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Texas DWI Defense for Optometrists

Can a DWI Arrest Affect the License of an Optometrist in Texas?

Getting arrested for a DWI is always stressful. Everyone has concerns about possible fines, a license suspension, and jail time. But if you hold a professional license in Texas, you should also be concerned about your career. In addition to the possible risks to your personal and professional reputation, you can also lose your license. We hold optometrists and other medical professionals to very high standards in Texas. As a result, if you have a DWI in Texas, your optometry license may be at risk.

DWI in Texas

In Texas, you can be found guilty of driving while intoxicated if you are operating a motor vehicle in public while intoxicated. The definition of "intoxicated" under Texas law is pretty broad. The police can find you intoxicated if:

  • Your BAC exceeds the legal limit of .08%, or .04% if you hold a commercial driver's license, or
  • You no longer have the normal use of your mental or physical faculties.

Whether you have the normal use of your faculties is a subjective determination, and the police can make mistakes.

Legal Consequences of a DWI Conviction

Your first DWI in Texas is typically a Class B misdemeanor unless there are aggravating circumstances like a child under 15 in the car; a BAC over .15%; driving with an open container of alcohol; or a serious accident, injury, or death results from your DWI. A conviction for a Class B misdemeanor can result in up to 180 days in jail, court-imposed fines of up to $3,000, a suspended license, and mandatory administrative fines of $3,000 for a first DWI in 36 months.

You could receive a conviction for a felony DWI if:

Penalties for a felony DWI can range from a minimum of 180 days up to 99 years if a first responder dies due to your DWI.

Personal Consequences of a DWI

There are often several collateral consequences that come with a DWI or any other criminal conviction that you should anticipate.

  • Losing custody or visitation: If you currently have a child custody case pending in family court, the court may consider your DWI conviction in determining your custody and visitation. The court may place restrictions on your visitation or only allow supervised visitation. If you already have a custody agreement, your ex-spouse may ask the court to modify it based on your criminal conviction.
  • Difficulty obtaining a loan: With a criminal record, particularly if you have a felony DWI conviction, you may find it difficult to obtain a mortgage, car, or other consumer loan or even rent an apartment.
  • Difficulty getting a job: Particularly with a felony DWI conviction, you may find it hard to get a job, even outside the optometry profession.
  • Losing your driver's license: For a first DWI, you'll have your license suspended, potentially for up to two years.
  • Professional disciplinary action: You could face disciplinary action from the Optometry Board after a DWI, including a public reprimand, suspension, or loss of your license.
  • Loss of a professional license: You could lose your optometry license after a DWI.

Licensing Requirements for Texas Optometrists

Licensing for optometrists is governed by the Texas Occupations Code, and the Optometry Act contained within it. Texas law creates a Board of Optometry empowered to create rules and regulations governing licensed optometrists in the state of Texas.

Issuing a Texas Optometry License

You'll have to submit a criminal history record if you've finished your education but don't have your optometry license yet. You'll need to submit fingerprints to the Board or Department of Public Safety so that they can obtain your criminal record from the Texas DPS and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. See Tex. Occ. Code § 351.2525. Under the statute:

  • (c) The board shall conduct a criminal history record information check of each applicant for a license using information:
    • (1) provided by the individual under this section; and
    • (2) made available to the board by the Department of Public Safety, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and any other criminal justice agency under Chapter 411, Government Code.
  • If you have a criminal conviction for a DWI, the Board may decide to deny you an optometry license in Texas.

Renewing a Texas Optometry License

When you renew your license, you must also submit to a criminal background check according to Texas law. You won't have to submit fingerprints again if you already did during your initial license application. Still, the Board will run another criminal background check through the Texas Department of Public Safety and the FBI. If you don't submit to this requirement, "the board may administratively suspend or refuse to renew the license of a person who does not comply [...]." If you failed to inform the Board of Optometry of a criminal conviction after the last renewal of your license, you could face disciplinary action for "deceit, dishonesty and misrepresentation in the practice of optometry."

Disciplinary Actions for Texas Optometrists

Even if your license isn't up for immediate renewal, you still have an affirmative obligation to inform the Texas Optometry Board of a DWI conviction within 30 days. Under the Board's rules: "A licensee receiving a felony or misdemeanor criminal conviction, including deferred adjudication or court-ordered community or mandatory supervision, with or without an adjudication of guilt or revocation of parole, probation, or court-ordered supervision, other than a Class C Misdemeanor traffic violation, shall report the order of conviction, deferred adjudication or court-ordered community or mandatory supervision, or revocation of parole, probation, or supervision on the next license renewal."

If you fail to notify the Board, you can lose your license because of "deceit, dishonesty and misrepresentation in the practice of optometry." Under the Optometry Act, you can be subject to Board disciplinary action, including suspension or revocation of your license: "The failure of a licensee to report a criminal conviction is deceit, dishonesty, and misrepresentation in the practice of optometry. It authorizes the board to take disciplinary action under §351.501 of the Act. The licensee shall furnish any document relating to the criminal conviction as requested by the Board."

