Drinking and driving is one of the most common criminal offenses in the United States. It carries severe penalties because people are injured or killed every day in alcohol-related crashes. In Texas, someone is injured or killed due to drunk driving every 20 minutes according to the Texas Department of Transportation.
A motorist is guilty of driving while intoxicated if his or her blood alcohol concentration, or BAC, is above 0.08%. This is tricky for laypersons to calculate because BAC is dependent upon a variety of factors; gender, height, weight, the amount of alcohol ingested and the amount of food eaten all affect BAC.
It is important to consider that although alcohol is responsible for the vast majority of DWI arrests, driving under the influence of any drug constitutes a crime. Marijuana, prescription drugs and most illicit street drugs impair a person’s ability to drive.
A DWI charge can be either a misdemeanor or a felony. This depends primarily on three factors: the level of intoxication, prior DWI convictions and whether injury or property damage occurred as a result of the offense. DWI offenses that result in property damage, injury or death can quickly escalate into charges ranging from criminal negligence to involuntary manslaughter. In Texas, two or more DWI offenses within a five-year period will result in offenders being required to install ignition interlock devices in their vehicles. These devices prevent vehicles from starting if operators have been drinking.
Anyone charged with DWI in Texas is looking at possible jail time and may want to consult an attorney immediately. An experienced criminal defense attorney may be able to help their client determine the strength of the state’s case and the best possible way to handle it.