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Atascosa County DUI defense lawyerIn Texas, a driver under 21 years of age does not need to be legally intoxicated to be charged with—and convicted of—a criminal offense. This may seem counterintuitive, but Texas takes underage drinking seriously out of recognition that a minor’s chances of getting into an accident go up significantly after just one drink. If you are under 21 and you have been charged with an alcohol-related driving offense, the penalties can be severe. A qualified lawyer can help you protect your rights and build a strong defense.

What is the “Legal Limit” for Persons Under 21 in Texas?

Texas applies what is often called the “not a drop” rule, or the “zero tolerance” rule to persons under 21 when it comes to DWI. This means that if you are not yet 21 years of age, you can face criminal charges if you are found to have any amount of alcohol in your system while operating a motor vehicle. Even if you only drank half a beer or a few sips of a cocktail and do not feel intoxicated, blood alcohol concentration (BAC) test results indicating anything above 0.00 may be sufficient to justify an arrest and conviction.

In Texas, this offense pertaining to underage drivers is typically referred to as DUI, or driving under the influence, to distinguish it from the offense of DWI (driving while intoxicated), which typically requires a BAC of at least 0.08 or other clear signs of intoxication. A minor who is arrested for DUI can face Class C misdemeanor charges, with a possible sentence including fines and driver’s license suspension. However, if a driver under the age of 21 is found to have a BAC above 0.08, they can also face DWI charges. DWI is a Class B misdemeanor, which comes with more serious consequences that may include jail time.

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Jourdanton dwi defense laywerDWI arrests are a high priority for law enforcement in cities, counties, and municipalities across the country. The belief is that heavy enforcement of DWI laws along with public education campaigns will widely discourage people from driving drunk. In turn, these jurisdictions also prioritize DWI training, which coaches officers to evaluate drivers for signs of driving under the influence. So, what are police actually looking for when they evaluate a driver for signs of intoxication?

To answer that question, we look to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a federal agency that sets the standards and creates instruction materials for DWI training.  

Personal Contact

According to NHTSA training materials, there are three phases to a DWI traffic stop: vehicle in motion, personal contact, and pre-arrest screening. In the first phase, the officer is essentially looking for a traffic violation, and in the third phase, they are administering standard field sobriety tests. In between is phase two: personal contact. 

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TX defense lawyerAs it is in all 50 U.S. states, drinking and driving is against the law in Texas. When a police officer suspects that a driver is under the influence of alcohol, he or she may use various techniques to test the extent of the driver’s impairment. Breath alcohol tests or “breathalyzers” determine an individual’s blood alcohol content (BAC) by analyzing a sample of the driver’s breath. Field sobriety tests are used to assess a person’s attention, balance, and coordination – functions that are heavily influenced by alcohol intoxication. However, failing a breath test or field sobriety test does not necessarily mean that a person is impaired.

Problems with Breathalyzers That Can Lead to Inaccurate Readings

The portable, roadside breath tests police officers may administer at a traffic stop differ significantly from the breath alcohol tests used at the police station. Handheld breath tests are not as accurate or reliable as the machines used at the police station. The results of a roadside BAC test may be used to justify an arrest for suspected drunk driving, but these results alone do not justify a driving while intoxicated (DWI) conviction.

Both roadside and police station breath tests can be inaccurate. These machines must be regularly calibrated, cleaned, and maintained to function properly and yield accurate results. Mouthwash, medicines, or even belching during the test can also lead to inaccurate results. Studies have also shown that the popular ketogenic diet, a diet in which a person consumes little to no carbohydrates, can also yield false-positive breathalyzer tests. Because a number of issues can lead to inaccurate BAC results, failing a breathalyzer does not automatically mean that a person will be convicted of DWI.

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Atascosa County criminal defense attorney DWI

Law enforcement always comes down hard on those found driving while intoxicated (DWI). Not only did the driver make the conscious decision to become intoxicated and get behind the wheel, but they also decided to place other drivers in the direct line of danger. So, what if your DWI leads to another person’s injury or death? The injured driver may pursue a personal injury case in addition to the criminal charges that come along with a DWI. But what about the other factors at play? Can the person who provided you with alcohol also be held accountable? 

The Effects of Alcohol on Driving

A few drinks may not seem to leave a big impact, but there are a number of effects that alcohol can have on the average driver. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) cites four ways in which alcohol can affect your driving capabilities, the first being judgment. Adding alcohol to your system can alter your sense of judgment, in turn leading you to go 20 mph over the speed limit, blow a red light, and more. Your vision is also impaired, making it challenging to see traffic lane lines, speed limit signs, and the distance between you and the cars around you. Your reaction time will be delayed as well, making it very likely that you will be unable to properly react to all of the unpredictable occurrences that can happen while on the road. Finally, your ability to perceive color can also be affected. You may struggle to tell the difference between green, yellow, and red lights, which can easily lead to a dangerous accident. 

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Atascosa County criminal defense attorney DWI

Attending holiday parties is often the highlight of the year. Whether you are celebrating with coworkers, seeing distant family members, or enjoying yourself at home, alcoholic beverages are bound to be present and potentially consumed in excess. While there is nothing wrong with enjoying the holiday season, some drivers may place others at risk by drinking before getting behind the wheel. Holiday gatherings look a bit different this year; some have opted to cancel their gatherings, others have reduced the number of people invited to the party, while many have decided against joining the annual party altogether. Because large gatherings have been strongly cautioned or completely off-limits for almost a year now, the opportunity to have some fun may lead to overindulgence and poor decisions. The Texas Department of Safety (DPS) recognizes the annual holiday threat of speeding and intoxicated drivers, especially during these unprecedented times, and is honing its focus on keeping roads safe. 

Unfortunate Holiday Statistics

Holidays have consistently been a high time for severe accidents. According to the Texas Department of Transportation, there were a total of 24 fatalities within a 30-hour period surrounding New Year’s in 2019—not counting the additional accidents that lead to injuries rather than death. Surprisingly, Memorial Day and Fourth of July racked up the most fatalities when compared to other holidays throughout 2019. This year, law enforcement is on high alert as the pandemic reduced the number of parties throughout the year, leading to even more anticipation—and likely celebrating—in the upcoming winter holidays. According to news reports from December 22, Austin surpassed the total number of people killed on area roadways in 2019, with 89 fatalities before the Christmas and New Year’s Eve celebrations this year. 

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