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Veterans and DWI: Are Vets at a Higher Risk of Arrest in Texas?

 Posted on November 11, 2022 in Uncategorized

The stress of deployments and combats can be challenging for many military service members. And more than half of military members report that they believe seeking mental health treatment would be detrimental to their careers. As a result, perhaps it's not surprising that veterans have much higher rates of binge drinking than the general population. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, more than one in ten veterans is diagnosed with a substance abuse disorder, a rate only slightly higher than the civilian population. However, alcohol is the most prevalent substance use disorder among active duty military personnel and veterans, at a rate twice that of the civilian population.

As a result, veterans in Texas may be at higher risk of arrest for driving while intoxicated. According to a 2018 study by the American Addiction Centers, rates of drunk driving and binge drinking increased by 60 percent between 2014 and 2018. If you're a veteran facing a DWI charge in Texas, it's important to remember that an arrest does not mean a court will find you guilty. You need an expert in DWI defense for the best possible result for your case.

DWI in Texas

Under Texas law, you can face an arrest for driving while intoxicated if you:

  • Have a BAC of.08% or higher, or.04% or higher if you hold a commercial driver's license, or
  • Don't have the normal use of your physical or mental faculties.

The Texas statute specifically defines "intoxication" broadly, beyond simply having a high BAC, as:

[N]ot 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 0.08 or more.

Tex. Penal Code § 49.01(2) (2001).

Texas DWI Penalties

The penalty you receive for a DWI conviction can vary based on the following:

  • The circumstances of your stop and arrest,
  • Any prior convictions you may have,
  • Your past driving record, and
  • Whether your DWI also involved an accident, property damage, a serious injury, a child passenger, or a death.

Aggravating circumstances or prior DWI convictions can raise the charges to the level of a felony in Texas.

  1. First DWI: Under Texas law, your first DWI is typically a Class B misdemeanor. A conviction for a first DWI can result in up to 180 days in jail, a fine of up to $2,000, a one-year license suspension, and an additional mandatory administrative fine of $3,000.
  2. Second DWI: Texas law makes the typical second DWI a Class A misdemeanor. A conviction for a Class A misdemeanor can result in up to one year in jail, $4,000 in fines, and a two-year license suspension. You will also face an additional mandatory administrative fine of $4,500 for a second offense in 36 months or $6,000 for a BAC over.15%.
  3. Third and Fourth DWIs: A third DWI is a third-degree felony under Texas law, with a conviction resulting in up to ten years in prison and a $10,000 fine. A fourth DWI is typically a second-degree felony. A conviction for a second-degree felony can result in up to twenty years in prison, a $10,000 fine, a two-year license suspension, and mandatory administrative fines.

Moreover, if your DWI involves an accident, serious injury, a child passenger under 15, or a death, you can face even more severe penalties, including felony charges.

Additionally, veterans with a DWI conviction can face career repercussions. Many veterans still work in the defense industry, and a DWI can mean the loss of your security clearance. To determine whether someone is eligible for a clearance, the federal government uses the Adjudicative Guidelines For Determining Eligibility for Access to Classified Information. The government will examine your personal conduct, alcohol consumption, criminal conduct, drug use, and emotional or personality disorders. A DWI could raise issues in many of these areas.

Defending Yourself from a DWI

Defending a DWI can be complex because of the technical and legal issues at stake. A DWI trial involves testimony from witnesses and scientific evidence such as BAC levels from blood or breath tests. Your defense may involve:

  • Representing you at an Administrative License Revocation hearing to ensure you maintain your driving privileges and to get a preview of the state's case to build your defense,
  • Challenging your BAC results from breath or blood tests,
  • Challenging law enforcement testimony or judgment,
  • Asking the court to suppress faulty evidence or eye-witness testimony,
  • Challenging the results of a field sobriety test, and
  • Challenging potential violations of your constitutional or legal rights, such as whether the police had reasonable suspicion to pull you over or probable cause for your arrest.

Texas also has a special Veteran Treatment Court program, which may be an option for some veterans arrested for DWI. The program allows treatment and close supervision to avoid a criminal conviction. On the plus side, as a veteran, you have special standing and credibility in our community. Because of the convergence of technical and legal issues in a DWI trial, you need an attorney skilled in trial work who is also an expert in DWI defense.

Hire an Expert in Texas DWI Defense

Attorney Doug Murphy is one of only two Texas experts in DWI defense and criminal law. He holds Texas Board Certifications for both DWI Defense and Criminal Defense Law, which makes him an expert in these niche areas of the law. Doug's knowledge, training, and practical expertise in the courtroom ensure that he has the skill to guide complex DWI cases to the best possible resolution.

Doug is also well regarded by his peers from the Houston bar, as evidenced by U.S. News and World Report naming him as a Best Lawyers in America for DWI defense in Houston for 2023. The experienced DWI attorneys at the Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C. have experience on both sides of the aisle, making them uniquely qualified to handle DWI and criminal defense cases. Contact the Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C. online or at 713-229-8333 to schedule a consultation today.

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