Your third DWI will be very different from your previous two. Why? First and second DWIs are misdemeanors. The third time around, driving while intoxicated is a felony. In Texas, felonies are the most serious crimes you can commit. As a result, the penalties for felony offenses are much harsher. A conviction on a third DWI carries mandatory jail time and can result in the loss of your license for up to two years.
Do police have blood test results showing that you were intoxicated at the time of your arrest? Are you looking for the best Houston DWI attorney? You need to speak with a board certified DWI specialist attorney and experienced Houston criminal DWI attorney immediately. DWI cases involving blood tests can be very complex and difficult to navigate. In fact, some attorneys won't even consider trying your DWI case if you have failed a blood test because they do not know how to properly attack and defeat the blood test. You will need to hire an attorney who not only knows how to attack the validity of blood results but has taught other lawyers how to attack blood tests.
Doug Murphy has been handling felony DWI matters for more than 19 years. As a board certified DWI Defense attorney, he has the tools and experience that are necessary to help you with your third felony DWI case. Call the Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C. today to schedule a free consultation.
Driving While Intoxicated in Texas
It is illegal to operate a motor vehicle in the state of Texas while intoxicated. You will be considered to be intoxicated if:
- Your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) exceeds the legal limit; or
- You lack the normal use of mental or physical faculties because you have consumed drugs or alcohol.
The state only has to prove that you were intoxicated by one of these standards. This means that you could potentially face DWI charges even if your BAC is fairly low. If there is evidence to support the fact that you aren't fit to drive, it can be used to establish intoxication. Your blood alcohol level is simply one of many factors in a DWI case.
Blood Testing in Houston TX DWI Cases
Police tend to rely on chemical testing (e.g., breath tests and blood tests) to gather evidence of intoxication. Breath tests tend to be inaccurate, unreliable, and limited in scope. Blood tests, on the other hand, tend to be much better indicators of intoxication. Unlike breath tests, they are not limited to determining how much alcohol is in your system. Blood tests are often used when:
- Breath test results are inconclusive, or
- An officer believes that you are impaired by legal or illegal drugs.
Can I Refuse a Blood Test?
Yes. In 2014, a Texas court held that the state's implied consent law was unconstitutional. The implied consent law meant that you were automatically presumed to have agreed to chemical testing when you got behind the wheel of the car. In other words, driving triggered consent to provide a sample of your breath or blood if you were ever suspected of DWI.
Since the state's implied consent law is no longer valid, you have the right to refuse chemical testing. The fact that you refuse to test can't be used as evidence of guilt in a criminal DWI case. However, there can be serious consequences to rejecting a breath or blood test. The state can suspend your driver's license for up to two years if you are later convicted of that DWI.
Search Warrants and Blood Tests
Even though you do have the right to refuse to test, police may still be able to get a sample of your blood using a search warrant. Search warrants can be issued if an officer can establish that there is probable cause to believe that you are intoxicated. Probable cause could be based on:
- The odor of drugs or alcohol in the car
- The smell of alcohol on your breath
- Failed field sobriety tests
- Inability to communicate with police
- Roadside breathalyzer test results
- Impaired motor function, or
- Hostility or aggression to the officer.
Any combination of these factors could be used to support an application for a warrant. Once the officer has a search warrant in hand, they will be legally authorized to forcibly take a sample of your blood for testing.
How Do Blood Tests Work?
Blood tests are more expensive than breath tests but tend to offer better insight into whether or not you are intoxicated. Police will instruct a trained professional to draw a sample of your blood. That sample will be mixed with specific amounts of anticoagulant agents and preservatives.
Once the sample is prepared, it will be run through a testing device. This device analyzes the sample and determines how much alcohol is present in your system. The reading is known as your blood alcohol concentration. Since the reading is taken from an actual sample of your blood, the results can be very accurate.
Challenging Blood Test Results in Houston
Blood tests are generally the most accurate way to determine the amount of drugs or alcohol in your system. However, like other tests, results can be affected by a variety of factors. One of the best ways to challenge the validity of a blood test is by identifying anything that could have compromised the result. The result itself cannot be accurate if the outside factors have manipulated the testing process.
