Frequently Asked Questions
Do you have a question about your DWI case? Call the Austin, TX DWI defense attorneys at Minton, Burton, Bassett, & Collins, P.C. today at (512) 476-4873 or contact us via email.
We have 45 years of experience representing clients in Austin, TX and the surrounding communities, including: Travis County (Creedmoor, Elroy, Manor, Pflugerville); Williamson County (Cedar Park, Georgetown, Liberty Hill, Florence, Leander, Round Rock, Taylor); Hays County (Buda, Dripping Springs, Kyle, San Marcos, Wimberley); Bastrop County (Bastrop, Clearview, Elgin, Rockne, Smithville); Caldwell County (Lockhart, Luling); Burnet County (Bertram, Burnet, Marble Falls); and Comal County (Bulverde, Canyon Lake, Gruene, New Braunfels, Sattler, Startzville).
1. What is the legal definition of intoxication in Texas?
Texas law recognizes intoxication as driving impairment resulting from either alcohol or drugs that causes:
- Loss of normal function of physical or mental faculties OR
- Breath/blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08 or higher
2. What are the penalties for a first DWI offense in Texas?
Penalties for a first DWI offense are tough in Texas, and they include:
- Fine of up to $2,000
- 72 hours to 180 days in jail
- 90-day to 1-year driver’s license suspension
- Community service
3. If I was charged with driving while intoxicated on prescription drugs, will I be charged with DUIor DWI?
According to Texas law, intoxication can be from alcohol, drugs or a combination of both. So, you can be charged with DWI even if your intoxicant was a drug and not alcohol. However, what you are charged with depends on the arresting officer's administration of tests and his or her assessment of your condition.
4. I was pulled over for erratic driving, but I was taking medicine prescribed by my doctor – isn't that an adequate defense?
Not necessarily. Just because you are taking a legally prescribed medication does not absolve you from the responsibility of driving safely – if you were aware of the medicine's potential to impact your driving, you may still be convicted of a DUI. For example, if your pill bottle was labeled with a warning not to drive, the court will most likely assume you knew the risks and chose to drive anyway. However, if your medicine is not one known to cause drowsiness or other side effects that may impact driving ability, and there were no warning labels advising you of potential problems, this may be to your advantage. The experienced lawyers at Minton, Burton, Bassett, & Collins can provide more detailed advice for your case.
5. I was stopped while operating my boat on Lake Travis – and I was following all routine safety precautions for speed and maneuvering. Was it legal for the officer to stop my boat?
Yes. Unlike when you are driving a car, when you are operating a boat an officer can stop you for suspected BWI without any probable cause. This means that the legality of the stop will not be a factor you can use to dismiss the charges.
6. If I refuse to submit to a field sobriety test after boating, will I lose my driver's license?
If you refuse to comply with an officer's request to test your sobriety while boating, he or she can suspend your driver's license – even though you were operating a boat and not a car. If this happens, you must request a hearing within 15 days of your notice of suspension to temporarily restore driving privileges until your hearing.
7. I was charged with DWI and my passenger was charged with public intoxication – does this hurt my chances in court?
Having your passenger charged with public intoxication can affect his or her ability to testify on your behalf. The District Attorney can claim that because your passenger was intoxicated, he or she could not provide accurate testimony in a trial.
8. I recently received my first DWI charge, but last year I was convicted of public intoxication. Does this affect my new charge for DWI?
Yes. This is one of the reasons why public intoxication can be such a serious charge. It will count as a prior alcohol-related offense, and thus your "first" DWI will be treated as if you had a prior charge of driving while intoxicated. If you are charged with public intoxication, always consult with an attorney to try and fight the charges.
9. I failed the "follow the pen" test, but I have a vision condition which my ophthalmologist says would prevent me from ever passing that test, sober or not. Can I use this information to help my case?
Many eye doctors have disputed the accuracy of the Horizontal Nystagmus Test and the fact that you have a specific condition which makes you particularly prone to failing the test should work in your favor. However, in order for this information to be effective, you must have an experienced attorney who knows how to use medical testimony in a drunk driving case – and you will need to obtain a statement from your doctor, and perhaps even his testimony as documentation.
