Getting arrested on suspicion of DWI is incredibly nerve-wracking. If the police think that you are intoxicated, they will request that you consent to a breathalyzer test. The results of the breath test will be used as evidence of intoxication to support their opinion of intoxication in a DWI, intoxication assault or an intoxication manslaughter charge.
However, it is important to understand that breathalyzer test results are not always accurate. In fact, breath tests can be very unreliable. Hiring an experienced Houston DWI defense attorney who knows how to scientifically undermine breath and blood results can help you win your case. Call the Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C. to schedule your free consultation and learn more about their experience in successfully beating breath and blood test cases.
What Do Breath Test Results Mean in Houston, TX?
The breathalyzer is used to estimate your blood alcohol concentration. Blood alcohol concentration simply refers to the percentage of how much alcohol is in your body. How can a sample of your breath tell police anything about the concentration of alcohol in your blood? Breathalyzers work by analyzing a sample of your breath. This analysis identifies how much alcohol is in the sample. This result is then converted into blood alcohol concentration with the help of a complex formula. So, when used correctly, breath tests can theoretically estimate how much alcohol is currently in your blood based upon many assumptions and a complex computer algorithm that the State's expert does not know how it works.
Breath Tests Showing BAC of Less Than Legal Limit
It's illegal to operate a motor vehicle in Texas if you are intoxicated. There are three ways that you can be found to be intoxicated. The first is if your blood or breath alcohol concentration exceeds the legal limit of .08 percent. The second is if you don't have the normal use of mental faculties because you have consumed drugs or alcohol. The third way is if you don't have the normal use of physical faculties due to drug or alcohol consumption.
This means that you can be arrested for DWI even if a breath test shows that your blood alcohol concentration is below the legal limit. If the breathalyzer test shows that there is some alcohol in your system, the results will be used to support other evidence of intoxication. One of the biggest fallacies is that if I pass the breath test the police officer will let me go home. In Texas, you must be under arrest before a police officer can legally request a breath or blood test.
Defending a DWI Arrest When Your BAC Was Below the Legal Limit
The fact that you failed a breath test can be helpful to your DWI defense. Since the breath test shows that you were not “legally” drunk, the state will have to have a lot of other pieces of evidence to support any criminal charges. Houston DWI attorney Doug Murphy will review all of the evidence that is being used to support the state's case against you. Your defense will rely on attacking the validity and reliability of these other pieces of evidence.
Here are some of the best ways to defend a DWI when breath tests show that your BAC was below the legal limit.
Use Breathalyzer Results To Your Advantage
It is true that you can be considered “intoxicated” even if your BAC is not elevated. However, the fact that your BAC is below the legal limit can be used to contest criminal charges. This is particularly true if your BAC was fairly low. The state will try to paint a picture that you were unable to drive safely. Doug Murphy will point out that your BAC would have been extremely elevated if you exhibited extremely unsafe behaviors. While this may not be enough to win your case on its own, it can help to undermine the validity of the state's case.
Argue Field Sobriety Tests Weren't By the Book
Police receive extensive training before they are allowed to go on patrol. Part of this training includes how to conduct proper field sobriety tests. The fact that you failed field sobriety tests are often used as a way to prove that you were intoxicated. Doug Murphy will fight to show that the tests, themselves, were invalid. Field test results can be unreliable if:
- The officer is unfamiliar with the individual tests.
- The officer is distracted during testing.
- The officer does not provide clear and precise directions.
- You are required to perform the tests on uneven ground or in harsh weather conditions.
- You are required to perform the tests in certain footwear (e.g., heels, sandals).
- You are a generally clumsy or nervous person or have some other physical or mental health condition.
If tests weren't by the book or if the police failed to adjust the tests for special circumstances, the results may not be trustworthy.
There Was No Cause to Stop Your Car
The state cannot win its case against you if the police never had proper cause to stop your car in the first place. If the stop was illegal, the state will be forced to drop any criminal DWI charges. Doug Murphy will investigate the details of your stop and arrest. He will identify why the officer decided to pull you over and determine if there was sufficient cause to make the stop.