At the Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C., we will thoroughly investigate your blood test results and look for factors that could have altered the results. This may include:
- Deviations from standard testing practices and protocols
- Failure to maintain and fix blood testing equipment
- Blood sample was not drawn by a trained professional
- Blood sample was drawn from an artery, rather than a vein
- Your skin was cleaned with alcohol before the sample was drawn
- An insufficient amount of blood was drawn
- Blood samples were not mixed with appropriate amounts of preservatives and/or anticoagulants
- Blood samples were not stored correctly, or
- Plasma blood tests results were not properly re-calibrated to whole blood value.
The state should also draw an extra sample of your blood. This extra sample can be used at a later date to confirm or undermine the first test results. The validity of those first results can be questionable if police failed to preserve an extra sample.
Third DWI in Texas
If you have two prior DWI convictions, you will face third-degree felony charges for your third offense.
You will be subject to certain administrative penalties the third time you are arrested on suspicion of DWI.
License Suspension: Police will confiscate your license when you are placed under arrest for your third DWI. You will get a temporary driving permit when you are released from custody. If you want to get your license back, you'll have to file a formal request for a special administrative hearing within 15 days.
This hearing will not guarantee that you can keep your license. A judge will review your case and decide whether or not you can continue to drive. The fact that this is your third DWI within ten years will certainly be a factor in the judge's decision. Your license can be suspended for up to 12 months. If you are convicted for your third DWI and refused chemical testing, you can lose your license for up to 24 months.
Occupational License: You may be able to get a restricted occupational license if you can prove that you need to drive for work or to care for your family. This license is not guaranteed and will be subject to very strict limitations.
Ignition Interlock Device: If you haven't already been required to install an ignition interlock device, chances are the state will require it after your third DWI. The device prevents you from operating the vehicle if there is alcohol on your breath. The cost of an ignition interlock device can be prohibitive.
License Surcharge: When you get your license back you will be required to pay a license surcharge. The state can require you to pay $2,000 each year for the first three years you have your license.
If you have two prior DWI convictions your third offense will be charged as a third-degree felony.
Imprisonment: Third-degree felony DWI is punishable by two to ten years in prison. You will be required to spend a minimum of 10 days behind bars if you are convicted of a third DWI.
Probation: Probation is a type of supervised release. It is often used to supplement other penalties for your third DWI. Your probation will come with a set of specific terms. These may include mandatory counseling, community service hours, alcohol or drug counseling, or DWI intervention programs. You will have to satisfy all of the terms of your probation before it can be completed.
Fines: Your third DWI can also carry up to $10,000 in fines. However, the cost of your DWI can be much greater when other costs are factored in. These may include court costs, counseling fees, and related DWI assessments.
Collateral Consequences of DWI
Life can be tough when you have a felony on your criminal record. Collateral consequences are social and civil penalties that can seriously disrupt your life. These penalties are not necessarily related to your specific crime. Instead, they exist because you have been convicted of a felony.
Collateral consequences of your third DWI conviction can include:
- Loss of gun ownership rights
- Inability to work in certain job fields (e.g., education or healthcare)
- Difficulty finding a job
- Difficulty renting a home or apartment
- Difficulty getting a financial loan
- Inability to collect certain government benefits, and
- Loss of the right to vote.
If you have been charged with a third DWI you need the help of an experienced Houston DWI attorney. The consequences of a conviction can have devastating consequences for you and your family. Call the Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C. for help today.
Defending Third DWI with a Blood Test in Houston
It becomes harder to defend a DWI the third time around because of your history and the consequences are so much more severe as a felony DWI than as a misdemeanor DWI. The state will point to the fact to a jury that you have two prior DWI convictions to prove that you are guilty of DWI. You will need a skilled and board certified DWI specialist and Houston criminal DWI attorney on your side if you want to secure the best possible outcome in your case.
Doug Murphy has over 19 years of experience handling the most complex felony DWI cases. He knows how to attack blood test results and prevent the state from building a strong case against you. His aggressive approach to your defense will help to protect your future. Call today to schedule your free case evaluation.