Driving While Intoxicated – Answers to Common Questions

Good food, nice wine.  A great sporting event with a good beer. An awesome party shared with friends and cocktails.  A happy hour with coworkers at the neighborhood bar.  Most of us have had these experiences and really enjoyed them.  After the event is over, many get in their car and drive home.  Most think they are “okay” to drive, but later be suspected of and eventually arrested for driving while intoxicated.

Driving while intoxicated, i.e. DWI, is one of the most prosecuted cases in America.  If you go out, drink, get in your vehicle and drive, you could find yourself being accused of DWI if you are pulled over by law enforcement for even the smallest traffic violation.

Below are short answers to common questions about DWI:

  • What is DWI?

o   A person commits the offense of driving while intoxicated when he or she is intoxicated while operating a motor vehicle in a public place. TX Penal Code 49.04

  • What does intoxicated mean?

o   “not having the normal use of mental or physical faculties by reason of the introduction of alcohol, a controlled substance,a drug, a dangerous drug, a combination of two or more of those substances, or any other substance into the body, or having an alcohol concentration of .08 or more. TX Penal Code 49.01(2)(A)&(B)

  • What are common reasons people are pulled over by law enforcement and later accused of DWI?

o   Speeding, failure to use turn signal, failure to come to a complete stop at stop sign, failure to stop in front of white striped stop marker, making an unauthorized u-turn, turning right on red when prohibited, no seat belt, running a red light, failure to signal a lane change, swerving across the lane (often occurs when texting or reading texts and emails while driving), hitting a curb, improper use of brakes, failure to properly respond to traffic control devices, expired registration and/or inspection sticker, accident, etc.

  •  What are the common signs of intoxication police look for to make an arrest for DWI?

o   Odor of alcohol on the breath, bloodshot eyes, glassy eyes, slurred speech, unable to count backwards, unable to recite alphabet, unstable while standing or walking, incoherent or inarticulate answers to question.

  • How does law enforcement determine if someone is intoxicated (Standard Field Sobriety Tests and Blood/Breath Testing)?

o   Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN)

o   Walk and Turn

o   One Leg Stand

o   Blood Test

o   Breath Test

o   Alphabet (i.e., start with D and end at T)

o   Counting backwards

  • What are my rights if pulled over and suspected of DWI?

o   Do I have to do the SFSTs?

  • No.  You may refuse not to do the SFSTs as requested by the officer.  Do so politely.  If you refuse, more likely, you will be arrested and go to jail. (If you do the SFST’s, they will be used against you as additional evidence by the prosecution of your alleged intoxication).

o   Do I have to take a blood or breath test?

  • No, but if the officer gets a warrant, then you can be compelled to give a blood specimen.
  • What are the consequences if I refuse to do anything?

o   You will likely be arrested for DWI, compelled to give a specimen of your blood, and go to jail until you can be bonded out.

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