Three members of the Texas Thin Blue Line Law Enforcement Motorcycle Club died in July after being struck by a drunk driver in the middle of the afternoon. The accident happened on Highway 16 between Medina and Kerrville while the group was out for a ride celebrating the club's 11th birthday.
The driver allegedly crossed the center line into the group, killing the victims and injuring four more motorcyclists. Police charged the driver with driving while intoxicated (DWI) and multiple counts of intoxication manslaughter and intoxication assault. While the incident is a horrifying reminder of what can happen when someone drinks and gets behind the wheel, it's also a reminder that the same DWI laws apply to both drivers of cars and motorcycles.
Driving While Intoxicated in Texas
Texas law defines intoxication as:
“(A) 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
(B) having an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more.”
Tex. Penal Code § 49.01 (2001).
Someone commits DWI if “the person is intoxicated while operating a motor vehicle in a public place.”
- A DWI is a Class B misdemeanor punished by a minimum of 72 hours of confinement.
- If the intoxicated person has an open container of alcohol in the vehicle or motorcycle, it is a Class B misdemeanor with a minimum of six days in jail. Possessing an open container does not include possessing alcohol in a locked trunk, glove compartment, or the compartment behind the last seat of the vehicle.
- If the intoxicated driver's blood alcohol level is 0.15 or more, it is a Class A misdemeanor.
See Tex. Penal Code § 49.04 (2003).
A motorcycle is considered a motor vehicle under Texas law. See Tex. Penal Code §§ 49.01(3), 32.34(a)(2). As a result, motorcycles are governed by the same DWI rules as cars, trucks, and even farm equipment. If the police pull you over for a suspected DWI on a motorcycle, you should do a few things:
- Be polite. Even if you plan to refuse a field sobriety test or a breathalyzer, be cordial.
- You have the right to refuse. You can refuse to do a sobriety test or breathalyzer, but the officer will likely arrest you anyway. If the police officer smells alcohol on your breath or drove erratically, it's unlikely they'll just let you go.
- Hire a lawyer. Even the consequences for a first-time DWI offense can be severe, with fines up to $2,000, jail time between three and 180 days, and up to two years of license suspension.
Even if braving court on your own tempts you, it's not a good idea. An experienced DWI attorney can explain your options, the possible penalties, and how having a criminal conviction can affect a professional license or security clearance. If you've been arrested for DWI, you need a Board Certified DWI attorney who can fight to get you the best possible outcome.