Fort Worth DWI Attorney
We know you have a lot of options when it comes to finding a DWI attorney. The truth is not all lawyers are created equally. Our firm prides itself in the experience we bring to the table, the results we have obtained, and most of all the clients we have come to know and hearing what they say about how we’ve changed their lives. This page is full of information about our experience, how DWIs are investigated, prosecuted, and defended, and information that will help guide you through the next few months of your life. You don’t have to take our word for it though, hear from an actual client who had his life flash before his eyes when he was accused of a felony DWI:
Being arrested for a DWI is something that can happen to just about anyone who drinks in Texas. Unlike most criminal offenses in Texas, a person does not have to intend to commit the offense of DWI. When you are arrested for DWI, you are going to have a lot of questions about things you’ve never had to think about before. Our attorneys are experienced in handling DWIs – first as prosecutors and now as experienced DWI defense attorneys. We’ve put together this page to help guide you through the process. We’ve defended police officers, pilots, professors…the list goes on. We are here to help. Call us at (817) 203-2220 or fill out the form below for a complimentary case evaluation.
What is a DWI in Texas?
A DWI in Texas is the offense of Driving While Intoxicated. DWIs and DUIs are two distinct offenses in Texas. A DWI may be a Class B misdemeanor all the way up to a felony offense. A DUI, on the other hand, is a Class C misdemeanor that is punishable by only a fine. Our Fort Worth DWI Lawyers have compiled this guide to answer many of the questions you will have if you are arrested for an intoxication-related offense.
In order to prove a person was driving while intoxicated, the State must show:
- the person (the named Defendant)
- a motor vehicle
- in a specified county in Texas
- in a public place
- while the defendant was intoxicated.
How long can a person go to jail for a DWI in Texas?
A first time DWI, without any enhancing factors, is a Class B misdemeanor with a special punishment range for three days to 180 days in county jail. Misdemeanor DWIs can be enhanced with one prior DWI or with an allegation that the person’s Blood Alcohol Concentration was a .15 or greater at the time the blood was tested. Either of these aggravating factors will increase the range of punishment to 1 year in jail.
Free Case Evaluation:
There’s an almost overwhelming amount of information on this page. If you’d rather talk to one of our attorneys, send us a message for a complimentary DWI case evaluation.
How are DWIs Investigated?
You likely know when you are under investigation for Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) or similar intoxication-related offense when an officer approaches you, retrieves your license and registration and then asks “How much have you had to drink tonight?” However, most officers began looking for signs of intoxication long before you become aware of it, long before you were even pulled over.
To understand what officers are looking for when investigating a DWI you have to understand how they were trained. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Manual is used to train officers all across the country in DWI detection. DWI detection is the whole process of identifying and gathering evidence to determine whether you should be arrested for a DWI. This process begins when the officer suspects you of DWI and ends when the decision for arrest or release is made. The NHTSA manual teaches police officers there are three main phases of DWI detection:
REASONABLE SUSPICION BASED UPON 911 CALLS
Sometimes reasonable suspicion can be established by a civilian reporting your actions to the police. A civilian tip must be deemed reliable before officers can use it as the basis for a stop. Generally speaking, anonymous tips are not reliable because the caller does not put themselves in a position to be held accountable for the information they report to the police. In order to determine whether a 911 tip is sufficient to establish cause for the police to stop your vehicle, a totality of the circumstances must be considered.
For example, in Navarette v. California, an unidentified citizen observed reckless driving behavior and called 911 to report the activity. In Navarette, the Supreme Court of the United States determined probable cause was formed based upon a 911 call from an unidentified person for the following reasons: (1) a 911 bore adequate evidence of reliability because the caller was detailing an eye witness account; (2) there was only a short time between the reported reckless driving and 911 call; (3) and the fact that the 911 system is no longer really anonymous due to the recording of call back numbers. When factors like these tend toward finding an informant reliable, police officers may consider the information in establishing reasonable suspicion or probable cause to conduct a stop. That means it would not be necessary for police to continuing following you to establish their own, independent reason for a legal stop.
The first phase of a DWI investigation, Vehicle in Motion, begins when an officer’s attention is first drawn to your vehicle. What are DWI officers looking for when you are driving? During Phase One, officers are asking themselves whether they should stop your vehicle. Just because an officer has a reason to stop your vehicle does not mean they will. Even if an officer decides to stop your vehicle, does not mean they will do so right away. It is not uncommon for officers to follow behind you with their in-car cameras recording your driving behavior for additional evidence. However, this phase is not limited to their initial observation or decision to stop your vehicle, but also their observations of how to stop your vehicle. Did yield to the officer immediately? Did you use your blinker to pull over? Did you pull over in a safe place? Did you hit a curb when pulling over to the side of the road? Did you park correctly? TIP: Every move you make matters so be aware of your surroundings and follow all traffic laws. You could be building a case against yourself or giving an officer reason to let you go.
