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Experienced Third DWI Attorney in Houston, TX

Proven Defense for Your Third DWI Charge in Houston, Texas

Have you been arrested for your third DWI in Houston? Do you have at least two prior DWI convictions? If so, you'll face charges for a Third Degree Felony. Penalties for your third DWI include 2-10 years in prison, fines of $10,000, and an extended period of supervised release. You'll also lose your driver's license for up to two years and be required to install an ignition interlock device.

The specific charges and penalties you'll face will depend on the strength of the state's evidence and any aggravating factors in your case.

What Is a Texas Third-Offense DWI?

Texas law leaves little ambiguity about a third-offense DWI. If you have already suffered two DWI convictions in Texas or elsewhere, Texas law raises a third DWI conviction to a felony offense. Texas Penal Code Section 49.09(b) provides that a DWI offense becomes "a felony of the third degree if it is shown on the trial of the offense that the person has previously been convicted … two times of any other offense relating to the operating of a motor vehicle while intoxicated, operating an aircraft while intoxicated, operating a watercraft while intoxicated, or operating or assembling an amusement ride while intoxicated."

Texas Has No Look-Back Limitation for a Third-Offense DWI

Some states have what lawyers call a "look back" period where a prior DWI conviction will only count toward a third-offense DWI if the prior offense happened relatively recently. Texas has no look-back limitation. If prosecutors convicted you of two prior DWIs, no matter how long ago, your third DWI conviction will be a felony, despite the long time between convictions.

Punishment for a Texas Third-Offense DWI

The penalties for a third-offense DWI are of the same nature as misdemeanor convictions but far more severe. On a third-offense felony DWI charge, you will be at risk for prison time rather than a stint in the county jail. Prison generally means a sentence of more than one year. Prison also means serving time in a different location other than the local county jail, among inmates convicted of more serious crimes. Other penalties beyond prison time are also harsher than if prosecutors had convicted you of a misdemeanor.

Prison Time for a Texas Third-Offense DWI

Texas law has five degrees of felonies, each more severe in punishment: state jail felonies, third-degree felonies, second-degree felonies, first-degree felonies, and capital felonies. Texas Penal Code Section 49.09(b) makes a third-offense DWI a third-degree felony, one of the lower felony offense levels. While first-time DWI offenders are often treated with leniency and a level of understanding, the severe penalties for a third-degree felony reflect how seriously Texas lawmakers take repeat DWI offenses. Texas Penal Code Section 12.34 makes a third-degree felony punishable by imprisonment "of not more than 10 years or less than 2 years."

Probating Prison Time for a Texas Third-Offense DWI

The minimum of two years can be misleading, as it is possible for the court to probate the majority of that sentence. Probation means that if you comply with a program of supervised release and stay out of trouble, you will be able to avoid serving most of that sentence. Ultimately, the sentence is up to the judge in your case. Note, though, that even with a plea bargain probating the sentence, you must still serve a minimum of ten days in jail as part of any plea deal. The judge cannot waive or probate this minimum ten-day sentence. The court may, on the other hand, credit you for time served at your arrest.

If you qualify for probation, the prosecutor must offer it to you as part of a plea bargain. Any plea bargain will also require approval from the judge in your case. To complete probation, you may be required to complete up to 600 hours of community service, attend substance abuse counseling or classes, and take part in DWI intervention programs.

Fines for a Texas Third-Offense DWI

In addition to jail time, you may also face stiff fines upon your conviction of a third-offense DWI. Texas Penal Code Section 12.34 makes a third-degree felony punishable not just by imprisonment of two to ten years but also by a fine of up to $10,000. While the maximum fine in your third-offense DWI case is up to $10,000, the judge is not required to fine you the full amount. But also note that the $10,000 figure or lower fine the judge imposes is only for the fine itself. You may also have to pay court costs, counseling fees, ignition interlock device costs, and other expenses. The total monetary costs of a third-offense DWI conviction can be staggering.

Driver's License Suspension for a Texas Third-Offense DWI

If convicted of a Texas third-offense DWI, you can count on suspension of your driving privileges. Like with jail sentences, the administrative penalties for a DWI increase with each additional conviction. A first-offense DWI may result in a six-month license suspension or less, depending on the circumstances. A second-offense DWI may result in a license suspension of around one year, again depending on the circumstances. A conviction for a third-offense DWI, though, can lead to a two-year suspension of your driver's license.

To get your license back, the court will likely require that you install an ignition interlock device (IID). An IID is a device installed in your vehicle that requires you to blow into it before your vehicle can start. If the IID detects any alcohol on your breath, the vehicle will not be able to start. A license suspension is also costly. You will face fees in order to have your license reinstated. Don't overlook at your DWI arrest that you and your retained DWI attorney may invoke an Administrative License Revocation (ALR) hearing to preserve your driving privileges while your DWI charges are pending.

