If you’ve been arrested for drunk driving, you might be feeling overwhelmed and like a DWI conviction is unavoidable because your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) tested over the legal limit. You might be worried that you could be facing jail time or lose your driver’s license or have to install an ignition interlock device. But you don’t need to give up hope! There are a variety of ways to get your DWI charge dismissed in Texas.
A skilled criminal defense attorney can review the facts and circumstances surrounding your arrest and determine the best method for defending your case. In some cases, your defense attorney will have a strong argument that your case should be dismissed. In this blog post, I’ll explain a few of my tried-and-true methods for getting a DWI charge dismissed in Texas.
Method One: Challenge the Traffic Stop
The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution requires police officers to have an objective reason to pull you over. They must be able to point to specific and articulable facts that created a “reasonable suspicion” that you had committed, were committing, or were about to commit a crime. If the police stopped your vehicle while it was in motion without a reasonable basis for doing so, your defense attorney can file a motion to suppress any evidence collected from the illegal traffic stop. If the judge decided that the police violated your constitutional rights by pulling you over without reasonable suspicion, then all of the evidence that stemmed from the traffic stop gets thrown out.
What’s great about defending DWI charges is that the vast majority of them begin with a motor vehicle in motion. This means that the collection of evidence begins at the traffic stop, and so if all of the evidence that was collected as a result of the traffic stop is thrown out, the District Attorneys can’t prove their case. For this reason, most DWI cases can be dismissed if the traffic stop was unconstitutional. It’s crucial that you have a criminal defense attorney that knows how to make this argument.
Method Two: Challenge the BAC Results
Another way I get Texas DWI charges dismissed is by attacking the validity and reliability of the BAC results. You might think that if your blood or breath test came back over the legal limit that your defense is doomed. However, the methods used to collect BAC results by the State of Texas can be compromised.
When I defend clients who have been charged with DWI, I always start by investigating the methods that were used to draw the blood. Were proper medical procedures followed for the draw? If not, your BAC results are not reliable.
Secondly, I also review the blood specimen’s chain of custody for every DWI case. Chain of custody is the order in which the evidence has been handled while the police were investigating your case. If the chain of custody was broken, or somewhere along the line your blood sample could have been tainted, I can argue that the BAC results should be excluded.
When I’m evaluating the chain of custody, I always review the lab maintenance logs and other documentation to answer the following questions:
- How long did it take the officer to send the blood vials to the DPS lab?
- Was the blood sample sitting in the back of the police car for days in the blistering Texas heat?
- Was the sample immediately refrigerated when it arrived at the DPS Lab?
- Were the DPS Lab refrigerators fully functioning?
- Did the lab tech that tested the blood follow proper scientific procedures?
If there was a breakdown in the chain of custody in any of these areas, I can fight to get the results of your blood sample thrown out.
If proper scientific procedures were not followed or there are issues with the chain of custody, the judge can prohibit the State from using your BAC results against you. And without BAC results, the prosecutors will have a much harder time proving their case beyond a reasonable doubt. They could dismiss your case or offer you a plea bargain for a charge with a lower punishment, such as reckless driving.
Method Three: Challenge the Field Sobriety Tests
When police officers have my clients participate in Standard Field Sobriety Tests (SFST) before deciding there was probable cause to arrest them, I can get their cases dismissed by attacking the validity of the tests. SFSTs were developed in the 1970s and are not scientifically reliable. While they were designed to test your balance, reflexes, coordination, and memory for indications that you are impaired, there are a variety of factors besides intoxication that could cause you to fail SFSTs. They do not differentiate between someone who is intoxicated and someone who has poor balance, suffers from medical problems, is overweight or elderly, or fails the test for some other reason besides intoxication. Having an attorney who understands the problems with these tests and knows how to use those issues to keep SFST evidence out of your case is crucial if you want to get your DWI charge dismissed.
Method Four: Pretrial Diversion
Some prosecutors understand that good people can make mistakes from time to time and that drinking and driving is a common mistake. Pretrial Diversion (PTD) is an agreement between the District Attorney’s Office and the defense that gives you the chance to keep your DWI arrest from becoming a conviction.
When you participate in PTD, you never go in front of a judge and admit that you are guilty of DWI. Instead, you will have to follow all of the rules of probation without actually being on probation. This means you would have to submit to random drug and alcohol testing, regularly check in with a pretrial diversion officer (probation officer), and take alcohol awareness courses. If you successfully complete the PTD program, then the State will dismiss your DWI charge. Unfortunately, if you violate any term or condition of the pretrial diversion program, then the State will continue to prosecute you.
The downside of pretrial diversion is that it’s completely up to the prosecutor whether you can be admitted into the program. I always tell my clients that getting into PTD is like winning the lottery. However, I can sit down with the prosecutor and present a PTD Packet, which is full of evidence of all the good things you have done in your life. The PTD Packet can include character reference letters, statements of involvement in the community, educational transcripts, letters from employers, and any other evidence of your positive contributions to society.
You Can Get a DWI Charge Dismissed in Texas
These are four of the most common ways I help my clients get their DWI charge dismissed in Texas, but there are other methods I can use as well. It all depends on what the facts of your specific case are. That’s why it’s so important that you have a DWI attorney who knows what to look for and how to get dismissals on your side after a DWI arrest.