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San Antonio DWI defense attorneyIt is late. You are drunk and far away from home. You know driving at this stage of drunkenness would be illegal, but you also cannot afford the money necessary to get all the way back home from where you are. What are your options? Call a friend or family member? “Sleep it off” on a public bench and risk being arrested? Risk driving home anyway and then eventually getting charged with DWI (driving while intoxicated) or worse depending on what happens while you are driving drunk? There is another option all across Texas, including the “Sobering Unit” at Roberto L. Jimenez M.D. Restoration Center (“Drunk Tank” for “down-and-outs”) in San Antonio. These sobering centers offer a compelling alternative for both law enforcement and drunk civilians, including those contemplating driving home drunk. Here is why.

“Sobering Center” Defined

Sobering centers are seen as intermediaries between actual arrests with legal consequences for drunkenness that disrupts the peace and expensive hospital visits for excessive drinking. In short, these sobering centers are short-term recovery facilities where drunk or otherwise inebriated civilians can “sleep it off” and get a chance to regain their sobriety less the headaches of the morning after with the option to continue with recovery programs and other treatment options.

What Makes Sobering Centers a Productive Alternative to DWI?

While originally intended as a means to get drunk people off the streets and into recovery programs, should they choose, the sobering centers have proven themselves useful in many ways to many people for a multitude of different reasons: 

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San Antonio intoxication manslaughter attorneyDWI (driving while intoxicated), DUI (driving under the influence), and even BWI (boating while intoxicated) are all common charges throughout the San Antonio area. However, one charge is not discussed nearly as often and yet has very serious consequences, in and outside of the courtroom: intoxication assault. Here is how Texas law defines intoxication assault, including its associated terminology and penalties.

Intoxication Assault Defined

Per Section 49.07 of the Texas Penal Code, a person commits intoxication assault if that person causes serious bodily injury to another: 

  • While operating an aircraft, watercraft, or amusement ride while intoxicated;
  • While operating a vehicle in a public place while intoxicated; or
  • As a result of assembling an amusement ride while intoxicated.

There are two key phrases in this definition of intoxication assault: "while intoxicated" and "serious bodily injury." In terms of operating motor vehicles or other modes of transportation while intoxicated, in Texas, an adult of the age of 21 or older cannot operate such a vehicle with a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of .08% or higher. When that happens, a charge of driving while intoxicated (DWI) is filed against the intoxicated driver; however, compound that with “serious bodily injury” of someone else, and there is intoxication assault.

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Has COVID-19 Reduced the Number of DWI Arrests in Texas?Many people expected the number of arrests in Texas for driving while intoxicated to decrease this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. There are a couple of factors that seem to logically point towards this:

  • Many restaurants and bars have been closed, which reduces the number of people driving home after drinking.
  • People are more likely to stay at home as a precaution to avoid infection.

News reports in the early months of the pandemic suggested that DWI arrest numbers had dropped, but it seems that was only a temporary effect. A recent story on DWI arrests in San Antonio claimed that the number of arrests from Jan. 1 to July 6 was down only four percent from the same period last year – 2,255 arrests in 2019 and 2,168 arrests in 2020. 

Reasons Behind the Numbers

Why has the number of DWI arrests in Texas not decreased as people predicted? There are a few possible explanations:

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How Texas DWI Enforcement Applies to MotorcyclesFor riders throughout the U.S., motorcycles are more than a means of transportation. Owning and riding a bike can be a hobby, passion, and part of your identity. However, you need to remember that motorcycle riders follow the same laws for driving while intoxicated as everyone else on the road. If you are caught operating your bike with a blood alcohol concentration greater than 0.08 percent, you will face a misdemeanor criminal charge that could result in jail time, a fine of as much as than $2,000, and a driver’s license suspension. The suspension would also affect your eligibility to operate other vehicles.

Signs of DWI on a Motorcycle

Operating a motorcycle requires a different set of skills than driving a car, including the ability to keep yourself balanced and shift your body during turns. Because of this, police officers are looking for different signs that may indicate motorcycle riders are intoxicated. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration describes these signs as “cues” and has two categories of cues that it instructs officers to watch for in motorcycle riders. According to an NHTSA study, “excellent cues” predicted a motorcycle DWI half of the time and include:

  • Difficulty keeping balance when stopped or dismounting the bike
  • Drifting during turns and curves in the road
  • Unsteady turns
  • Unnecessary weaving
  • Inattention to surroundings
  • Erratic behavior

There is another set of “good cues,” which predicted a motorcycle DWI in 30 to 50 percent of cases. They include:

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Possessing a Weapon During DWI Leads to Additional ChargeMany Texas residents have gone through the required steps in order to receive a license to carry (LTC) a firearm. The process involves submitting an application, taking state-approved training courses, and showing that their record is clear of any recent criminal charges. With an LTC, residents are allowed to carry an open or concealed weapon in most public places. However, legal gun possession can become a crime if you are being charged with committing another criminal offense at the same time, such as driving while intoxicated.

Unlawful Carrying of Weapon

Let us say that you have an LTC and are driving with your weapon either on your person or somewhere in the vehicle. A police officer stops you and, after observing your behavior, decides to arrest you on suspicion of DWI. The officer finds your weapon while searching your body or vehicle. Under Texas law, you may now receive an additional charge of unlawful carrying of a weapon, which is a Class A misdemeanor. How can you be unlawfully carrying your weapon when you have a valid LTC? Texas law states that it is unlawful to carry a weapon while committing a criminal offense, such as a robbery, assault, or, in this case, driving while intoxicated. The same weapon charge may apply if you are caught driving with an open container of alcohol in your vehicle.

What Is Your Defense?

One issue to consider if you have been charged with unlawful carrying of a weapon during a DWI arrest is whether the police officer was conducting an illegal search when they discovered the weapon. Just because the officer suspects you of DWI does not give them the right to conduct a search without a warrant.

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Office

Bexar County

In the historic King William District

1011 S. Alamo,
San Antonio, Texas 78210
210-226-0965
888-726-5625 Toll Free
210-226-7540

Office

Guadalupe County

109 Court Street,
Seguin, Texas 78155
830-372-1522
888-726-5625 Toll Free