When you're facing a DWI charge, it's already a stressful situation. You're undoubtedly concerned about whether you could end up serving jail time, lose your driver's license, or pay hefty fines. But on top of that, a DWI can affect your professional career, especially if you hold a trusted position in the community, like a teacher. That's what an 8th-grade teacher from Houston ISD discovered recently.
Teacher's DWI Arrest in Harris County
Police arrested the teacher, an employee of Patrick Henry Middle School, in March of 2023 when they found him allegedly passed out behind the wheel of his car in the 22300 block of Hildebrandt Road. According to law enforcement officials, he was asleep behind the wheel of his car and stopped in a lane of moving traffic. Police reported that he showed signs of intoxication when he woke up, and they performed standard field sobriety tests.
In a statement to ABC13, HISD said, “The employee is still employed with the district. The district receives notification and follows standard procedures for reviewing and addressing any case of an employee's arrest.” This was the man's third DWI charge. He was already out on bond related to two previous DWI charges from 2019 and 2022.
DWI Charges in Texas, Sleeping Behind the Wheel
You don't have to be driving or asleep behind the wheel in a moving line of traffic to face a DWI charge in Texas. Unfortunately, you can still face DWI charges even if you do the responsible thing and pull over to sleep it off. In Texas, a DWI involves:
- Operating a motor vehicle,
- In a public location,
- While intoxicated.
You can be “operating” a motor vehicle if you are behind the wheel of the car, with the keys in the ignition. Even if you're pulled into a parking lot or the side of the road with the keys in the ignition to listen to the radio or turn on the air conditioning, this could potentially be “operating” a car. Since "operation is not defined by statute in Texas, an experienced board certified DWI lawyer who knows the law and how to persuasively advance the "operation" defense in Texas can be the difference between guilty and not guilty result or verdict.
“Intoxication” also has a broader definition than simply having a blood alcohol level over the legal limit. In Texas, you may be intoxicated if:
- You have a BAC over 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 mental or physical faculties is a subjective determination, but this subjective judgment of the police can still lead to a DWI charge.
How a DWI Can Affect Your Teaching Career
Teachers in Texas are held to very high standards. An arrest or a conviction for a DWI can undermine the school district's trust in your abilities and judgment. Plus, all licensed teachers in the state must comply with the Code of Ethics and Standard Practice for Texas Educators from the Texas Education Agency. Under Rule 247.2, teachers “shall comply with state regulations, written local school board policies, and other state and federal laws.”
Teachers can also face disciplinary action for lying about or attempting to conceal a DWI conviction. The code of ethics states, “[t]he educator shall not intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly misrepresent his or her employment history, criminal history, and/or disciplinary record when applying for subsequent employment.” Violating the code of ethics can lead to a suspension or loss of your teaching license.
In Harris County, you can face discipline for SBEC violations, including “conviction of a crime directly related to the duties and responsibilities of the education profession.” The SBEC considers many crimes “directly related” to your duties and responsibilities as a teacher, one of which is two or more DWIs within 12 months. Penalties you could face from the SBEC include:
- Removal from educator prep programs,
- Becoming unable to renew or obtain a teaching certificate,
- Receiving an unpublished or published reprimand,
- A license suspension, or
- Having your license permanently revoked.
While a single DWI may not automatically lead to losing your license, it is a cause for concern. Moreover, the SBEC has broad discretion in these matters. Based on your case's circumstances, they could determine that a single DWI warrants disciplinary action. Don't risk the loss of your teaching license. You need an expert in DWI defense to protect your rights after a DWI charge.
Hire an Expert in Texas DWI Defense
If you're a teacher facing a DWI charge in the Houston area, you shouldn't try to handle this alone, and you shouldn't plead guilty until you've discussed your case with an expert in DWI defense. An expert can evaluate your case and walk you through all the potential ramifications of a criminal conviction on your teaching career. Attorney Doug Murphy is an expert in both DWI Defense and Criminal Defense Law. He holds Texas State Board Certifications in both these complex specialties. Doug and his team at the Doug Murphy Law Firm also have extensive experience defending professionals and their livelihoods in complex DWI cases.
Doug is also well known among his peers and the legal community as an expert in DWI Defense. He serves as the Dean of the National College for DUI Defense conducted at Harvard's School of Law. Doug has also served as President of the Harris County Criminal Lawyers Association and for two terms on the board of directors. He also served as co-chair of the DWI Committee for the Texas Criminal Lawyers Association. In 2012, the Harris County Criminal Lawyers Association awarded Doug the Sharon Levine Unsung Hero Award for exposing flaws in the Houston PD's Breath Alcohol Testing vans, which led to their decommissioning. Recently, U.S. News and World Report's Best Lawyers in America named Doug a “Lawyer of the Year” for Houston DWI defense in 2021 and 2023.
Doug and the skilled team at the Doug Murphy Law Firm have been helping Texans like you through DWI charges and navigating the potential professional ramifications for years. Find out how they can help you too. Call the Doug Murphy Law Firm at 713-229-8333 or contact them online to schedule your consultation today.