In Texas the legal limit for intoxication is .08% Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) as set out in Title 10, Chapter 49 of the State Penal Code. For commercial drivers the limit is .04%, and no detectable amount is allowed for minors. However, if an officer even suspects your driving is impaired you can still be stopped and arrested for DWI regardless of your BAC. In most cases the suspicion of DWI also gives the police a probable cause to search your vehicle.
It is also illegal to have an open container of alcohol in the passenger area of your vehicle if you’re driving or parked on a public highway. A simple open container violation results in a maximum $500 fine and a Class C misdemeanor, but if you’re arrested for DWI and open container, you’ll get a Class B misdemeanor and a minimum of 6 days in jail.
If you are signaled to stop by police, do your best to pull over immediately. Do not wait to find a parking lot or side street unless the location is immanently hazardous: the police may interpret it to mean that you were trying to avoid them and it will immediately raise suspicion. Come to a complete stop, roll down your window, and stop your engine. Make sure you have your seatbelt fastened. Give the police your driver's license, registration and insurance information as quickly as possible.
- Don’t talk unless spoken to.
Answer questions in short, truthful statements. You do not have to speak directly into the officer's face or look the officer in the eyes. The less you say, the less opportunity the police will have to interpret the smell of your breath or speech.
- If the police ask you to step out of the car do not lean against your car for support or make any physical motions that would cause the police to believe that you may be impaired. Assume that the entire traffic stop is being video taped. Remain where the camera will follow your actions and don't give the prosecution any video evidence that can be used against you.
- If the police ask you to take a field sobriety test do not argue with them on constitutional grounds: the act of
accepting a driver's license automatically grants implied consent for
the police to administer tests.
If you have some underlying medical condition that may prevent you from performing a field sobriety test or may adversely affect the outcome of such a test, inform the officer clearly and politely. The police cannot physically force you to take the test.
You may refuse to take the field sobriety test, but if you choose to do so immediately exercise your right to an attorney. If you you refuse they will be required to read your rights and warn you of the consequences. At this point you will most likely be arrested.
- If the police ask you to take a roadside breath test:
The handheld breath tester is inaccurate and not admissible in court, but police officers will use the test to determine if they can arrest you and proceed with further testing. If you have any suspicion that the test will not come out 100% clean it is advisable to refuse this test and immediately exercise your right to an attorney. The officer will likely urge you to take it, but in most cases they have already made the decision to arrest you at this point and you will still be required to take more accurate tests at the police station.
Penalties for DWI in Texas are based on several factors such as age, your license type and circumstances such as passengers in the vehicle or additional violations. A first offense for even basic DWI can result in fines up to $2,000, 3 days to 6 months in jail, license suspension for up to 2 years and mandatory educational programs. Additional offenses are very severe.
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