Houston is a great city, with a thriving community and exciting nightlife. That's one of the reasons why so many students from across the country choose Rice University for its outstanding academic undergraduate and graduate programs. Rice Village is chock full of restaurants and bars catering to both locals and students alike. Whether you're hanging out at Valhalla on campus or entering the Geeks Who Drink trivia night at Little Woodrow's, you're bound to have fun. Had to many beers at Valhalla? Rice University Police Department can bone very aggressive and known to making many DWI arrests on and off Rice university campus.
However, the local police take drinking and driving seriously, and they watch the local hangouts near Rice closely, particularly on the weekends. But whether you're a student or a local Houstonian, getting a DWI charge in the university's vicinity can be both frightening and frustrating. If you're facing a DWI charge, you need to understand the possible consequences of a DWI, including the possible legal, educational, and professional repercussions.
What is a DWI?
The police can arrest someone for driving while intoxicated “DWI” if they drive a vehicle in a public place while intoxicated. Under Texas law, you are intoxicated if:
- You are impaired, meaning you don't have “the normal use of mental or physical faculties by reason of...alcohol, a controlled substance, [or] a combination of two or more of those substances...into the body;” or
- Your blood alcohol content “BAC” exceeds .08%.
It's important to remember that whether or not you are impaired is a judgment call of the arresting officer and people make mistakes. This law enforcement decision is something that an experienced DWI attorney can challenge in court. Moreover, BAC breath and blood tests are not infallible. Mistakes happen, particularly if the lab doesn't properly calibrate the equipment or the techs don't meticulously maintain the evidence chain. A DWI case is rarely open and shut, and you should discuss the arrest with an experienced DWI defense attorney as soon as possible.
How Can a DWI Arrest Affect You?
Most of us understand that a DWI conviction could result in fines and jail time. Still, many people don't consider the other life-altering consequences of a DWI conviction, including facing disciplinary actions at school, in your professional career, from a professional licensing board, and even limitations on future careers.
- Legal Penalties
A DWI conviction can result in jail time, fines, and suspension of your driver's license. A first-time DWI conviction can result in a fine of up to $2,000, 72 hours to 180 days in jail, and a license suspension for 90 days to one year. For second, third, and subsequent offenses, fines range from $4,000 to $10,000. Incarceration can range from 30 days in jail to 10 years in prison, and the state can suspend your license for up to two years.
The state also imposes mandatory penalties for DWI convictions, including:
- $3,000 for the first DWI in 36 months;
- $4,500 for any subsequent DWI in 36 months; and
- $6,000 for a BAC of .15% or higher.
This penalty is on top of any fines imposed by the court.
If a DWI involves aggravating circumstances, the severity of the penalties can increase. Aggravating circumstances include:
- Driving with an open container;
- Driving with a BAC of .15% or higher;
- Driving with a child in the car;
- Seriously injuring someone; and
- Killing someone.
- Student Penalties
If you are a student at Rice University, you can also find yourself facing disciplinary proceedings at school because of a DWI conviction. According to the Rice Student Code of Conduct, “the Code of Student Conduct applies to all students, including: undergraduate, graduate, and those enrolled in professional and Continuing Studies programs, visiting students (including online students), visiting post baccalaureates, second degree students, and auditors.” The code of conduct also applies to Rice online students and applies to on-campus students both on and off the university campus.
Rice students can also face discipline, suspension, or expulsion from the university regardless of whether a court finds them not guilty. Under the code of conduct:
Rice University reserves the right to take official notice of criminal convictions of, and accusations against, a student, whether the crime is committed on or off campus. This may then result in appropriate sanctions, including potentially expulsion from the University.
Some matters may involve allegations of violations of both Rice University rules or regulations and civil or criminal law. In these instances, proceedings concerning possible Code violations may progress on campus without regard to off-campus proceedings. Proceedings under this Code may be carried out prior to, simultaneously with, or following civil or criminal proceedings. The University does not presume to advise students accused of criminal law violations. Rice University provides no sanctuary from the consequences of illegal acts.
If you are a Rice student facing DWI charges, you should discuss your case with an experienced DWI defense attorney as soon as possible to discuss your options and mitigate any possible consequences.
- Professional Consequences
If you hold a professional license, a commercial driver's license, a security clearance, or even some jobs in the financial industry, a DWI conviction may have lasting professional consequences.
A DWI conviction can also affect your ability to be accepted into graduate school, your ability to receive or retain a professional license, and jobs that you can hold. A criminal record can affect many professional licenses, including your:
- Medical license;
- Nursing license;
- Teaching license;
- Pilot’s license;
- Business license; and
- Dental license.
A conviction for DWI can also limit your ability to become a police officer, join another law enforcement agency, or hold a security clearance.
Why You Need a DWI Specialist
While a DWI is a criminal charge, DWI defense is a specialty area of the law. Your DWI defense attorney must be knowledgeable concerning criminal defense, trial skills, and negotiation. But your lawyer should also understand the science and technology behind BAC tests and the limitations of those tests. Some of the most successful DWI defenses rely on this specialized legal knowledge and skill, including:
- Challenging the probable cause needed for the stop, arrest, or BAC tests;
- Challenging the BAC breathalyzer and blood tests; and
- Challenging law enforcement or witness statements.
Attorney Doug Murphy is one of only two attorneys in Texas Board Certified as an expert in criminal law and DWI defense. He is Board Certified in DWI defense by the National College for DUI Defense, accredited by the American Bar Association and the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. Doug is also Board Certified in criminal law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. Best Lawyers in America recently named Doug the “Lawyer of the Year” for 2021 in DWI defense. Doug received this prestigious award based on reviews from his peers in the DWI defense industry in Houston.
If you or your child face a DWI charge, give us a call. You need a skilled expert in DWI defense law, and we can help.