Bedford DWI Lawyer
If you or someone you care about is facing a DWI charge in Bedford, you likely recognize that it’s a serious charge, but you may not realize just how significant a conviction can be. The charge of driving while intoxicated is legally complex, which makes working closely with an experienced Bedford DWI lawyer from the outset always in your best interest.
I started the Fulgham Law Firm – a boutique criminal defense firm – more than a decade ago after a successful career in the Tarrant County district attorney’s office. My background in prosecution leaves me with the legal insight and a nuanced understanding of how the criminal justice system in Texas works from the inside out, which leaves me especially well-positioned to help you resolve your DWI case favorably. I have personally tried more than 50 DWI jury trials, and I’m well acquainted with the court system you’re facing.
In fact, our legal team is made up of former prosecutors, which gives us an edge when it comes to building defenses that are difficult to dismantle. At the Fulgham Law Firm, we dedicate our impressive practice to fiercely advocating for the legal rights of every valued client we represent, and our unique perspective and holistic approach help us win cases. We’re here for you, too, and we encourage you to schedule a free consultation by giving us a call at 817-877-3030 today.
A charge of DWI – or driving while intoxicated – refers to driving when your blood alcohol exceeds the legal limit of .08 percent. Even if you don’t reach this legal threshold, however, you could face a DWI charge if your consumption of alcohol leaves you unable to safely control your vehicle. This means that the police often have considerable discretion on the matter of whether or not to arrest you for DWI.
In order to pull you over in the first place, the police must have a reason to do so. This can mean stopping you for another offense – no matter how minor – or stopping you based on their reasonable suspicion that you were driving drunk. For their suspicion to be reasonable, they must be able to articulate it.
If you’re simply driving after the bars have closed, that doesn’t amount to a reasonable suspicion. If you can’t keep your car in your lane or are unable to maintain a steady speed, however, the matter is very different. While a reasonable suspicion is reason enough to pull you over, it’s not enough to arrest you for DWI.
Before an officer can arrest you for DWI, they must have probable cause. If the officer has the reasonable suspicion necessary to pull you over, they will look for evidence that supports arrest from this point. Examples that speak to probable cause and are likely to get you arrested include all the following:
- If you have an open beer can in plain view beside you
- If the officer smells alcohol on your breath
- If you slur your words
- If you give them any other reason to believe you may be Intoxicated
At this point, the officer is likely to give you a breathalyzer test and proceed with an arrest if you fail it. As mentioned, however, you could face an arrest even if you blow below the legal limit.
Fines and Penalties
DWI charges vary in accordance with the level of the individual’s intoxication and in accordance with any aggravating factors. The basics regarding the fines and penalties associated with DWI charges include all the following:
- A first DWI offense is generally a Class B misdemeanor, which carries fines of up to $2,000 and jail time of from 72 hours to 180 days – along with a license suspension of from 90 days to a year.
- A first DWI offense with a BAC of over .15 percent is generally a Class A misdemeanor, which carries fines of up to $4,000 and jail time of from 72 hours to one year – along with a license suspension of from 90 days to a year.
- A first DWI offense with an open container enhancement is generally a Class B misdemeanor, which carries fines of up to $2,000 and jail time of from 6 days to 180 days – along with a license suspension of from 90 days to a year.
- A DWI with a child passenger is generally a state jail felony, which carries fines of up to $10,000 and jail time of from 6 months to 2 years – along with a license suspension of from 180 days to 2 years.
- A second DWI offense is generally a Class A misdemeanor, which carries fines of up to $4,000 and jail time of from 30 days to a year – along with a license suspension of from 180 days to 2 years.
- A third DWI offense is generally a third-degree felony, which carries fines of up to $10,000 and from 2 to 10 years in prison – along with a license suspension of from 180 days to 2 years.
- With 3 or more DWI offenses and a prior state prison sentence, the charge is generally a second-degree felony, which carries up to $10,000 in fines and from 2 to 20 years in prison – along with a license suspension of up to 2 years.
If, in the course of driving while intoxicated, you injure someone else, you can be charged with intoxication assault. The charge is typically a third-degree felony that carries fines of up to $10,000 and a prison sentence of from 2 to 10 years. If, however, you kill someone else in the course of driving while intoxicated, you can be charged with intoxication manslaughter, which can be charged as a second-degree felony. A conviction can lead to fines of up to $10,000 and a prison sentence of from 2 to 20 years.
The State of Texas takes DWI charges exceptionally seriously, which makes having skilled legal guidance on your side paramount. At Fulgham Law Firm, we harness the full force of our imposing experience in pursuit of favorable case resolutions that protect our clients’ rights and best interests.
