Although most people think that the terms DUI and DWI are synonymous, in Texas they are not. There are differences between being charged with a DUI and DWI. They not only mean different things, but they also vary in terms of charges and penalties. What they both have in common is that they can come with some severe and significant consequences if you don’t have the right attorney defending you.
What is a DWI in Texas?
Texas Penal Code Section 49.04 defines a DWI as any person who is found driving while they are intoxicated or they commit the offense of operating a motor vehicle while they are under the influence of an intoxicant. The legal definition of being “intoxicated” is that a person is impaired either physically or mentally due to the consumption of alcohol or controlled substance or any illegal drug. It is also defined as having a BAC (blood-alcohol concentration) of more than 0.08% in their system, as tested either by a breathalyzer or through a blood urine alcohol analysis.
Although a DWI is clearly defined, a DUI is different and is not as concise. A driver can be convicted of a DUI, or driving under the influence, even if they are tested and their blood- alcohol concentration is less than 0.08%. The only time that it is possible to get a DUI if the BAC is not over 0.08% is if the driver is under the age of 21. If the person is a minor and is caught with any amount of alcohol, then they may be convicted of a DUI. Since it is not legal for anyone in Texas to drink alcohol until they turn 21, any consumption of alcohol is considered illegal, and, therefore, subject to criminal charges.
What is the difference in penalties between a DWI and a DUI?
If you are charged with a DUI, then it is a Class C misdemeanor. If you are charged with a DWI in Houston, then it is considered a Class B misdemeanor, unless the person is tested and their BAC is shown to be 0.15% or higher. If the driver is found to have a BAC over 0.15%, then it becomes a Class A misdemeanor. If the driver has a BAC over 0.08%, and they get into an accident that causes someone to be injured, then the penalties can be escalated to felony charges. If you hurt someone while driving while intoxicated in Houston, then you can face either a second-degree or third-degree felony that can come with a prison sentence that can be as long as 10 years and a fine of up to $10,000.
Should you plead guilty or go to court if you are charged with a DWI or DUI?
If you are charged with a DWI or a DUI, you do have the option to plead guilty and just take your punishment. But that is almost never a good idea. Whether you are facing a DWI or a DUI, it is always best to hire a professional DUI auto lawyer to plead your case. They might be able to reach a plea agreement with the prosecutor, have your charges lessened, or in some instances even have your case thrown out altogether.
There are many defenses that an experienced DUI lawyer can use to plead your case. Since specific steps must be followed, if the police faltered in any way while charging you, then your lawyer might be able to use that as grounds for dismissal, or at worst, to get you a plea bargain that will work in your favor. Just because your BAC was over the legal threshold, that does not necessarily mean that you will automatically be found guilty.
Before you decide what to do when charged with a DWI or DUI, it is always a good idea to consult a DWI lawyer in Houston to find out what type of charges you are facing and whether there is a reasonable defense to your charges.
In a land mark ruling in July of 2017, the Michigan Supreme Court convicted a man of DWI for operating a motor vehicle in your own driveway. The police can actually come in, investigate and arrest an individual for driving while intoxicated within their own property.
In the case of the State of Michigan v. Gino Roberto Rea, the defendant was found guilty of driving while intoxicated, even though he was in his car on his own driveway. Gino Roberto Rea’s case was thrust into the spotlight in 2014 when neighbors complained to the police at least three times, about noise that was coming from his property. In response to the complaints, an officer visited his premises and found Rea intoxicated and attempting to back out of his garage. Even though he reentered the garage, the officer arrested him and was later found to have three times the legal limit of alcohol in his blood.
The reason for his arrest was that he had been operating his motor vehicle while drunk, leading to the question of whether an individual can be arrested for DWI while stationary within their own driveway. According to the Michigan Vehicle Code section 257.625 (1), it is unlawful for a person to operate a motor vehicle on a highway or any place that is accessible to the general public and to other vehicles including designated parking areas while intoxicated.
When Rea’s case was first taken to court, his lawyer filed a motion stating that because he had been drinking and driving within his property, he did not break the law. The judge agreed with this motion and dismissed the case. However, the case was taken to the Supreme Court of Appeals under the argument that Rea’s driveway was well within public access and thus it was unlawful for him to operate his vehicle on his driveway while intoxicated.
In the case of the State of Michigan v. Gino Roberto Rea, the fact that the defendant’s property was within access to the public and other vehicle users, prevailed over his right to operate a motor vehicle in the property while intoxicated. According to the prosecutor, there was no barrier between the street and Rea’s driveway to prevent other motorists from accessing the driveway. As a result, Rea was found guilty of operating his vehicle while intoxicated in an area where he could endanger the lives of other motorists.
This ruling is not a law to say explicitly that operating a vehicle in one’s driveway while intoxicated is unlawful. However, it sets precedence to show that just because you are in your driveway, you are not exempt from being charged with a DWI especially when you endanger the lives of the public and other motorists.
Minnesota law on DWI prohibits operating, driving and being in physical control of a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, drugs or other intoxicating substances. The law does not create a boundary between private and public property but uses the criteria of whether these areas are accessible to vehicle use or not.