There's No Probable Cause to Show You Were Intoxicated
A warrantless arrest is only valid if there is probable cause to show that you have committed a crime. This means that there must be substantial evidence to show that you were intoxicated. Doug Murphy will review all of the state's evidence and argue that, when considered together, it does not meet this burden of proof. Criminal charges for DWI cannot stand if there was no probable cause for the arrest.
Breath Tests Showing BAC of 0.15 or Greater
You need to speak with an attorney immediately if your breath test results showed that your BAC was 0.15 percent or greater. The penalties for driving with an extremely elevated BAC are incredibly harsh. Most attorneys in Houston won't even agree to take on your case if you blew a .15 or greater. Doug Murphy knows that your future is on the line and is here to help you protect it.
Penalties for DWI With BAC of 0.15 or Greater
The first time you are arrested for DWI you will typically face charges for a Class B Misdemeanor. However, if your BAC is .15 or greater, you can be charged with a Class A Misdemeanor. That's basically getting charged for your second DWI the first time around. Class A Misdemeanors are the most serious misdemeanor-level offenses in Texas. As a result, they carry incredibly harsh penalties. Possible penalties for DWI with a high BAC include:
- Jail Time: Between 30 days and 12 months in jail.
- Fines: A maximum of $4,000 in fines.
- Probation: Supervised release mandating counseling, drug and alcohol treatment programs, and/or community service.
- License Suspension: Suspended license for up to two years.
Defending a DWI Arrest When Your BAC Was .15 or Greater
Here are some of the best ways to defend a DWI when breath tests show that your BAC was 0.15 or greater.
Attacking Breath Test Results
Breath tests are not always an accurate reflection of your blood alcohol concentration. In fact, there are dozens of factors that can cause test results to be unreliable. Doug Murphy will thoroughly analyze your case and determine which factors may have affected your test results and determine if there is a reason to file a motion to suppress the results. You are much less likely to be convicted if the state can't rely on the results of the breath test. Factors that may influence breathalyzer results include:
- Police officers who administered the test were not properly trained.
- The breathalyzer itself was not stored at an appropriate temperature.
- The breathalyzer has not been maintained properly.
- The test was not administered correctly.
- Police used a sample of your shallow breath, rather than your deep lung breath.
- You had traces of alcohol in your mouth and on your shallow breath.
- You had taken prescription medication that could have altered the result.
- Health conditions, such as acid reflux, can throw off the result.
- Bacteria in the mouth can create mouth alcohol and affect the result.
As you can see, there are many reasons that breath test results may not be accurate, and the above are just examples. The more factors you successfully point out, the less reliable those breath test results become.
Highlighting Contrary Evidence
Here are some of the most common side effects when your blood alcohol concentration is actually at or above 0.15 percent:
- Blurred vision
- Slurred speech
- Loss of balance
- Severely impaired judgment
- Extremely slow reaction times
- Vomiting, and
- Difficulty focusing.
If you did not display any or most of these signs, it may be a good indicator that the breath test results aren't accurate. Doug Murphy will point out the fact that you weren't showing (any or all) of these signs in an effort to invalidate the results of the breathalyzer.
Illegal Vehicle Stop
Police have to have a reason to pull you over. They can't just decide to see if you've done something wrong. If the police lacked the appropriate level of cause to stop your vehicle, the charges against you cannot stand. Doug Murphy will not allow the state to benefit from violations of your Constitutional rights.
Get Help Fighting DWI Charges in Houston
Have you been arrested for DWI in Houston? Will the state use the result of a breath test to support criminal DWI charges? If so, you need the help of a qualified Houston DWI attorney. Doug Murphy is Board Certified in DWI defense and has more than 18 years of experience handling the most complex DWI matters across the state of Texas. Contact our office today to find out how we can help you get the very best result in your Houston DWI case. The first consultation is free, so do not hesitate to call now at 713-229-8333.