Texas Man Claims DWI Laws Discriminate Against Alcoholics
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:
- Two to 10 years in prison;
- A fine of as much as $10,000; and
- A driver’s license suspension of 180 days to two years.
With a fourth DWI conviction, the court may choose the higher end of the ranges it is given for punishment.
Rather than contest the results of his BAC test, the defendant argued that the BAC limit is an unfair standard to use against him because he is an alcoholic. The core of his argument includes that:
- Alcoholism is a disability protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act;
- Alcoholics such as himself have a higher tolerance for alcohol, allowing them to function normally with a higher BAC; and
- A strict BAC limit is arbitrary and unfair to alcoholics in comparison to the rest of society.
Finding a law to be unconstitutional requires proving that it violates people’s rights in all applications or when applied in specific situations. Texas courts ruled that the defendant’s argument did not satisfy either of these conditions. The BAC limit is applied equally to all drivers, which means it is not used discriminately against alcoholics. The defendant was instead asking for the law to apply differently to alcoholics than other drivers.
Alcoholism and DWI
Many medical professionals classify alcoholism as a disease and consider alcoholics as being unable to control their drinking habits. However, courts are still likely to hold alcoholics liable when they decide to operate vehicles while intoxicated. Thus, citing alcoholism is not an effective way to get a DWI charge dismissed. A San Antonio DWI defense attorney at the Law Offices of Sam H. Lock can examine details in your case that may help you contest your charges. To schedule a free consultation, call 888-726-5625.