There are many ways that being convicted of or even just charged with driving while intoxicated can affect your life. One of the most pressing questions that people ask is “Will I lose my job?” That is an issue that your employer, and not a criminal court, will decide. Most employers in Texas hire workers “at will,” meaning that your employer can terminate your employment at any time and without needing to give a cause – as long as the decision is not based on discriminating against protected traits such as race or gender. For many employers, a DWI conviction or arrest may be enough of a reason to fire an employee.
Your job will likely be in peril if you are sentenced to jail or prison as part of your DWI conviction. The punishment for a first-time DWI conviction can include three to 180 days in prison and may include more time if there are aggravating factors such as a blood alcohol concentration of 0.15 or over. Your employer does not have to preserve your job while you are incarcerated. Even if your employment contract protects your job, it may have a clause that voids the contract if you are convicted of a crime.
A DWI can affect your driving privileges from the moment you are arrested:
People across the U.S. who have been convicted of driving while intoxicated are using breath alcohol ignition interlock devices (BAIID) in order to retain their driving privileges. A BAIID is a Breathalyzer connected to a vehicle that requires the user to provide a breath sample to prove that they have not been drinking. In Texas, first-time DWI offenders can opt to use a BAIID to continue driving during their driver’s license suspension. BAIID installation is mandatory for people who have been convicted of DWI for a second time or had a blood alcohol concentration of 0.15 percent or greater. While proponents of BAIIDs say that the device has saved numerous lives by stopping people from driving drunk, a smaller group of skeptics point out that the requirement to continue providing breath samples while driving has caused fatal crashes.
Once the BAIID user has started their vehicle, they must continue to prove that they are not drinking by providing breath samples every five to 15 minutes, which are commonly called rolling retests. A recent investigation by The New York Times found dozens of crashes across the country that were caused by drivers who were distracted by having to take a rolling retest. There are several distractions related to the retests:
The BAIID will beep when it is time for a retest, which will immediately grab the driver’s attention.
The driver may have only five minutes to provide a sample, creating a sense of panic.
Providing a breath sample requires the driver to find the device, hold it in their hand and blow air into it, all of which can be distracting.
Failing the test or not providing a sample in time will cause the vehicle’s horn to go off and lights to start flashing, which is distracting to the driver and other nearby drivers.
BAIID advocates argue that the driver has ample time to pull over before taking a rolling retest, but this may be unrealistic if the driver is on a road that does not have a safe place to stop. Also, the sensors in BAIIDs have been known to falsely identify alcohol in the user’s breath, creating an unnecessary distraction.
Law enforcement departments across Texas are currently going through their longest “no refusal” period of the year for people suspected of driving while intoxicated. “No refusal” initiatives usually take place during holiday weekends, but many departments consider Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day to be one long “no refusal” period. Law enforcement promotes “no refusal” as a time when drivers suspected of DWI will not be allowed to refuse a sobriety test. It is somewhat misleading to say that departments designate “no refusal” periods, and explaining why can help you better understand your rights during a DWI stop:
You Can Refuse But With Legal Consequences: Firstly, “no refusal” refers to only blood and breath tests used to measure your blood alcohol concentration and not field tests of your balance or gaze. Secondly, you can refuse a sobriety test without consequence if you are not under arrest. Finally, you can still refuse a sobriety test after your arrest, though your driver’s license will be suspended and the officer will likely request a warrant to obtain your blood sample. Resisting a blood test after a warrant could lead to additional criminal charges.
The Law Does Not Change During “No Refusal” Initiatives: Texas law enforcement always has the authority to require DWI suspects to comply with breath or blood testing because of the state's implied consent law. The difference during a “no refusal” period is that the police officers put greater emphasis on catching drunk drivers and have more resources at their disposal to ensure that they can obtain a test sample in a timely manner. Judges are on call to review affidavits for warrants during the late-night hours when DWI arrests usually occur. Nurses are available at the station to draw blood samples.
“No Refusal” Is About Awareness and Prevention: Why do law enforcement departments publicize “no refusal” initiatives when the same DWI laws are always in effect? They are trying to deter people from driving drunk or under the influence of drugs during times of the year when DWI arrests are most prevalent. Many people celebrate holidays by drinking alcohol at parties, followed by driving themselves home. The goal is to change people’s decisions to drive drunk by reminding them of the risk of being arrested.
Contact a San Antonio DWI Defense Attorney
Being charged with DWI can put a damper on your holidays, but do not assume that it means you will be convicted. A San Antonio DWI defense lawyer at the Law Offices of Sam H. Lock will work to beat your charge or get it dismissed. To schedule a free consultation, call 888-726-5625.
The numbers from your blood alcohol concentration test hold a lot of weight in determining whether you will be charged with driving while intoxicated. The big number in almost every state is 0.08 percent BAC, which is the legal limit that determines whether you are intoxicated (Utah is the exception because it recently lowered its limit to 0.05 percent). However, there is more to BAC levels in Texas law than a simple 0.08 cut-off point. You can still be charged with DWI when your BAC is below the legal limit, and the level of the charge can increase depending on how much your BAC exceeds the limit.
Less than 0.08
The 0.08 percent BAC limit is based on the percentage of alcohol in a person’s bloodstream that it usually takes to impair their driving capabilities. Your alcohol tolerance may be different than that, depending on factors such as your:
If your BAC is above the legal limit but you show no signs of impairment, you are still considered to be legally intoxicated. If your BAC is below the legal limit but you do show signs of impairment, a police officer can still arrest you on suspicion of DWI if they believe that your impairment reached the level of intoxication. Your advantage in this scenario is that the prosecution is basing its case solely on subjective evidence from the officer’s observations, which is easier to dispute than scientific blood test results.
A new law went into effect in Texas on Sept. 1 that allows people who committed driving while intoxicated for the first time to receive deferred adjudication. People who plead guilty to DWI and complete their probation can prevent a conviction from appearing on their public criminal record. However, a subsequent DWI charge would still be treated as a second DWI offense in court. The deferred adjudication law is seen as an alternative to full prosecution for people who made a one-time poor decision, such as underage drinkers or people driving home after a holiday family dinner.
As previously mentioned, deferred adjudication is available to DWI defendants if they have never been previously convicted for DWI. Also, this option is unavailable if the DWI incident occurred before the law was enacted on Sept. 1. The judge will decide whether deferred adjudication is appropriate given the circumstances of the case. You may be denied deferred adjudication if:
Your blood alcohol concentration level was 0.16 or greater.
Someone was injured or killed during the DWI incident.
You have a commercial driver’s license.
A person accused of more serious DWI charges may not be deserving in the court’s eyes of a reduced punishment. The court wants to be confident that you pose little risk of repeating your mistake by driving while intoxicated again.
The Law Offices of Sam H. Lock, with offices in San Antonio and Seguin, Texas, provides criminal defense representation for people charged with state and federal crimes throughout Texas and the United States, including San Antonio, Austin, El Paso, Midland, Pecos, Waco, Hondo, New Braunfels, Laredo, Kerrville, San Marcos, Boerne, and Del Rio, Bexar County, Guadalupe County, Comal County, Wilson County, Gonzales County, Kendall County, Bandera County, Caldwell County, Hays County, Travis County, Medina County, Blanco County, Burnet County, Atascosa County, Live Oak County, Nueces County, Uvalde County.