Additional Consequences for a Texas Third-Offense DWI

With a conviction for your third DWI, you will face additional collateral consequences other than the above formal punishments the Texas Penal Code lists. These collateral consequences can affect everything from your ability to get a job to your right to own a firearm. Collateral consequences can, especially if not properly managed, cause more harm than formal criminal punishments. Some of these consequences can include:

  • Loss of child custody. A family court in a divorce, paternity, or other child custody proceeding may construe a felony DWI charge or conviction as a risk to children and restrict or deny child custody accordingly;
  • Job loss. An employer may construe a felony DWI charge or conviction as an indication of unfitness for employment, especially if that employment requires driving;
  • Loss of professional licenses such as for medicine, nursing, teaching, or pharmacy practice, among many other licensed professions;
  • Difficulty finding housing, especially rental housing, if the property owner or manager construes a felony DWI charge as an indication of financial, safety, and security risks;
  • Losing your right to vote. Texas law prohibits those convicted of felony crimes from voting until having completed their sentence;
  • Loss of your firearms license. Under Texas Penal Code Section 46.04, a person convicted of a felony must generally wait for five years after completing the felony sentence before regaining a firearms license;
  • Loss of government benefits. Federal, state, and local government benefits programs, whether for food, housing, supplemental income, or other goods and services, may bar individuals convicted of a felony from access to those benefits; and
  • Negative impact on your reputation. Don't underestimate the impact of reputational harm from a felony DWI charge or conviction. You may depend on your good reputation for important mentor relationships, volunteer opportunities, scholarships, honors, and awards.

Third DWI With Blood Test

Police can make a DWI arrest if there is some evidence to show that you were intoxicated. In many cases, the police will rely on chemical tests to gather proof of intoxication. Blood tests can offer accurate insight into a driver's level of intoxication. They are typically used when breath tests would be unreliable or if officers believe you have drugs other than alcohol in your system.

Can I Refuse a Blood Test?

Thanks to a Texas court, you can refuse a blood test. However, it's important to understand two things. First, refusing a blood test can come back to haunt you. If you're arrested for DWI anyway, your license can automatically be subject to suspension. You'll have to request a special hearing within 15 days if you want to fight to keep your driving privileges. Second, police can ask for a warrant to get a blood sample if they truly believe that you are intoxicated. A warrant can be issued as long as there is probable cause to support the request.

How Can I Fight a Blood Test?

If you have been arrested for a third DWI with a blood test, it's important to speak with a skilled attorney immediately. Since blood tests are generally considered to be reliable, these cases are generally more complicated to win without the help of a skilled and seasoned lawyer. You'll need the help of a lawyer who has prior experience and success in handling these complex matters.

Doug Murphy knows that the best way to handle cases involving blood tests is by attacking the validity of the test results. Blood tests may be unreliable because:

  • Machinery wasn't properly cleaned or calibrated.
  • Blood was not drawn from a proper source.
  • The chain of custody was broken.
  • The state failed to preserve a sample of the blood for future testing.

If the state can't rely on blood test evidence, it may be forced to reconsider the DWI charge against you.

Third DWI With Breath Test

Breath tests allow police to identify the concentration of alcohol in your blood by analyzing a sample of your breath. Since breath tests don't analyze your blood directly, results tend to be less accurate. When you are arrested for your third DWI with a breath test, it is important to enlist the help of an attorney who knows how to undermine the state's case against you. When the state has breath test evidence, your attorney should search for any potential issue that could have influenced test results. This can include:

  • Police deviation from testing standards
  • Food and/or drink you consumed shortly before testing
  • Health issues and/or prescription medications
  • Your age, weight, and gender, and
  • Failure to properly calibrate and maintain testing equipment.

Breath tests results can be vulnerable to attacks. Hire an attorney who can assess your case and determine all possible issues that could have affected your breath test results.

Do I Have to Take a Breathalyzer?

In most situations, the answer is no. However, there are certain "no refusal" weekends when—if you refuse—obtaining warrants to collect a blood sample is relatively easy. Refusal can also have administrative consequences. If you are arrested for your third DWI with a breath test the state can suspend your license.

Third DWI With an Accident

If you have at least two prior DWI convictions, your third offense will be a felony. However, it is possible to face aggravated charges and penalties if your third DWI involves an accident. The specific charges you'll face will depend on whether you caused property damage, injury, or death.

