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How Do Police Build a DWI Case?

Posted on in DWI / DUI

texas dwi defense lawyerWhen a police officer conducts a driving while intoxicated (DWI) investigation, they rarely rely on a single clue to determine whether or not you have been drinking, but rather they consider the totality of the circumstances. Officers are looking for signs of drunk driving from the moment they initiate the traffic stop until the moment you are released from their custody. Understanding the evidence police may use to justify a DWI arrest can help you build a strong defense against DWI charges.

Clues Officers Look for During a DWI Investigation

This particular stage of a DWI investigation is called “personal contact,” according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. At this point, an officer opens up all his or her senses and takes mental notes on what he or she sees, hears, and smells. 

The officer will likely first scrutinize your appearance by looking at your eyes to if they are bloodshot, listen to your voice for slurred speech, and leaning in to smell your breath. The officer will also note your physical and verbal actions. He or she will watch for a loss or lack of coordination like shaky hands or furtive movements, and listen for abusive language or unusual statements. 


texas defense lawyerDWI arrests are considered high priority by state and local jurisdictions in not just Texas, but all across the country. And because of that, the federal government tasked the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration with creating standards and instructions for training officers on how to investigate DWI cases

According to NHTSA guidelines, a DWI investigation involves three steps: vehicle in motion, personal contact, and pre-arrest screening, i.e., field sobriety tests.  The vehicle in motion stage is like making a reservation at a restaurant, the personal contact stage is like ordering from the menu, and the pre-arrest screening is like dinner rolls at the table. The most substantive part of the interaction is usually the pre-arrest screening. It begs, why are field sobriety tests so important in a DWI case?

Field Sobriety Tests

Contrary to what many believe, you cannot fail a field sobriety test. Instead, police rely on them to uncover indicators of impairment. The three primary tests include the Nystagmus Test, the Walk and Turn, and the One Leg Stand. In the first one, you either show nystagmus or you do not, and then the other two require you to follow specific instructions and demonstrate balance and coordination. 


texas expunction lawyerBeing arrested and charged with a crime that you did not commit can be damaging in many ways. You may have trouble obtaining employment and finding a place to live as many employers and landlords perform background checks. Fortunately, Texas law allows for some arrests and charges to be removed from a person’s criminal record through the process of expunction. If you are unsure whether you qualify for an expunction, you should speak with a skilled Texas expunction lawyer to discuss your situation.

Qualifying for an Expunction

In many ways, Texas’ expunction statute is not very expansive. In fact, it is actually rather limited. You cannot file a petition for expunction if your arrest and/or charge ended in a conviction or if you received community supervision for any offense other than a Class C misdemeanor. A criminal record is also ineligible for expunction if the record is related to a probation violation warrant or if you attempted to leave the jurisdiction after you were released on bond. 

Examples of criminal records that may be expunged include:


san antonio criminal defense lawyerWhen you think of a person being convicted of a crime, you also likely think of them being sentenced to prison to serve out their punishment. In reality, many people who have been charged with low-level and non-violent crimes are found to benefit more and show greater rehabilitation when they are in their communities, rather than in prison. Because of this, many judges prefer to sentence these offenders to probation, which is officially known as community supervision in Texas.

What is Community Supervision?

Rather than serving out a sentence in prison, a judge may decide that a person’s sentence would be better spent while they were living in and contributing to their own community. If this is the case, a judge may sentence a person to community supervision. If a person is sentenced to community supervision, they will regularly keep in touch with their probation officers, who will help keep them on the right track. Community supervision often comes with requirements that you must abide by and things that you must not do during your supervision period to complete the sentence successfully.

What Requirements Does Community Supervision Impose?

Requirements for community supervision in Texas are not always the same from person to person. The exact set of requirements for your community supervision period will be determined based on the situation and circumstances surrounding your case. If you are sentenced to community supervision, you will submit to a risk and needs assessment that will allow the judge to better determine what type of requirements should be imposed.  In general, requirements for a period of community supervision often include:


san antonio DWI defense lawyerBeing pulled over by the police can be a scary occurrence. It can become even more uncomfortable if the police have a suspicion that you have been driving while intoxicated (DWI). If the police do think you may have been drinking, they will likely ask you to perform a series of tests to determine if you are impaired or not. These tests are not always precise and only work correctly to determine impairment most of the time, rather than all of the time. If you have been arrested for DWI, you do not have to panic, but you should know what to expect from the next steps in the process.

Administrative License Revocation (ALR)

The first thing you should know is that you might lose your license through an administrative process, separate from any criminal penalties you may also face. The Administrative License Revocation (ALR) process goes into effect if you refuse to submit to a chemical test to determine your blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) or fail the chemical test by having a BAC of 0.08 percent or higher. A first offense of failing a chemical test results in a 90-day driver’s license suspension, while a first offense of refusing a chemical test results in a 180-day driver’s license suspension.

Potential Criminal Penalties

In addition to any administrative penalties you may be facing, you may also be facing criminal penalties. A first-time DWI offense in Texas is charged as a Class B misdemeanor, which comes with the possibility of up to 180 days in jail, up to $2,000 in fines, or both. With many first-time offenders, judges tend to sentence them to probation or community supervision. Community supervision is the ideal sentence for a guilty DWI plea or verdict. Community supervision allows the offender to serve their sentence while they go about their daily life. As long as they comply with requirements, they will receive a discharge for the DWI offense at the end of the supervision period. The requirements include attending an evaluation to determine whether or not rehabilitative care for a drug and/or alcohol problem is necessary. If a drug or alcohol dependency is apparent, the offender will need to attend rehabilitative services.  An offender must also participate in a 12-hour DWI education program. If the offender wants to drive with an occupational license, he or she will need to have ignition interlock devices on all of his or her vehicles.



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