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.
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.
Texas is ending its controversial Driver Responsibility Program that requires an annual surcharge for people convicted for driving violations, including driving while intoxicated. Statistics suggest that more than 1 million Texas drivers will be eligible to regain their driver’s licenses – some immediately and some when the program officially ends on Sept. 1. Civil liberties advocates have criticized the program for disproportionately affecting low-income traffic offenders. However, the news is not completely positive for people facing DWI charges. In exchange for eliminating the Driver Responsibility Program, Texas is increasing its fines for people convicted of DWI.
Driver Responsibility Program
Texas enacted the Driver Responsibility Program in 2003 to charge an additional fee beyond the fine charged upon conviction for a traffic violation. Drivers whose licenses were suspended must pay an annual surcharge to the Texas Department of Public Safety for three years in order to regain their licenses. For DWI convictions, the annual surcharge was:
$1,000 for a first offense;
$1,500 for a second offense; and
$2,000 for DWI with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.16 or greater.
The Austin Community Law Center had filed a lawsuit against Texas, claiming that the program placed too great of a financial burden on people with low incomes. Many Texas residents either did not understand or could not afford the surcharges and were left without a driver’s license as a result. Texas will wipe out the remaining surcharges on Sept. 1, and drivers will be able to reinstate their licenses if they pay the reinstatement fee and resolve any issues that are not related to the Driver Responsibility Program.
Texas has strict requirements for permitting residents to have a license to possess a firearm. Though the second amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects the right to possess firearms, lawmakers believe it is a danger to public safety to allow people convicted of serious crimes to own firearms. Being convicted of a felony or class A or B misdemeanor disqualifies you from having a Texas firearms license for several years. Thus, a conviction for driving while intoxicated will result in your firearms license being revoked.
A first-time DWI offense without any aggravating factors is a class B misdemeanor. Merely being charged with DWI causes an automatic suspension of your firearms license while your case is ongoing. If you are convicted, your license will be revoked, and you must wait five years to reapply for the license.
A second DWI offense is a class A misdemeanor but could disqualify you from having a firearms license. Texas law states that a person who is twice convicted of a drug or alcohol-related offense within 10 years is considered chemically dependent and ineligible to receive a firearms license.
A Texas man recently garnered attention when he contested his driving while intoxicated conviction by arguing that a Texas DWI law is unconstitutional. Specifically, he claimed that the 0.08 blood alcohol concentration limit discriminates against alcoholics. Neither the trial court nor the appellate court found the argument convincing, upholding the man’s conviction. There are reasons to question whether the BAC limit is an accurate measure of a driver's impairment. However, the defendant’s argument had little chance of succeeding because he was asking for special treatment, not equality.
The defendant was facing his fourth DWI conviction when he attempted to quash the charges by challenging the constitutionality of Texas’ DWI law. A first or second DWI conviction is a misdemeanor unless there are aggravating factors. A third DWI conviction is a third-degree felony, which may result in:
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.