DWI Causing Property Damage

If you are arrested for DWI involving an accident you may be charged with reckless damage or criminal mischief. Reckless damage is a Class C Misdemeanor. This may be charged in addition to your third degree felony DWI charges. Criminal mischief can be a misdemeanor or a felony. The level of the charge typically depends on the extent of the damage you cause. As a result, you can be charged with more than one felony if your third DWI causes significant property damage. You will also be required to pay for the damage.

DWI Causing Serious Injury

Accidents causing serious bodily injury will not be handled lightly. Serious bodily injury occurs when a victim suffers a substantial risk of death or experiences disfigurement, loss, or impairment to the body. When your third DWI involves an accident causing serious bodily injury, you can be charged with intoxication assault. Intoxication assault is also a third-degree felony, punishable by 2-10 years in prison. You may also be required to pay restitution to the victim(s).

DWI Causing Death

Did your third DWI involve a fatal accident? The death can be instant or occur hours, days, or weeks later. If so, you may also face criminal charges for intoxication manslaughter. This a second-degree felony in Texas, punishable by 2-20 years in prison.

Raising Defenses to Texas Third-Offense DWI Charges

Preparing every case as if it will go to trial is the key to the best possible defense. Even if your case will likely resolve by plea bargain, the way to get the best plea bargain is often to prepare the most aggressive defense. Some of the defenses DWI defense attorney Doug Murphy may investigate, raise, and advocate for your defense of Texas third-offense DWI charges include:

  • That the police had no reasonable suspicion of a crime to require you to stop your vehicle;
  • That the police had no probable cause to test you for intoxication after your stop;
  • That you were not operating the vehicle at the time of your DWI arrest as the law requires for the DWI charge;
  • That your operation of the vehicle was not in a public place as the law requires to support the DWI charge;
  • That your blood test results do not show an alcohol level exceeding the legal limit;
  • That police made no other reliable observation indicating that you were intoxicated when arrested;
  • That the police violated your constitutional rights, such that the court should suppress the incriminating evidence;
  • That the police may not have properly calibrated their testing equipment, leaving the test results inadmissible or unreliable; and
  • That the police and prosecution may not have maintained a reliable chain of custody for the allegedly incriminating evidence.

Pursuing Every Strategy to Defeat Texas Third-Offense DWI Charges

While raising specific defenses to a felony third-offense DWI charge may prove to be the winning move, strategies surrounding the contested elements of the alleged felony DWI crime can be just as important to a successful felony defense. Some of the strategies that DWI attorney Doug Murphy may pursue for your best outcome include:

  • To negotiate reasonable bail terms so that you can get out of jail and remain out of jail to care for your family, work, care for yourself, and lead a normal life while working with attorney Murphy to aid in your DWI defense;
  • Enter the necessary not-guilty plea at your arraignment so as to preserve all of your procedural and constitutional rights to a fair proceeding, including an effective defense;
  • Move for early dismissal of the felony DWI charge if the preliminary examination shows that the prosecution lacks admissible evidence on each element of the felony DWI charge;
  • Invoke an Administrative License Revocation (ALR) hearing to preserve your driver's license so that you can care for your family, work, and participate effectively in your felony DWI defense;
  • Plea bargain with the prosecutor for voluntary dismissal or charge reduction to your best advantage, based on thorough preparation of your defense, including mitigating evidence;
  • Draft, file, and argue motions to suppress evidence for each violation of your constitutional rights to prevent the prosecution from presenting incriminating evidence gained by violating your rights;
  • Retain expert toxicology witnesses to help challenge at trial any incriminating field sobriety, breathalyzer, and blood test results, based on the latest science;
  • Retain and call other expert witnesses and identify and call lay witnesses making observations helpful to your defense;
  • Prepare and execute thorough cross-examination of all prosecution witnesses at trial, showing reasonable doubt in the truthfulness and accuracy of their testimony;
  • Move for and obtain dismissal of the prosecution's case at trial for lack of proof on any of the elements of the felony DWI charge;
  • Draft, file, and argue post-trial motions and appeals challenging all errors and irregularities in the proceedings while showing how they affected the outcome; and
  • When prevailing in defense of the felony DWI charges, help you pursue your right to the expunction of arrest records to keep your record clear of any indication of criminal wrongdoing.

Contact Our Houston Third-Time DWI Attorney Today

Have you been arrested for your third DWI in Houston? If you have two prior DWI convictions, you'll be charged with a third-degree felony. The consequences of a felony conviction can stay with you for life, even after you have completed your criminal sentence. Contact the Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C. for immediate assistance. Our Houston DWI defense lawyers are prepared to help you fight to protect your future. Call 713-229-8333 today to learn more.

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