Using their sense of sight, officers are trained to look for the following before you even step out of the vehicle:
Avoiding eye contact
Slow or lethargic movements
Open alcohol containers
Closed alcohol containers
Officers may ask you to complete divided attention tasks. For example, a Grand Prairie officer may ask for two things simultaneously, your license and insurance card. If you forget to produce both documents, produce documents other than those asked for, fail to find the documents when they are right in front of you, or have trouble removing the documents from your purse or wallet, an officer could see this as a sign of intoxication. TIP: Before you drive, always make sure your license, insurance, and registration are easily accessible.
Officers may ask you interrupting or distracting questions. An example of this could be a Southlake police officer asking where you were coming from then interrupt and ask you to tell them what time it is without looking at your watch. An officer will be on alert if you ignore one question or another, if you forget to answer one question after answer another, or if you give a wrong answer. TIP: Repeat an officer’s questions to them to solidify them in your memory, “You want me to tell you where I was coming from and you want to know the time…I was coming from Dallas and it is around 11:45pm.”
Officers may ask you unusual questions. Unusual questions, ones you are not expecting during a traffic stop, require you to process information rather than repeat routine information. For example, an officer may hold your driver’s license and ask for your middle name. Because you are used to providing you first name, it is considered a sign of intoxication if you respond to the expected usual question instead of the unusual question you did not expect. TIP: Take your time to listen to an officer’s question and if you are responding, respond only to the question asked.
After an officer has notated evidence in your face-to-face interaction, he or she will ask you to exit the vehicle and evaluate you further. If you are asked to exit a vehicle, the officer has already developed suspicion that you are impaired. As you exit, step away, and walk from the vehicle, officers will be evaluating your actions for evidence of intoxication. NHTSA trains officers to be aware of drivers who: show angry or unusual reactions, cannot follow instructions, cannot open the door properly, leaves their vehicle in gear, uses the door or other object for support when exiting, leans against the vehicle for balance, or keeps their hands on the vehicle for support.
Your personal contact with law enforcement is highly scrutinized and will likely be recorded on video for further scrutiny down the road. There are thousands of innocent reasons why you could act the way you do during a DWI investigation: you were tired, you were nervous, you were hurt, you were disabled, the list could go on and on.
The most important aspect of the pre-arrest screening phase is the administration of field sobriety tests. Although the officer won’t tell you this, these are voluntary tests and our advice is to politely refuse the tests. Unfortunately, you may be reading this after you have already done tests. If that is the case, you can take some comfort in the fact that officers routinely administer these tests incorrectly – making the tests an area ripe for attack by experienced DWI defense attorneys.
Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) is one type of nystagmus. The HGN test is a psychophysical test used to test small muscle control of the eyes. The underlying theory is the introduction of certain substances (including a central nervous system depressant like alcohol) causes a loss of small muscle control so the involuntary jerking of the eyes becomes more pronounced and can be seen by the naked eye. HGN occurs when the eye gazes side to side. As alcohol is a central nervous system depressant, HGN is expected to appear if you have alcohol in your system and will increase in visibility as your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) goes up.
To administer the HGN test, an officer will first ask you a series of question about possible head injuries. TIP: It is important to be forthcoming any possible head injuries, especially if you were involved in an accident. A head injury can render the HGN test ineffective. If you are a good candidate for the test, the officer will instruct you to follow a small stimulus with your eyes and your eyes only. The stimulus can be the tip of the pen or a penlight or even the officer’s fingertip. The test will start with your left eye and the officer will make several passes back and forth. Do not move your head. If you move your head to follow the stimulus, instead of just your eyes, the officer will restart the test. If you continue to move your head to follow the stimulus, the officer may see this as a sign of intoxication for inability to follow instructions.
There are three phases of the HGN test: Lack of Smooth Pursuit, Distinct and Sustained Nystagmus at Maximum Deviation, and Onset of Nystagmus Prior to 45 Degrees. The officer will check for involuntary jerking in each eye for each pass. There are three specific clues the officer will look for in each eye for a total of six clues:
- As your eye moves from side to side, does it noticeably jerk?
- As your eye moves as far to one side as possible and kept in that position, does it jerk distinctly, and is the jerking sustained for at least 4 seconds?
- As your eye moves toward one side, does it start to jerk prior to a 45-degree angle?
If you exhibit any of these clues, the officer will mark it as a sign of intoxication. If you score four or more of the six possible clues, an officer can make the determination you have lost the normal use of your faculties. HGN is a complex test. For instance, while defending a Fort Worth DWI case, the attorneys at Varghese Summersett PLLC will review the video of the DWI stop for things including:
- Whether the officer left his red and blue lights
- Whether the stimulus was held at the proper distance;
- Whether the officer moved the stimulus at the proper rate when checking for lack of smooth pursuit;
- Whether the officer held the stimulus for too long when checking for distinct and sustained nystagmus at maximum deviation;
- Whether the officer held the stimulus out for at least 4 seconds when checking for the onset of nystagmus prior to 45 degrees.
