What Defines Intoxication Under Texas Law?

Every Texas citizen shoulders the responsibility of understanding the local laws. As driving while intoxicated (DWI) cases increase across Texas, understanding the specific DWI laws has become even more important. In this blog, we’ll offer a closer look at the definition of intoxication under Texas law. We’ll also cover the tools used to measure intoxication in Texas, the penalties if you are convicted of DWI, and what to do if you’re arrested.

1. What Is Intoxication?

Under Texas law, intoxication is defined as the loss of the normal use one’s mental and/or physical faculties due to the introduction of alcohol, a controlled substance, or drugs in the body. If your blood alcohol concentration is equal to or more than 0.08%, you are legally intoxicated. This means you can be arrested for DWI.

2. How Is Intoxication Measured?

Intoxication in Texas can be measured three ways: in the breath, blood, and urine. However, most law enforcement agencies in Texas employ just breath and/or blood tests.

The portable breath test (PBT) device is carried by some officers to use if they smell alcohol on your breath or in your vehicle. The device is fairly small and easy to carry, but because of its history of inaccuracy, the results of a portable breath test are not allowed to be introduced into evidence in prosecuting those charged with DWI. This includes both the criminal proceeding as well as the administrative license revocation hearing. If an officer attempts to compel someone to take a PBT, there is no “implied consent,” and prosecutors likely won’t suspend your driver’s license if you refuse a PBT.

The Intoxilyzer 9000 is the breath-testing device that most Texas police departments use, and the test is performed at the police station. It requires the suspect to blow into the machine with enough force to trigger a tone and sustain it for a certain amount of time in order to get a good sample. Under the Texas Breath Alcohol Testing Program, the machine must be inspected every time it’s put into service or returned to service, or at least once every calendar month. If the Intoxilyzer 9000 is not inspected, maintained, and calibrated regularly, it can trigger a false positive. In many cases, the machine is neglected and therefore not accurate.

Blood tests can be taken by a peace officer by request, but the officer must follow protocol developed by the medical director allowing only authorized professionals to take the specimen in the presence of the officer. Those professionals include physicians, registered nurses, licensed vocational nurses, qualified technicians, or some licensed or certified emergency medical technicians under certain conditions. The officer will observe the taking of the blood specimen and take possession of it to establish a chain of custody.

Blood specimens are taken automatically if the suspect was involved in an accident that caused serious bodily injury or death. It is also taken when the suspect is arrested for felony DWI, such as DWI with a child passenger, or if the suspect has been convicted of felony DWI in the past. The issue with blood tests is that other substances can trigger a positive result, but that result doesn’t mean that the suspect was intoxicated at the time the offense was committed.

3. What Are the Punishments for DWI in Texas?

First offenses are punishable by a fine of up to $2,000, up to 180 days in jail, and loss of your driver’s license for up to a year. For second offenses, you’ll face between a month to a full year in jail and pay up to $4,000 in fines. And you’ll lose your driver’s license for up to two years.

Third offenses are punishable by $10,000 in fines and two to 10 years in state jail. You’ll also lose your driver’s license for two years. Additionally, you’ll face a state fine of $3,000, $4,500, or $6,000 when being sentenced.

4. How Can I Protect My Rights If I’m Arrested for DWI?

a woman refuses a drink to avoid DWI

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, so the best way to avoid DWI is to not drink. But if you do, drink responsibly. And if things get out of control, don’t drive. If you can’t find someone to drive you, take a Lyft or an Uber home. A $100 Uber ride home is much less expensive than hiring a DWI attorney.

It is not illegal to drink alcohol and then drive your vehicle—as long as you are not intoxicated. If you were drinking responsibly and got wrongly arrested anyway, stay calm, alert, and cool. Do as the officer requests but politely refuse all requests to perform field sobriety tests, breath tests, and blood tests. If you end up being arrested, contact an aggressive DWI attorney who will fight for your rights.

Recommended Read: How to Deal With the Stress of Your DWI Case: Advice From Top Attorney JL Carpenter

If you’re facing DWI charges, call Attorney JL Carpenter. She has a reputation for building effective defense strategies for her clients and fighting rigorously for their innocence. Her practice areas include DWI, boating while intoxicated, domestic violence, family violence, and drug possession, among others.

If you’re looking for a qualified criminal defense lawyer in the Greater Houston area (including in Friendswood and Clear Lake), give JL a call today.