Your Driving Privileges
Losing your driving privileges for up a considerable amount of time can directly affect your ability to earn a living. In addition to the exorbitant costs associated with a DWI, not being able to get to and from work can add insult to injury and must be factored into the losses you face.
Texas does offer an occupational license for those who haven’t received one in the last 10 years. This amounts to a restricted license that allows you to drive back and forth to work – or to classes if you are in school – and to perform primary household tasks, such as shopping for groceries and other necessities.
If you do receive an occupational license, the judge may impose additional restrictions, which can include any of the following:
- The mandatory installation of an interlock ignition device that requires you to breathe into a device that measures your BAC while driving
- Mandatory attendance of an alcohol counseling program
- Community service
- Limitations regarding where you can drive and the hours you can drive
The Breath Test
You have the right to refuse a breath test. If you do, the officer may obtain a warrant for a blood test. Further, a breath test refusal comes with an automatic license suspension, but you have the right to a hearing on the matter within 15 days. Whether to refuse a breathalyzer test is a complicated question, and the answer depends on the circumstances of your stop.
It’s important to also keep in mind, however, that the handheld breath tests that officers perform on the roadside are not considered especially reliable. And while the tests performed back at the station are more so, there is no guarantee of their accuracy either. Nevertheless, the results of any breath test you take can be used as evidence against you.
Common DWI Defense Strategies
The best defense is one that focuses on the unique circumstances of your case, but most defense strategies fall into basic groupings.
The Stop Was Illegal
As mentioned, the police must have a reason – or reasonable suspicion – to stop you in the first place. If they can’t state what their reasonable suspicion was, the stop itself may not have been legal. If the officer simply had a hunch or you happened to be out when drunk drivers tend to be out, it doesn’t rise to the level of a reasonable suspicion. When this is the case, any evidence collected as a result of the stop can be challenged.
The Breath Test Was Inaccurate
Many factors can affect the reading on a handheld breathalyzer, including:
- Taking certain medications
- Using mouthwash
- Eating certain foods
- Certain health conditions, such as diabetes
Additionally, the testing device itself must be accurately calibrated for the reading to be accurate, and the officer administering the test must be properly trained. In fact, a lot can go wrong when it comes to breath tests.
The Blood Draw Was Not Performed Properly
If you’re arrested for DWI, the police will very likely do a blood draw at the station in order to obtain a more accurate reading of your BAC. There are, however, important protocols that must be followed. Issues with how the sample was taken, how it was stored, and how it was tested can arise.
The Field Sobriety Test Didn’t Establish Probable Cause
Officers sometimes use field sobriety tests to establish probable cause, but these tests are generally considered iffy at best. There are also any number of reasons why an individual may not do well in a physical or mental test that they’re required to perform on the side of the road by a police officer. Without probable cause, as mentioned, the case against you can fall apart.
The Social Consequences of a Conviction
The fines and penalties you face as a result of a DWI conviction are immense, but it’s important to understand that your conviction is a matter of public record, which means it can also have significant social consequences that include all the following:
- You could lose your professional licensure
- You could face educational consequences, such as denial of admission or suspension from school
- Renting a place to live can be challenging
- You may have trouble getting a job
- You could experience damage to your reputation in your community
- A conviction could affect your child custody rights or visitation schedule
The overall consequences of a DWI conviction are far-reaching.
Addressing the DWI Charge Head-On
If having the DWI charge against you dismissed entirely is not a possibility, there may be other options. In some situations, charge enhancements can be waived on a first DWI charge, which returns the charge to a Class B misdemeanor. This requires the kind of persuasive reasoning that a practiced Bedford DWI lawyer can provide.
There are also instances in which a first-time DWI defendant can receive deferred adjudication. This involves pleading either guilty or no contest to the DWI charge and agreeing to comply with the conditions set for you by the court. No contest here means accepting the fact that the state has enough evidence to convict you without admitting guilt yourself. The effect, however, is the same as a guilty plea. If you are able to successfully complete each of the requirements the court sets for you, your case will be dismissed, and no final conviction will be entered. While the charge will remain on your record, a deferred adjudication helps pave the way for having it sealed at a later date.
Turn to an Experienced Bedford DWI Lawyer for the Help You’re Looking For
At the Fulgham Law Firm, we have a team of former prosecutors who will all come together to help strategize your strongest defense. Our 80 years of collective experience informs the work we do, and it translates to favorable outcomes for our clients. To learn more and to schedule a free consultation, please don’t wait to reach out by giving us a call at 817-877-3030 today or contacting us online.