Have you recently been arrested for your first DWI in Texas? Did police use a breath test to determine if you recently consumed alcohol? If so, you need the help of an experienced Houston DWI attorney. Breathalyzers are inherently unreliable, and it is important to attack the validity of any breath test results the state may use to support criminal DWI charges.
At the Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C., our attorneys know that your future is at stake and will fight aggressively to minimize the consequences of your first Houston DWI arrest. Call us today to schedule a free case evaluation with our talented legal team.
Understanding DWI in Texas
In the state of Texas, it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle in a public place while intoxicated. What does it mean to be intoxicated? Texas law provides two definitions. Intoxicated is defined in Penal Code 49.01 as:
- Not 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 a breath (BrAC) or blood alcohol concentration (BAC) that exceeds the legal limit of .08 percent.
This means that you can face criminal DWI charges in Houston even if your BAC is not above the legal limit. If police believe that you have consumed a quantity of drugs, alcohol, or another substance that prevents you from driving safely, you can also be charged with DWI.
Can I Refuse a Breathalyzer After My DWI Arrest?
When you are arrested on suspicion of DWI in Houston, police will likely ask you to agree to submit to chemical testing. Prior to 2014, police would not have even asked for your consent to testing your breath or blood. However, the Supreme Court of Texas determined that the state's implied consent law - which basically said that getting behind the wheel triggered automatic consent to chemical testing - was unconstitutional.
Today, you have the right to refuse to provide a sample of your breath and/or blood after a DWI arrest. In fact, juries in Houston must determine if there is clear and convincing evidence to show that you voluntarily consented to take a breath test before they can even consider if you are guilty of DWI.
While you can refuse to comply with an officer's request to take a breathalyzer, it is important to know your refusal will not be without consequence. Your license will be suspended for a period of 180 days for a first-time DWI conviction. You will have 15 days to request a hearing to fight this suspension.
However, refusing to provide a sample of your breath can sometimes make it considerably more difficult for the state to gather sufficient evidence to convict you on DWI charges. Remember, even though you have been arrested on suspicion of DWI, the state has the responsibility of proving that you are guilty of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. This is an incredibly high standard that will be difficult to satisfy without substantial evidence of your guilt.
That said, the police officer may request a warrant for a blood test. Blood tests are generally more reliable than breath tests, but they are still very much contestable. There are things to consider on both sides when you determine if refusing a breathalyzer is what you want to do.
Breathalyzer Evidence in Texas DWI Cases
While you don't have to agree to take a breathalyzer, your refusal could be seen as a sign of guilt. If you do take a breath test and it shows that you have alcohol in your system, don't panic. Breathalyzers and breath test results are inherently unreliable. Fighting the validity of the breathalyzer instrument and/or the results can be a successful defense tactic.
In Houston, the machine used to test your blood alcohol concentration is called the Intoxilyzer 9000. The machine takes and analyzes a sample of your deep lung breath to determine the concentration of alcohol in your system. Remember, breath tests can only determine how much alcohol is present in your breath.
The result of your breathalyzer must be inserted into a complex conversion formula that allows police to assess the concentration of alcohol in your blood. This converted result is then used as evidence in your DWI case. This conversion can leave a lot of room for error, especially if police are not properly trained in the use of the device or do not perform strictly to the rules.
The Intoxilyzer 9000 is a specialized and temperamental piece of equipment. In order to provide accurate results, the breathalyzer must be stored, cleaned, calibrated, and used according to very specific guidelines. Many police officers do not have the training that is necessary to ensure that the breathalyzer is maintained to ensure the most accurate results while other police officers are just lazy and do not maintain the equipment properly.
One approach for defending your first DWI arrest with a breath test is to attack the validity of those breath test results. Houston DWI attorney Doug Murphy will request all records that are pertinent to the maintenance, use, and calibration of the Intoxilyzer 9000 that was used in your DWI case. Any deviations from protocol can be helpful in getting the breath test results thrown out.
Breathalyzer Results are Temperamental
Just because a breath test shows that you have alcohol in your system does not mean that the results are accurate. There are many factors that can contribute to a faulty breath test. Any of these factors could be used to argue that the breath test results in your Houston DWI case should be excluded from evidence.
Factors that may affect the validity and reliability of breath test results include:
- Not taking deep lung breath samples, which most accurately reflect the concentration of alcohol in the system
- Police officers lacking training in the use of the Intoxilyzer 9000
- Improper use, maintenance, calibration, and/or storage of the breathalyzer device
- Your age, weight, and gender
- Substances in the mouth that can throw off test results
- Medical conditions, and/or
- Prescription drug (or even over-the-counter) consumption.
If you have been arrested for DWI in Houston and consented to a breath test, it is important to speak with an experienced DWI attorney immediately. At Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C., we will thoroughly investigate your case, analyze breathalyzer results, and determine which arguments may be helpful in getting those breath test results suppressed or thrown out of your case.
Consequences of Your First DWI Conviction in Houston
In Texas, DWI is both a criminal offense and a motor vehicle offense. So, in addition to facing criminal penalties for driving while intoxicated, you will face some harsh administrative penalties as well.
Criminal DWI Consequences
A first-time DWI with a breath test is a Class B Misdemeanor in Texas, punishable by:
- A maximum of 180 days in jail; and
- $2,000 in criminal fines.
If the results of your breath test show that your blood alcohol concentration was .15 percent or greater, your first-time DWI will be punishable by up to 1 year in jail and $4,000 in fines.
Administrative DWI Consequences
If you fail a breath test or refuse to submit to testing, your first-time DWI will also be punishable by the suspension of your license for 90 to 180 days. Police will typically confiscate your license immediately after your arrest and issue a “Notice of Suspension.” This Notice is basically a temporary permit to drive for 15 days following your arrest.
If you want to fight the suspension, you must request a special administrative hearing during this 15-day period. Failure to request a hearing can result in the continued suspension of your driving privileges.
If your license is suspended after your first-time DWI conviction, you may be eligible for a restricted occupational license. This can allow you to travel to work or school or perform necessary household duties.
Fighting First-Time DWI Charges in Houston
Have you recently been arrested on suspicion of DWI in Houston? Did you fail or refuse to take a breath test? It's important to know that the consequences, including collateral consequences of a first-time DWI in Texas, can be quite severe. In addition to losing your driving privileges, you may also end up behind bars. However, breath test results can be incredibly unreliable and should always be challenged.
At the Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C., our experienced Houston DWI attorneys can help you fight any criminal DWI charges you face. Breathalyzer results are unreliable and we know how to prevent the state from using those results against you. Call us today to schedule a free case evaluation with our skilled legal team. We will review the details of your alleged DWI, determine where the state's case against you is weakest, and devise a custom legal strategy for your defense. With our help, you may be able to escape the consequences of your first DWI arrest. Call today to learn more.