A driver that sees the police car pull up behind them with the summons to pull over might feel a sinking feeling in their stomach. That feeling can get even worse if the driver’s blood-alcohol content (BAC) levels are higher than 0.08%, the threshold for intoxication in the state of Texas. The driver, if convicted of Driving While Intoxicated (DWI), the sanctions can go as high as a $2,000 fine and six months in jail just for a first offense. A third offense can see jail sentences as long as 10 years and fines as high as $10,000. That’s why it's time to call a Midland DWI lawyer.
Before Attorney Tommy W. Hull was a DWI defense lawyer, he was a prosecutor. Attorney Hull understands the system and he understands there are more ways to challenge DWI charges than many people may realize. From his Midland office, he serves the entire county and extends into Odessa. Call him at (432) 223-0044 or contact him here online to set up a free consultation.
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“Was facing a felony DWI that was enhanced. Within weeks, Tommy had my case thrown out by state.”- Anthony
It’s not uncommon for people to believe that a DWI test is irrefutable in court–that the 0.08 or higher BAC level, once recorded, is all the prosecutor needs to throw the book at someone. It’s a challenge for the defense to be sure, but an experienced Midland DWI attorney has at least four ways that the charges might be challenged.
Challenging Reasonable Suspicion
A police officer can’t simply pull up behind any random car and have them pull over. There has to be a credible reason for doing so. In the law, that credible reason is defined as reasonable suspicion. If reasonable suspicion does not exist, then all evidence gathered from that point forward–which, in a DWI case, is essentially everything–is inadmissible in court. The prosecution has no case.
Police officers can be reasonably suspicious if they see a car leaving a place like The Hemingway or Tall City Brewing at closing time. Reasonable suspicion can be met if a driver commits even a minor traffic violation, from rolling through a stop sign to nudging across the yellow line. Sobriety checkpoints, authorized by the police department at potential hotspots for DWI, have passed judicial muster for probable cause.
All of which is to say that reasonable suspicion is not a hard legal standard for the authorities to meet. But a diligent defense lawyer will make sure that it was met–and there are higher legal hurdles still to come.
Challenging Probable Cause
Once the officer has pulled a driver over, the police still need probable cause to order a BAC test. An admission by the driver that they’ve been drinking qualifies, so a driver invoking their Fifth Amendment rights of silence might be a prudent decision.
Slurred speech and other symptoms might qualify as probable cause, but not automatically. People speak differently, even when sober. Someone could have reddened eyes for reasons other than consuming alcohol.
The “field test” that officers conduct is a way they can establish probable cause. Again, drivers are not obligated to “walk in a straight line” or “touch your finger to your nose” or any of the other exercises an officer might want to put them through. They can refuse the test.
If the field test is conducted, it will be recorded by video camera on the dashboard on the police car. A defense attorney can request the video as a part of discovery and see if the officer really had probable cause.
Challenging the BAC Test
Whether the test was done by drawing blood or with a breathalyzer, it’s not the infallible reading it might be perceived as. Here are just a few of the reasons why…
- A breathalyzer test can be thrown off by someone’s acid reflux or the types of medications they take.
- Breathalyzer tests can be unreliable if the driver was eating bread or some type of sugar product.
- Blood tests must meet rigid chain of custody requirements, properly logged every step of the way. If that documentation isn’t there, the test can be thrown out.
- Blood samples that stay in storage too long start to ferment and become unreliable.
There’s also the matter of reviewing the quality of equipment used to conduct BAC tests–equipment that must meet state standards and be regularly recalibrated .
Attorney Tommy W. Hull knows that people facing DWI charges are often scared and fear for their future. They may feel they have no other option but to play ball with the prosecutor. A defense lawyer, who has also worked as a prosecutor, Attorney Hull knows that’s not the case and that people charged with DWI deserve a rigorous defense that explores all possible options.
Call Tommy W. Hull PC today at (432) 223-0044 or contact him online today to set up a free consultation.