After reporting a criminal conviction, the Board may investigate and take disciplinary action against you. Proceedings for Board hearings aren't governed by the same rules as trials in Texas civil or criminal courts but are governed by the Administrative Procedure Act. If you disagree with the decision of the Optometry Board in a disciplinary hearing, you are entitled to request an Administrative Hearing to appeal the matter under the Texas Occupations Code. See Tex. Occ. Code § 351.507 (2005).

If you are facing a DWI charge in Texas and have a professional optometrist license in the state, you should immediately consult a DWI defense attorney like Doug Murphy. A DWI conviction could have serious repercussions on your career as an optometrist. You need an attorney defending you who will understand the potential consequences of a conviction and someone who can advise you on the best steps forward with the Optometry Board if you have a conviction.

Potential DWI Defenses

It's important to remember that you are innocent until proven guilty. And it's up to the state to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. A DWI defense lawyer who has experience in this area will know and understand the best defense options for your case. Common Texas DWI defenses include:

Challenging Reasonable Suspicion

Before pulling you over in Texas, the police must have reasonable suspicion that you have committed a crime for the stop that led to your DWI arrest. Reasonable suspicion to pull you over can include a traffic infraction, such as running a red light, weaving in traffic, speeding, or driving without headlights at night. The state must typically establish that they had reasonable suspicion through dashboard cameras, police reports, and the testimony of your arresting officer showing your traffic violation. Your attorney may challenge inconsistencies in the officer's testimony and the police reports or video.

Challenging Probable Cause

Before arresting you for DWI, the police need probable cause. Probable cause means they have a reasonable belief that you've committed a criminal act, considering the relevant facts at hand. To support probable cause, the prosecutor may use police reports, video, or the arresting officer's testimony to show your demeanor and behavior during the traffic stop and field sobriety tests. Many police officers wear body cameras these days, and your attorney may use this video to challenge the officer's version of the story. For example, if you appear clearheaded and steady in a field sobriety test, but the officer testifies that you were visibly intoxicated, the officer may lose credibility. Your attorney may also be able to show that your field sobriety tests weren't reliable if:

    • The officer didn't provide you with clear directions,
    • The officer was distracted during testing,
    • The officer isn't familiar with the individual tests,
    • The officer makes you perform a sobriety test on uneven ground or in bad weather,
    • You're wearing heels, sandals, flipflops, or other inappropriate footwear during testing,
    • You're normally clumsy or have poor balance, or
    • You have a medical condition or disability, making results from testing an unreliable measure of your sobriety.

If the arresting officer failed to perform testing according to procedures or failed to adjust the condition for your special circumstances, the weather, or other issues, the results of your field sobriety tests may not be reliable.

Challenging BAC Testing

Blood alcohol testing is far from foolproof. Many people assume that a BAC test showing their blood alcohol over the legal limit is something you can't challenge. But this isn't true.

  • Breath Tests: BAC breath tests measure the evaporated alcohol in your airway; they don't directly measure the alcohol content in your blood. The breath test equipment used by the police also requires specialized training, maintenance, and regular calibration.
  • Blood Tests: Blood tests are generally more accurate than breath tests. However, the police must maintain a chain of custody for your blood sample, ensure the sample is properly collected, maintained at the proper temperature, and doesn't degrade or coagulate before testing.

In many cases, your attorney can challenge BAC testing if:

  • The police administering tests weren't properly trained,
  • The testing equipment wasn't properly cleaned, maintained, or calibrated,
  • The police or medical professionals didn't administer testing correctly,
  • You still had alcohol traces in your mouth, and the police tested a shallow breath rather than a deep breath,
  • You were on prescription medications that could alter the results, or
  • You have a medical condition that can alter the results, such as acid reflux.

The more problems your attorney can point out with your BAC testing, the less reliable your results will become to a judge or jury. An attorney who is Board Certified in Texas DWI defense will understand all the best ways to challenge your BAC results in court.

How Can You Protect Your Optometry License?

If you are facing a DWI charge in Texas and have a professional optometrist license in the state, you should immediately consult an attorney with experience in DWI defense, like Doug Murphy. A DWI conviction could have serious repercussions on your career as an optometrist. You need an attorney defending you who understands the potential consequences of a conviction and is prepared to defend you aggressively. Moreover, you need a lawyer who can advise you on the best steps forward with the Optometry Board if you do have a conviction.

Contact Our Harris County DWI Defense Lawyer for Optometrists

If you're facing a DWI charge in Texas, and you hold an optometry or other professional license in the state, you need an experienced DWI defense attorney on your side. You can face serious personal and professional penalties because of a mistake, and you shouldn't let it ruin your life. Attorney Doug Murphy is Board Certified in Texas DWI Defense and Criminal Defense Law, and he is well-versed in successfully defending complex DWI cases. He understands the consequences you could face with a DWI conviction, and he will work aggressively for the best possible outcome.

Doug is also one of only two Texas attorneys who are Board Certified in both DWI Defense and Criminal Defense Law. U.S. News & World Report's Best Lawyers in America has also named him a Lawyer of the Year for DWI defense in Houston. Doug earned this distinction through the nominations and votes of his fellow lawyers in the Houston area. Contact the Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C. online or call 713-229-8333 to schedule a consultation.

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