Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) Laws in Texas
What are the drunk driving laws in Texas?
Texas’ alcohol laws are important to keep in mind if you or a family member face a drunk driving charge. If you’ve been charged with a DWI, let the experienced drunk driving defense lawyers at the Neal Davis Law Firm help you to understand and protect your legal rights.
Texas BAC laws
First, be advised that Texas’ laws on intoxication and alcoholic beverage offenses do not refer specifically to “BAC,” but rather to alcohol concentration in the blood. Even so, BAC is a commonly used term to describe a person’s blood alcohol content or blood alcohol concentration.
Texas drunk driving laws specify what the alcohol content or concentration in the blood must be in order for someone to be arrested and charged with drunk driving.
By Texas law, being intoxicated legally means having an alcohol concentration in the blood of 0.08 percent or more. This standard is also the law in most states throughout the nation.
In addition, being intoxicated under Texas law may mean “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.”
The legal age for drinking alcoholic beverages in Texas is 21, so anyone who is younger than 21 and is arrested for drunk driving also has committed the additional offense of underage drinking.
Charges for BAC of 0.08 percent or higher, or first DWI
As for people who are at least 21 years old and are arrested for drunk driving with a BAC of .08 percent or higher, they can be charged with a Class B misdemeanor. For first-time offenders, punishments for such drunk driving include spending a minimum of 3 days, or 72 hours, in jail, with a maximum jail time of 6 months, or 180 days.
Offenders could also pay a fine of as much as $2,000 and have their driver’s license suspended for between 90 days and 1 year, then pay $1,000 to $2,000 per year to retain their driver’s license. They also could be placed on probation.
Charges for BAC of 0.15 percent or higher, or second DWI
BAC levels come into play in another way if the person has far more alcohol in their bloodstream. If the arrested person’s BAC is 0.15 percent or higher, the charge against them is a Class A misdemeanor, which is also the charge for a second-time offense at the lower BAC limit of 0.08 percent.
Punishments for a Class A misdemeanor drunk driving charge are twice what they are for a Class B misdemeanor. Those convicted of a Class A misdemeanor could pay as much as $4,000 in fines and spend as long as 1 year in jail. Also, their driver’s license could be suspended for as long as 18 months, which is 6 months longer than the maximum suspension for a Class B misdemeanor.
If the same person later is arrested a third time for drunk driving, the charge becomes a first-degree felony. That charge carries a fine of up to $10,000 and jail time of 2 to 10 years.
Can BAC tests be wrong?
The important thing to keep in mind when facing such severe punishments and penalties under Texas drunk driving laws is that a key question faces a judge or jury in determining your guilt or innocence. And that question is:
Can BAC tests be wrong?
The answer, quite simply, is yes.
Roadside BAC tests often are administered by poorly trained officers on poorly maintained equipment, so their results can be unreliable.
The machines most commonly used are called breathalyzers, into which a suspect breathes. A reading then indicates a blood alcohol level. A recent study of such breathalyzer tests by the New York Times found that such tests are not trustworthy. Thousands of BAC tests as evidence have been thrown out of courts. These BAC tests were invalidated due to human error and insufficient oversight.
In other words, if you were pulled over and submitted to a breath test for BAC, that test may turn out to be inadmissible in court.
Why are such BAC tests often incorrect or misleading?
In part, it may be due to the nature of the equipment that is administered by officers on roadsides when stopping suspected drunk drivers.
Much of the equipment used for tests to determine BAC levels have seals and other elements with expiration dates. Those dates may have expired when the test was taken.
Also, a majority of breathalyzers use semiconductor sensors in order to measure BAC. The technology for such semiconductor sensors often involves a tin-oxide material that is cheaper than platinum fuel cell sensor technology. But it’s also less accurate, and it can be subject to false positives, by indicating alcohol content when none or little was there.
For instance, a false positive can come from the device reacting to cigarette smoke or to chemicals in the air, such as hair spray. In addition, BAC readings could be inaccurate due to such things in the mouth as breath fresheners, toothache medicines and mouthwashes, all of which contain alcohol.
Also, the body’s ketones, which are produced when fat cells break down in the blood, have a comparable chemical structure to alcohol.
Other factors that can impact the accuracy of a BAC test include bugs in the software, improper calibration, low batteries and human error in the operation of the test.
Get a BAC test defense lawyer
With such factors in mind, it’s vital that you consult with a knowledgeable BAC test defense lawyer or drunk driving defense attorney when facing a charge for an intoxication offense or drunk driving in Texas.
Persons living in Houston, Sugar Land or The Woodlands areas — including Harris County, Fort Bend County and Montgomery County — can contact the Neal Davis Law Firm today for an experienced DWI defense lawyer.
Don’t let a faulty BAC test wind up costing you money or your freedom. Notify our skilled and knowledgeable drunk driving defense lawyers today, and get the help you need to protect your legal rights.