If the officer improperly conducts the HGN, it may make the test inadmissible in court, or even if it is admissible, it may eliminate any weight the jury would give to that evidence.
This test with two stages: the Instruction Stage and the Walking Stage. The Instructions Stage divides your attention between balancing and processing the set of instructions the officer gives you. The Walking Stage divides your attention between balancing, small muscle control, and short-term memory. An officer will instruct you on this test then demonstrate a portion of the test for you. TIP: When an officer demonstrates this test, he or she will only demonstrate 3 steps out and back, but you must take 9 steps out and back as instructed. The instructions are as follows:
- Imagine a straight line out in front of you
- Place your right foot on the line
- Place your left foot in front of your right foot touching heel-to-toe
- Stand with your feet heel-to-toe
- Keep your arms down to your side
- Listen to the instructions
- Do not start the test until instructed to do so
- Do not move from the starting position until you are asked to do so.
- Take nine heel-to-toe steps down the line
- On your ninth step, leave your lead foot planted and take a small series of steps around
- Take nine heel-to-toe steps back down the line
- Count your steps out loud
- Watch your feet
- Keep your arms down by your side
The Clues on the Walk and Turn:
Just as the test must be administered by the police the same way every time, it must also be interpreted in a standardized manner. The interpretation of your performance on this test is determined by the presence of eight different clues:
- Cannot balance during instructions
- Starts too soon
- Stops while walking
- Do not touch heel-to-toe
- Step off line
- Use arm for balance
- Lose balance or turn incorrectly
- Take the wrong number of steps
If you exhibit any these eight clues, the officer will mark it as a sign of intoxication. Generally, exhibiting the same clue multiple times will still only count as one clue. If you score two or more of these clues, an officer can make the determination you have lost the normal use of your mental and/or physical faculties. In other words, with just two clues, the officer will testify that you were intoxicated.
The Instruction stage divides your attention between balancing and processing the instructions. The Balance and Counting stage divides your attention between balance and small muscle control.
An officer will instruct you on this test then demonstrate a portion of the test for you. TIP: When an officer demonstrates this test, he or she will only demonstrate several seconds, you will have to perform the test for 30 seconds as instructed. The instructions are as follows:
- Stand with your feet together
- Keep your arms down by your sides
- Do not start the tests until instructed to do so.
- Pick one leg, either leg, and raise it approximately 6 inches off the ground
- Look at your foot
- Count out loud, “one thousand one, one thousand two, one thousand three…” and so on until you are told to stop.
Just as the test must be administered by the police the same way every time, it must also be interpreted in a standardized manner. The interpretation of your performance on this test is determined by the presence of four different clues:
- Sways while balancing
- Uses arms for balance
- Puts foot down
If you exhibit any these four clues, the officer will mark it as a sign of intoxication. Generally, exhibiting the same clue multiple times will still only count as one clue. If you score two or more of the clues, an officer will say you have lost the normal use of your mental and/or physical faculties. However, if you put your foot down three or more times or cannot perform the test, the One-Leg Stand will be terminated for inability to complete the test.
It will be important in fighting your DWI charge that you are represented by a criminal defense attorney who knows this test better than your arresting officer. It is important to tell the officer at the scene anything that might make it difficult for you to perform the test: age, weight, physical limitations etc.
DWI ARREST AND TRANSPORT
Once an officer has placed you under arrest, he will take you back to the station. The trip to the station is often recorded, so if you pass out or curse, expect the officers to use that to tell the jury that is further evidence of your intoxication. At the station, after the book-in process, the officers will ask you to give a specimen of your breath or blood. It is up to the officer which test he is going to offer you. While there is a push to ask for more blood tests, many police departments have invested heavily in breath testing equipment so those departments often ask for breath tests. The officer will warn you that if you refuse to give a specimen, your driver’s license will be suspended for 180 days. If you provide a specimen and the specimen shows you were intoxicated, your license is only suspended for 90 days.
Learn about bonding someone out on a DWI charge.
Intoxication Defined in Texas:
We understand that clients who hire us are coming to us with the biggest problems in their lives, and we treat their problems with the care and attention warranted by the problem. We seek out the best outcomes by over-preparing, finding weaknesses in the State’s case, through careful negotiations and, when necessary, trial.
We’ve handled hundreds of intoxication-related charges. All of our partners are former prosecutors. We not only know the State’s playbook, in many cases we helped write it. We have over half a century of experience handling criminal cases, and we are ready to put our experience to work for you.
We know you have a lot of options to chose from. You probably got a couple dozen letters in the mail soliciting your business. You’ll never get one from us. Instead, we hope our results and reviews speak for themselves. Recent Results.
Time is of the Essence
As former prosecutors, we know the best results go to the most proactive attorneys. Additionally, DWIs have strict deadlines that could affect your ability to drive. Call us today at (817) 203-2220 or contact us online to find out how you can get started with our firm.