Intoxication Offenses

The purpose of the Neal Davis Law Firm E-book series is designed to provide basic, accessible information that is relevant to those who have been charged with a particular type of crime. Those facing charges will be better prepared to make informed decisions if they understand the nature and implications of the charges against them, and have more clarity about what the court process will involve.

What is an Intoxication Offense?

Intoxication offenses range from charges such as driving while intoxicated (DWI) to intoxication manslaughter. A conviction for an intoxication offense can lead to the loss of employment, reputation, and driver’s license, as well as large fines and possible prison time.

Choosing a Defense Attorney

When charged with an intoxication offense, it is crucial to consult a qualified attorney as soon as possible. Special factors in an intoxication case can include:

  • How the police conduct investigations and searches
  • The science of field sobriety tests, breath or blood tests, and accident reconstruction
  • How to persuade a prosecutor to dismiss the case before trial

If you would like a free consultation to discuss your situation with a qualified attorney, please contact our office as soon as possible.

Intoxication Offenses: Charges

DWI

Overview

Intoxication is any state in which a person has lost normal use of their mental or physical faculties due to the use of a substance such as alcohol or drugs. It is a crime to operate a motor vehicle in a public place while intoxicated. A public place is considered any place to which the general public has access. It is also a crime to cause the death of another person by accident or mistake due to the effects of intoxication.

Under the law, intoxication is measurable based on the concentration of alcohol in a person’s bloodstream. If a person’s blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) exceeds 0.08%, they are considered legally intoxicated. Measuring the BAC accurately requires a blood test. Breath analysis equipment, or breathalyzers, measure the concentration of alcohol in a person’s breath. This measurement is converted to an equivalent BAC level to determine legal intoxication.

For first-time offenders, DWI with a BAC between 0.08% and 0.15% is considered a Class B misdemeanor. If the BAC measures 0.15% or more, then the offense is a Class A misdemeanor. 

Punishment

Punishments for intoxication charges vary depending on the severity and circumstances of the offense.

Class B misdemeanor DWI carries a penalty of up to 180 days in jail and a $2,000 fine.

Class A misdemeanor DWI carries a penalty of up to a year in jail and a $4,000 fine.

A prior DWI conviction can leads to enhanced charges and subsequently harsher sentences.

Defense Strategy

Intoxication charges can be successfully challenged in court. Police may not have had a legal reason to stop the person accused. If breath or blood samples were taken, law enforcement may not have used legal methods to do so. The person accused may not in fact have been intoxicated, or may not have been operating the motor vehicle. An experienced, reputable lawyer will be able to make these determinations in order to position the case for a favorable outcome.

Process

In DWI, police typically stop the defendant for a traffic violation. Police may claim to smell alcohol and ask the defendant if they have been drinking. Police will then conduct field sobriety tests at the scene to determine whether physical coordination is impaired. If officers believe that the person is intoxicated, they will be arrested and taken to a police station. There, the person accused will be asked to provide a breath or blood specimen for testing. If the person refuses, police can obtain a warrant and even forcibly take the specimen. The defendant may also be asked to perform field sobriety tests in a room at the station where they will be videotaped. They may also be asked questions such as how much they had to drink and where they were going. 

Overview

It is a crime to cause the death of another person by accident or mistake due to the effects of intoxication. Intoxication is any state in which a person has lost normal use of their mental or physical faculties due to the use of a substance such as alcohol or drugs. Intoxication manslaughter occurs when a person under the influence of drugs or alcohol causes the death of another person.

Under the law, intoxication is measurable based on the concentration of alcohol in a person’s bloodstream. If a person’s blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) exceeds 0.08%, they are considered legally intoxicated. Measuring the BAC accurately requires a blood test. Breath analysis equipment, or breathalyzers, measure the concentration of alcohol in a person’s breath. This measurement is converted to an equivalent BAC level to determine legal intoxication.

Punishment

As a second-degree felony, intoxication manslaughter carries a punishment range of 2 to 20 years in prison and a fine up to a $10,000.

Defense Strategy

Intoxication charges can be successfully challenged in court. If breath or blood samples were taken, law enforcement may not have used legal methods to do so. The person accused may not in fact have been intoxicated, or may not have been operating the motor vehicle. An experienced, reputable lawyer will be able to make these determinations in order to position the case for a favorable outcome.

Process

In the case of intoxication manslaughter, police are typically called to the scene of an accident. If they see evidence of intoxication—if a driver smells like alcohol or appears to be under the influence—they will conduct field sobriety tests. If police believe the driver is intoxicated, they will arrest them and take them to a police station. There, the person accused will be asked to provide a breath or blood specimen for testing. If the person refuses, police can obtain a warrant and even forcibly take the specimen. The defendant may also be asked to perform field sobriety tests in a room at the station where they will be videotaped. They may also be asked questions such as how much they had to drink and where they were going.

Intoxication Offenses: Procedure

In most instances, a defendant is entitled to be released in exchange for a bond, pending the resolution of the case. 

Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Article 17.15 states the factors that courts must consider in setting a bond:

  • The bail shall be sufficiently high to give reasonable assurance that the undertaking will be complied with.
  • The power to require bail is not to be so used as to make it an instrument of oppression.
  • The nature of the offense and the circumstances under which it was committed are to be considered.
  • The ability to make bail is to be regarded, and proof may be taken upon this point.
  • The future safety of a victim of the alleged offense and the community shall be considered.
  • Other factors can be considered, including the defendant’s: work record, community and family ties, length of residency, prior criminal history, behavior while out on prior bonds, and existence of any outstanding bonds.
  • The trial court must set a reasonable bond. If bond is unreasonable, then the defendant can appeal.

Defendants usually hire a bonding company to post the bond. Bonding companies typically require the defendant to pay ten percent of the total bond amount and put up some collateral to make sure the defendant does not “jump bond” by failing to appear in court) For example, if the trial court sets a $20,000 bond, a bonding company would charge $2,000 and require the remaining bond amount to be secured by property, such as a house. Like any business, some bonding companies are trustworthy and some are not. A reputable lawyer will be able to advise on which bond company to use. 

In setting a bond, a court can impose certain conditions over and above the amount of bond a defendant must post to be released. For example, a defendant might be required to turn in their passport, wear an electronic monitor, or submit to a curfew, depending on the seriousness of the offense. An expert defense lawyer often can successfully negotiate minimal conditions of bond so that a defendant is not unduly restricted while the case is pending.

A person convicted on an intoxication charge stands to lose their driving privileges for up to two years. In addition, they may have to pay thousands of dollars in annual surcharges, for up to three years, to regain their driver’s license.

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