10. When I was asked to perform the "walk and turn" test, the officer repeatedly changed his instructions, which was very confusing. I don't think he really knew how to administer the test – and as a result of my inability to follow his confusing directions, I failed the test. Was this right?
The "walk and turn" test, like many of the field sobriety tests, can have its accuracy sorely compromised by an officer not thoroughly trained in how to administer the test. If your arresting officer didn't follow the specifically outlined procedures, then you may be able to use his error to your advantage. The experienced attorneys at Minton, Burton, Bassett, & Collins often contest DWI charges based on similar mistakes, and we can provide further advice for your case.
11. How does a breathalyzer test work?
The suspected drunk driver blows into a breath tube, which leads into a breath chamber cylinder. Infrared light shines through this cylinder, causing the alcohol molecules to absorb light at a particular frequency. This frequency is computed by the breathalyzer machine into a value for blood alcohol content.
12. If my breathalyzer test results show I had a BAC of .08, do I have any options for fighting my DWI charges, or should I just plead guilty?
Breathalyzer machines are not infallible, and at Minton, Burton, Bassett, & Collins, we have represented many clients who were wrongly charged based on an inaccurate reading. Not all people have the same blood-breath ratio, and if you had a fever at the time of your arrest, that could have skewed the test to show a higher result. Our attorneys can review your case to provide further recommendations.
13. What is the "zero tolerance" policy in Texas?
Texas has a zero tolerance policy on underage drinking, meaning if a driver under 21 is caught drinking and driving he or she is considered to be in violation of drunk driving law regardless of the amount of alcohol consumed. As long as the officer can smell or otherwise detect that the minor has consumed any alcohol -- even if just one beer -- he or she has broken the law.
14. Are the laws regarding underage drinking and driving different for minors older than 17?
Yes. If a minor 17 or older is stopped for drinking and driving, he or she may face a fine of up to $2,000, a license suspension of 90 days to 1 year and jail time ranging from 72 hours to 180 days.
15. I was charged with DWI and I'm confused by all the different stages of my trial. What is the pre-trial conference?
The pre-trial conference is a meeting during which your attorney will discuss your case with the District Attorney. The terms of a plea bargain may be discussed at that time. The pre-trial conference usually takes place about 6 weeks after arraignment.
16. What's the difference between an arraignment and a trial?
Arraignment is your initial court date, typically 30-60 days after your arrest, in which the court will advise you of the charges against you, as well as your rights. Your trial is where evidence and testimony will be presented to decide your guilt or innocence.
17. What is implied consent, and what does it have to do with taking a breath test?
In Texas, the law states that if you have been granted a license to operate a vehicle on public roads, you have provided your implied consent to providing a specimen of breath or blood if arrested for DWI. Therefore, if you refuse to submit to blood or breath testing, your license is suspended just as it would be if you failed the test.
18. What is Administrative License Revocation?
Administrative license revocation, or ALR, is the civil case regarding your driving privileges when you have been charged with a DWI. Your license is automatically suspended pending trial – however, if you request a hearing within 15 days of your notice of suspension, you may have your driving privileges temporarily restored until your ALR hearing.
19. Are the penalties higher for refusing to take a breathalyzer test than if I take the test and fail it?
They can be, at least in terms of your license suspension. At your ALR hearing, the period of time during which your license may be suspended is longer for cases in which you refused to submit to a blood or breath test than if you complied with the test and failed.
20. If I have a second DWI, will I be required to install a restricted interlock device on my car?
Most people charged with a second DWI in Texas are now required to install a restricted interlock device on their vehicle as a condition of jail release on bond. The Texas Department of Public Safety will notify you in writing that your license is set to expire and tell you how to apply for a special license allowing you to operate a vehicle equipped with a restricted interlock device.
21. I have a restricted interlock device on my car – but what if I need to drive someone else's car?
If you have a restricted interlock device on your car, you should only drive your car. Your special license entitles you to drive only vehicles outfitted with a restricted interlock device, and therefore operating someone else's car is a violation of your license restrictions.