If the Houston police pulled you over for street or drag racing and the stop led to a charge of driving while intoxicated, you probably have many questions about how this happened and what you should do next. You're not alone in this; more than 15,000 people face DWI charges in Harris County every year. The most important thing to remember is that a DWI charge is not a conviction. An experienced DWI attorney can help evaluate your options and develop the best possible defense for your case.
What is a DWI in Texas?
Under Texas law, a court can convict you of DWI if you are operating a vehicle in a public area and:
- Your blood alcohol concentration is .08% or higher, or
- You don't have the normal use of your physical or mental faculties,
- Because of using alcohol, a dangerous drug, a controlled substance, or a combination of two or more of these.
So, in Texas, the police can charge you with DWI if they have probable cause based on your behavior, even if your BAC isn't over .08%. A traffic stop resulting in a DWI arrest typically follows a predictable pattern, consisting of:
- A traffic stop,
- Interaction with the police,
- A field sobriety test,
- A BAC test, and
- A DWI arrest.
The Traffic Stop for Street Racing
Houston police can't just pull you over because they don't like how you look, or they don't like the car you drive. Rather, they must have “reasonable suspicion” that you've committed a crime. “Reasonable suspicion” means that an objective person, given the facts and circumstances surrounding your stop, would believe that you're engaged in illegal behavior. This standard isn't as stringent as the “probable cause” standard you may have heard is necessary for an arrest.
However, if the police pull you over for street racing, any traffic violations you committed while drag racing will likely meet the definition of “reasonable suspicion.” Street racing often involves more serious traffic violations such as reckless driving or excessive speeding. However, minor traffic violations like failure to yield or driving five miles over the speed limit can also qualify as reasonable suspicion for the police to pull you over.
Interaction with the Police
During the traffic stop, the police will observe your behavior to determine whether you may be intoxicated. The police will watch for poor balance or coordination, bloodshot eyes, slurred speech, or an odor of alcohol or drugs coming from you or the car. During your stop for street racing, if the police suspect that you're intoxicated, they may ask you to perform a field sobriety test.
Field Sobriety Tests
The police often use field sobriety tests to determine if people are intoxicated during traffic stops. During your traffic stop, you're the police may ask you to perform a field sobriety test if you smell like alcohol or drugs, have slurred speech, or exhibit another behavior that makes the officer suspect you may be intoxicated. Field sobriety tests may include:
- The walk and turn test,
- The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test, and
- The one leg stand test.
It's crucial to remember that a police officer's determination that you “failed” a field sobriety test is entirely subjective. Sober people fail field sobriety tests all the time; the tests are notoriously unreliable. You could fail a field sobriety test simply because:
- You didn't receive clear instruction from the officer,
- You don't have perfect balance or coordination,
- You have a medical condition that affected your performance,
- You have a speech impediment, poor hearing, or another communication impairment,
- You have a mobility issue like bad knees or a bad back,
- The road where you're performing the test is poorly surfaced or gravel,
- You're not wearing comfortable shoes,
- There's heavy traffic, or
- It's raining or windy.
However, if the police determine that you've failed a field sobriety test, they may ask you to take a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) test voluntarily.
If the police ask you to take a BAC test, they may ask you to take a breath test in the field. If you refuse, they'll likely seek a warrant for BAC blood testing. While no BAC test is ever 100% reliable, blood tests are typically more accurate and reliable than breath tests. If you have been drinking, and you can choose between a breath and a blood test, your attorney may find it easier to attack the results of a breath test.
The DWI Arrest
The police must have probable cause to believe you were driving while intoxicated to arrest you on suspicion of DWI. “Probable cause” is a higher standard than the “reasonable suspicion” police must have to pull you over for a traffic violation. It means that the police have a reasonable belief, considering the facts and circumstances of your stop, your interaction with police, your BAC, and your field sobriety tests, that you are intoxicated.
The police also need probable cause to search you or your car and to support a warrant for a BAC test. However, if your BAC is over .08%, the police will have probable cause for a DWI arrest. Moreover, some reckless driving behaviors can also support probable cause for an arrest or a BAC test warrant, including:
- Driving the wrong way down a road,
- Driving at dangerous speeds,
- Trying to evade or outrun the police,
- Weaving between lanes, or
- Failing to stop at a red light or stop sign.
If the police pull you over for drag racing, they may already believe they have probable cause for BAC testing or an arrest.
Hire an Expert in Texas DWI Defense
If you're facing a DWI charge along with reckless driving or other charges related to street racing, it's a serious matter, and you need an attorney with experience handling complex DWI and criminal matters. Attorney Doug Murphy is an expert in DWI defense and is Board Certified in both Criminal Defense Law and DWI Defense. He is one of only two Texas attorneys Board Certified in these specialties. Rely on 2021 Houston DWI Lawyer of the Year Doug Murphy to defend you in these complicated cases.
Find out why the Houston media refer to Doug as the “Drinking Driver's Best Friend.” He can help you with your case too. Call the Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C. at 713-229-8333 or contact them online to schedule your consultation.