OPERATION OF A VEHICLE
We’re obviously in control of a motor vehicle when we put a foot on the brake, start it and put it in gear, but we can also be operating a motor vehicle if we’re in mere actual physical control of it. Actual physical control is determined on the facts of each particular case. For example, you leave a bar intoxicated, and when you get behind the wheel of your vehicle, you realize that you shouldn’t be driving. That’s when you decide to sleep it off in your vehicle in the bar’s parking lot. Then, you’re awakened by police, taken to the station, and charged with DWI.
Here are some pivotal questions to be considered by a judge or jury on the issue of whether you were in actual physical control of your vehicle:
- Where was the ignition key? Was it in the ignition?
- If the key wasn’t in the ignition, where was it?
- Was the vehicle’s engine running?
- Were you in the driver’s seat or the back seat of your car?
- If you were in the driver’s seat, was the seat reclined?
- If the keys weren’t in the ignition, were they in your possession?
- Were you capable of being able to move the vehicle?
PENALTIES FOR A FIRST DWI CONVICTION
A first DWI conviction with a BAC of between .08 and .14 in Texas is punishable as a Class B misdemeanor. You can be sentenced to between a minimum of three days to 180 days in jail and a fine of up to $3,000. If your BAC is .15 or over, you’ll likely be charged with a Class A misdemeanor, which is punishable by 364 days in jail and a fine of up to $6,000. In either case, sentencing provisions like community service, attendance, and satisfactory completion of an alcohol education program or even installation of an interlock ignition device might also be ordered.
YOU’RE ACTUALLY FACING TWO CASES
Along with the DWI prosecution against you, an administrative license revocation hearing will be brought by the Texas Department of Public Safety. Your driver’s license can be suspended for a minimum of 90 days. If you refused breath testing, the suspension could be as long as 180 days. You only have 15 days from the date of your arrest to seek a hearing on the suspension. On that basis alone, you should retain experienced Texas DWI Attorneys right away after a DWI arrest.
Always remember that you’re probably going to be on camera from the moment that the arresting police officer sees you until the moment that you walk out of the police station. You’re not required to submit to any roadside field sobriety tests at the scene of your traffic stop, so politely refuse them. They’re made to fail, and you’d probably be giving the prosecution more evidence to convict you with. Texas law doesn’t require you to submit to breath testing at the police station either, so if you want to, you can politely refuse that test too. If a search warrant is issued for blood testing, you must cooperate.
Remain well-mannered throughout your encounter. If you’re charged with DWI, retain an experienced and effective Texas DWI Defense Attorney right away. Remember that you only have 15 days to seek a hearing on your administrative license revocation. Contact our DWI Accident Attorneys in Austin, TX Glen Larson Law Injury Attorneys today to discuss your charges in a free consultation by calling 512-883-0277.