Alcohol Sellers Can Be Culpable in DWI CasesWhen a person is accused of driving while intoxicated, they are considered responsible for becoming intoxicated and choosing to drive. A first-time DWI conviction in Texas is a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by as long as 180 days in jail, a fine of $2,000, and a driver’s license suspension. However, responsibility for a DWI sometimes extends to the person who served the alcohol to the driver. It is a crime in Texas to sell alcohol to someone who is intoxicated, and a conviction can lead to serious consequences – particularly if the intoxicated person hurts someone during their DWI incident.

Bartender Charged in Connection with DWI Case

A bartender in Austin, Texas, was recently arrested for allegedly serving alcohol to an intoxicated man who was later involved in a fatal accident. The driver was charged with intoxication manslaughter and failure to stop and render aid. The driver allegedly hit a man pushing a shopping cart and fled the scene on foot before police caught him. An investigation by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission determined that a bartender at an area restaurant had served alcohol to the driver when he was noticeably intoxicated. After arresting the bartender, the Commission stated that alcohol retailers and their employees must be accountable for monitoring the physical condition of their customers and potentially preventing a DWI incident.

Consequences

Selling alcohol to an intoxicated person is a misdemeanor offense and punishable by a maximum fine of $500 and up to a year in jail. However, the consequences extend beyond criminal charges. The person who sold alcohol to an intoxicated driver may be liable for personal injury damages if someone was hurt or killed in an accident. The establishment that sold the alcohol could be fined or have its liquor license suspended.

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How a Background Check on Your Texas License Plate Can Lead to a DWI ArrestAn arrest for driving while intoxicated in Texas starts with the police officer having reasonable suspicion that the driver has broken the law, either while monitoring passing traffic or when responding to an accident. An officer is legally allowed to stop a driver if the driver has committed a traffic violation or is driving in a manner that suggests impairment. The officer may also conduct a background check on drivers by entering their license plate numbers into a database, which may indicate that the driver has an outstanding warrant or the vehicle is not confirmed to have liability insurance. During the stop, the officer can arrest the driver for DWI if there is probable cause to believe that the driver is intoxicated.

Precedent in Texas

A 2017 Texas appellate court ruling confirmed that a police officer is legally allowed to stop a vehicle that a database flagged for not having insurance, even if the database was inaccurate. In 2015, an officer was entering plate numbers of passing vehicles when one was listed for “unconfirmed insurance,” which could mean that the insurance on the vehicle had lapsed. He stopped the vehicle to check for proof of insurance and eventually arrested the driver on suspicion of DWI.

The defendant was convicted for the DWI charge but appealed the decision, saying that the traffic stop was not legal because his vehicle was insured at the time. Despite the inaccuracy in the database, the appellate court confirmed the conviction:

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How CBD Products Can Lead to a False DWI Charge in TexasTexas passed a law in 2019 that legalized the sale and use of hemp and its derivative products. The law, in turn, has grown the market for cannabidiol (CBD) products in the state. You may have noticed signs and advertisements for products infused with CBD, such as oils, edibles, and lotions. CBD should not be confused with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), an active ingredient in marijuana, which is still illegal in Texas except for medical use in specific cases. It is legal to drive after having consumed CBD products because it should not impair your driving ability. However, some drug testing labs in Texas admit that their equipment is unable to tell the difference between CBD and THC, which could lead to someone being wrongly charged with driving while intoxicated by marijuana.

Difference Between CBD and THC

People sometimes confuse hemp with marijuana because they both come from the cannabis plant. As the legalization of hemp shows, federal and local governments now recognize that hemp does not pose the same dangers as marijuana. One of the primary differences between hemp and marijuana is the amount of CBD and THC it has. Hemp, by legal definition, has less than 0.03 percent THC, which is not enough to impair a normal person. CBD has the same molecular structure as THC but does not have the psychoactive component that would impair someone.

DWI by Marijuana

Because marijuana is illegal in Texas, the grounds for charging someone with a DWI by marijuana is different than with alcohol:

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Multiple DWI Convictions Can Add Up to Longer Prison SentencesA Texas man was recently sentenced to 65 years in prison after his ninth conviction for driving while intoxicated. The defendant was charged following a single-car accident, during which he allegedly had a 0.263 blood alcohol concentration. While this may seem like severe punishment for an incident in which no one was harmed, it is not unusual in Texas. Courts have issued life sentences to offenders who had a history of repeated DWI convictions. Judges usually rationalize the harsh sentences by describing the defendant as a habitual offender who has shown that they will not change their behavior and will continue to be a danger to others. Being convicted for multiple DWI offenses not only enables courts to issue more severe punishments but may also motivate a judge to utilize the full extent of those punishments.

Consequences of Multiple Convictions

One way that a DWI conviction can be a felony in Texas is if it is your third DWI conviction. According to Texas law:

  • A third or subsequent DWI conviction is a third-degree felony, punishable by two to 10 years in prison.
  • If you have previously served prison time for a DWI conviction, a third or subsequent DWI conviction is a second-degree felony, punishable by 2 to 20 years in prison.
  • If you have been incarcerated twice for DWI convictions, a subsequent DWI conviction can result in 25 years to life in prison.

Even with a two-year-minimum prison sentence, it is possible to serve most of that time as probation. However, a court is less likely to allow probation if you have received a fourth DWI conviction or have other aggravating factors.

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How to Dress and Behave at Your DWI TrialYour trial for driving while intoxicated is in some ways a judgment of your character. The court will consider who seems more credible when weighing your testimony against the testimony of the arresting police officer and other witnesses. Do you seem like an honest and trustworthy person? How you look and behave will help answer that question. Proper appearance and behavior will not guarantee that you will win your DWI case, but giving a bad impression could create a negative bias that is difficult for you to overcome. Here are four keys to making a good impression in your DWI trial:

  1. Proper Appearance: You are expected to dress conservatively and look as clean-cut as possible when appearing in court. For men, you should wear a business suit or at least a button-down shirt with a tie and dress pants. For women, a skirt or slacks will work, as long as they look professional and are not revealing. You should remove excessive piercings, keep your hair-style tame, and cover up your tattoos if possible.
  2. Arrive Early: Being late for your court appearance tells the judge that you do not respect their time or take your charge seriously. To avoid showing up late, you should plan to arrive early. This will give you some leeway in case of unexpected delays, such as bad traffic or waiting through a long security line at the courthouse.
  3. Remain Calm: You will spend most of your trial listening to other people talk about you and your arrest. You need to be quiet and attentive during this time because others in the courtroom will be watching your behavior. Sit up straight and remain still. Fidgeting makes you look nervous, which plays into the idea that you are guilty. Do not make facial expressions or gestures that show that you are angry, frustrated or bored.
  4. Speak Respectfully: When it is your turn to talk, you need to speak in a manner that is formal and respectful. Answer the questions asked of you and stay on topic. Try to use proper grammar and avoid slang terms. Do not interrupt someone else who is talking. You can learn about the way you are expected to talk by watching your defense attorney and others who normally work in a courtroom.

Contact a San Antonio DWI Defense Lawyer

Making a good first impression will help convince the judge and jurors that they should believe your testimony and make you seem like a responsible person. A San Antonio DWI defense attorney at the Law Offices of Sam H. Lock will coach you on how to appear and behave in a courtroom. Schedule a free consultation by calling 888-726-5625.

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