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Four Errors That Occur in Breath Alcohol TestsOf the methods for testing someone’s blood alcohol concentration, blood tests are considered the most accurate. However, a breath test is more useful to police officers who are trying to establish probable cause to arrest someone for driving while intoxicated. It is more difficult to get a suspect to give a blood sample, and the results are not available until the blood has been taken to a lab for testing. By contrast, a breath test may be as simple as the subject breathing into a portable device, and officers can obtain immediate results in the field. Drivers who are stopped on suspicion of DWI should be cautious about agreeing to a breath test, even if they have had little or nothing to drink. There are several reasons that a breath test may give an inaccurate reading, leading to your arrest:

  1. Equipment Errors: The breath test device, commonly called a breathalyzer, must be periodically calibrated to ensure that its readings are accurate. When a breathalyzer is used frequently, its sensors can become saturated, causing readings to be inaccurately high. Law enforcement cannot know whether the equipment has been affected in this way unless they check the device on a regular schedule.
  2. Software Errors: While the hardware collects the breath sample, the software interprets the sample to determine a BAC level. Seemingly reliable software can have glitches or bugs that affect the readings. This is more likely to happen if the law enforcement organization is using an older and outdated software system.
  3. Nonalcoholic Substances: A breathalyzer can mistake other substances for alcohol, causing an artificially high BAC reading. These substances may include mouthwashes, breath fresheners, and acetones that are present in the breath of diabetics. Your breath can also be contaminated if you have recently inhaled gasoline, glue, paint or thinner.
  4. Residual Alcohol: The recent presence of alcohol in your mouth will create a reading that is higher than your actual BAC. Because of this, a police officer is required to wait and watch you for 15 minutes before giving a breath test to make sure you have not consumed any alcohol, burped or vomited. Failing to do so makes the results unreliable.

Contact a San Antonio DWI Defense Attorney

It is advised that you refuse a breath alcohol test during a DWI stop. If you did submit to the test, a San Antonio DWI defense attorney at the Law Offices of Sam H. Lock can review the test process and dispute the results during your case if there is a good reason to believe that they are inaccurate. Schedule a free consultation by calling 888-726-5625.

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Have Ride-Sharing Services Decreased Texas DWI Arrests?Ride-sharing services such as Lyft and Uber often hail themselves for decreasing the number of crashes and arrests involving people who drive while intoxicated. Arranging for transportation through your phone makes it easier for you to get a ride home when you are too drunk to drive. Various studies have shown that metropolitan areas had decreases in DWI arrests after the ride-sharing services entered their market, but the effect is inconsistent across the different cities. Some researchers believe that the effect of ride-sharing services on DWI arrests and crashes may be overstated.

Other Factors

Researchers had a good opportunity to study the relationship between DWI arrests and ride-sharing services when Lyft and Uber temporarily left some major cities a few years ago, including Austin and San Antonio. Cities such as San Antonio did have a noticeable decrease in alcohol-related crashes when the services returned, but other cities saw little or no change. For instance, the number of DWI arrests continued to decrease in Austin after Lyft and Uber ceased operating there. Thus, researchers state that other factors may be responsible when DWI arrests decrease, such as:

  • Public education campaigns;
  • Expansions in public transportation; and
  • Societal attitudes towards drunk driving.

A Fatal Problem

Texas consistently has the highest number of alcohol-related driving fatalities in the country. The fatality total has slightly increased in Texas during recent years – from 1,323 in 2015 to 1,468 in 2017. Ride-sharing services certainly do not seem to be decreasing the number of deaths. The assumption that ride-sharing will greatly prevent drunk driving is flawed in several ways:

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Hunches Are Not Reasonable Suspicion in DWI StopsAll arrests for driving while intoxicated must start with the police officer establishing reasonable suspicion to stop a vehicle. Accepted reasons to stop a driver include traffic violations or erratic driving behavior. However, officers will sometimes stop drivers on nothing more than a hunch that they are committing a DWI offense. Traffic stops based on hunches are illegal, even if the hunch ends up being correct. Any evidence that came after that illegal stop would be suppressed in court, effectively ending the prosecution’s case. There are several ways that an officer may use a hunch instead of reasonable suspicion to initiate a DWI stop:

  1. Targeting Bar and Restaurant Patrons: Many drunk drivers became intoxicated because they were at a public establishment that serves alcohol. Police officers know that there is a greater risk of DWI incidents near bars and restaurants, but they cannot stop a driver simply because they were leaving such an establishment. The driver must show signs of impairment that create reasonable suspicion that they may be intoxicated. Stopping the driver prematurely would be targeting a driver based on a presumption of guilt.
  2. Unidentified Container: Having an open container of alcohol in a vehicle is both against the law and evidence of a possible DWI incident. However, an officer may be unable to justify a stop based solely on what they guess could be an alcoholic beverage container in the vehicle. It is difficult to identify the label or contents of a container from a distance. Non-alcoholic beverages come in many of the same cans and bottles as alcohol. The officer would need to pair their observation of a possible alcohol container in the vehicle with other evidence that creates suspicion of intoxication.
  3. Not Accounting for Adverse Driving Conditions: Intoxicated drivers can draw suspicion from police officers by driving too slowly or swerving. This behavior suggests possible impairment under normal circumstances, but adverse driving conditions can also be a reasonable explanation. For instance, there is a difference between driving slowly on a clear night and during heavy rainfall. With visibility decreased and the road slick, driving below the speed limit could be the responsible decision given the conditions. It should be a more likely explanation for the officer than suspecting that the driver is intoxicated.

Contact a San Antonio DWI Defense Attorney

Too many police officers and prosecutors believe that the resulting evidence of DWI justifies a traffic stop without reasonable suspicion. A San Antonio DWI defense lawyer at the Law Offices of Sam H. Lock can get your DWI charges dismissed if they were based on an illegal stop. Schedule a free consultation by calling 888-726-5625.

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Failure to Administer Oath Suppresses Evidence from Search WarrantYou have the right to deny a police search until an officer presents you with a search warrant. To obtain a warrant, the officer files an affidavit with a judge, who will approve a warrant if he or she agrees that there is probable cause to conduct a search. Police often use warrants to search residences or vehicles, but a warrant is also required to obtain a blood sample if police suspect you of driving while intoxicated. Police are essentially asking to search your body for evidence of intoxication, which prosecutors can use in a trial. Officers in the field often send their affidavits electronically to a judge in order to expedite the process. In two recent cases, DWI defendants successfully argued that the evidence obtained from their search warrants was inadmissible because the officer who signed the affidavit had not been put under oath.

Purpose of the Oath

The fourth amendment to the U.S. Constitution states that a court shall not issue a warrant without “probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation.” When creating an affidavit, the police officer must swear under oath that the information in the affidavit is truthful, to the best of his or her knowledge. If the officer appeared before a judge to request a warrant, he or she would be sworn in before giving testimony. Two police officers are needed when sending an affidavit electronically:

  • One officer to write and sign the affidavit; and
  • A second officer to place the first officer under oath and sign the affidavit to confirm the oath was administered.

In the two recent cases, both involving the Texas Tech University Police Department, body camera footage showed that the second officer did not verbally administer the oath to the officer creating the affidavit for the blood search warrant. The prosecution argued that the oversight was a technicality that did not discredit the validity of the warrants. However, the court granted the defense’s request to suppress the evidence in both cases. Even if the officers intended to tell the truth, putting them under oath is an important step in protecting defendants against false statements of probable cause.

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Differences Between Juvenile, Adult Court in DUI CaseThe top concern for a youth charged with driving under the influence of alcohol is to prevent that charge from ruining his or her life. A criminal record could limit his or her options when going to college or looking for a job. Spending time in jail is a jarring experience that may do more to traumatize a youth than rehabilitate him or her. In Texas, the age of a youth charged with DUI makes a significant difference. A juvenile court hears DUI cases for defendants age 16 and younger, while defendants age 17 to 20 are tried as adults.

Juvenile System

A DUI charge for someone age 16 or younger is a class C misdemeanor, which is punishable by:

  • A maximum $500 fine;
  • A minimum 60-day driver’s license suspension;
  • 20 to 40 hours of community service; and
  • Required completion of an alcohol awareness course.

The goal of the juvenile court system is to rehabilitate the youths it convicts without hindering their ability to be healthy adults. Juvenile records are automatically sealed from most background checks and can be permanently sealed if the person does not receive any more criminal charges. A juvenile court is unlikely to sentence a defendant to jail time, even if the juvenile had enough alcohol in his or her system to qualify for a charge of driving while intoxicated.

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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