The holiday season is a time of merriment. More of us eat, drink, and enjoy the season. Unfortunately, drinking alcoholic beverages can increase the odds of arrest for DUI. That’s because Texas law enforcement officers are looking for drunk drivers this time of year:
- According to American Auto Association (AAA), at least 47 million people travel the roads and highways on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve.
- Statistics show that more alcohol-related road deaths happen from the Thanksgiving to New Year’s holidays.
If you’re concerned about becoming a DUI statistic—or causing injury or death to another driver—consider the following tips for avoiding a DUI over the winter holidays.
Tip #1: Don’t Consume Alcoholic Beverages and Drive
The simplest, most effective way to avoid a DWI arrest over the holidays is to avoid drinking if you plan to drive or assign a designated driver if you want to drink alcohol.
In doing so, you do your part to maintain safer roads for all drivers. Drunk driving affects the driver and all drivers sharing the road with him or her.
Tip #2: Drive Safely
It’s important to drive safely every day. However, if it’s necessary to drive after consuming alcohol, pay additional attention to traffic laws. Stop for every red light and stop sign.
Keep both hands on the wheel and your eyes on the road. Never text, chat, or tune the radio when you’re operating a motor vehicle.
Tip #3: Be Cooperative and Polite
If you’re pulled over during the holidays, cooperate. Be polite. Comply with the officer’s request to supply your driver’s license and registration.
Driver’s Right of Refusal in Texas
Understand that it’s your decision to comply or refuse the officer’s request to submit to field sobriety tests. Texas Transportation Code Ann. 724.011 says that the driver has already given implied consent if lawfully arrested by a police officer for probable cause. The law protects the driver’s right to refuse.
Refusing to take a field sobriety test means a 180-day driver’s license suspension on a first offense; a two-year license suspension on a second offense; and a two-year license suspension on a third offense.
If you refuse to take a breath, urine, or blood test to measure BAC in Texas, the officer must provide you with a written notice. He or she will then ask the driver to sign a statement that says he or she notified the driver of the consequences of refusing to take a field sobriety test. He or she will then take the driver’s Texas license. At that time, the drive receives a temporary driving permit, good for just 41 days:
- The driver has 15 days to request an administrative hearing to contest the driver’s license suspension.
- Although the hearing doesn’t occur in a court of law, it’s often advised for the driver to have a qualified DUI attorney present to present the case facts. This second case, called an Administrative License Revocation (ALR) hearing, can help the attorney to discover more information about the prosecutor’s case against the driver.
- If the driver doesn’t request an administrative hearing—or 1) if the driver fails to prove that the arresting officer didn’t have reasonable suspicion that the driver was drunk, or 2) the driver didn’t refuse the field sobriety tests—then the driver’s license is suspended for 180-days (first offense). A second refusal to submit to sobriety testing will result in a two-year suspension.
- The consequences of refusal are referenced in the Texas Transportation Code Ann. 724.035.
Blood Alcohol Content and DUI/DWI in Texas
In Texas, driving under the influence (DUI) or driving while intoxicated (DWI) equal drunk driving. The driver’s blood alcohol content (BAC) is used to determine if the driver is too impaired to operate a motor vehicle.
The BAC in Texas for drivers:
- Age 21+ is 0.08 percent
- Commercial drivers is 0.04 percent
- Less than 21 years is any detectable amount
Alcohol affects different people in different ways. Your BAC is influenced by body weight and gender.
DUI crimes are related to the driver’s BAC but it’s possible for Texas law enforcement officers to arrest a driver for other crimes involving a motor vehicle.
Tip #4: Use an App to Avoid DUI in Texas
DUI apps can help the driver to estimate how impaired he or she is. Some apps to consider include:
- IntelliDrink: This app allows the driver and a friend to create profiles. It’s possible to track drinks for two people. The app displays the users’ BAC levels on a graph and calculates retention/absorption of alcohol in the user’s level over time. It notifies the user(s) when a certain BAC level is reached. (Available on iTunes)
- BAC Alcohol Calculator: This calculator includes at least 30 beverages for the user to choose from (or the user can customize the alcoholic beverages he or she is drinking) to estimate BAC. (Available on iTunes)
- R-U-Buzzed: This app helps the user to track the amount of alcohol consumption. It allows the user to enter his or her gender, weight, time spent drinking, and total alcohol consumed. If the user drinks too much alcohol, the app will display You’re buzzed! to signify that the user isn’t sober enough to get behind the wheel. A GPS tool helps the user to find a taxi. (Available on iTunes)
- ALCulator: This app allows the user to enter his or her gender/weight to approximate BAC levels. (Available on Google Play)
- AlcoDroid Tracker: This app plots the user’s BAC and pings when he or she is under the legal limit (if above it) or when the user has reached a zero BAC level. The app tracks the users daily, weekly, and monthly drinking habits. (Available on Google Play)
- Alcohol Calculator: The app tracks the user’s drinking time to an alcohol calculator. The user taps the app when he or she starts drinking and taps to stop it. (Available on Google Play)
Tip #5: Have a Designated Driver
If holiday plans include enjoying alcoholic beverages, having a designated driver ensures that friends get home safe. If a designated driver isn’t available, plan to sleep over. The host may have a spare bedroom, couch or sleeping bag available. Alternatively, reserve a nearby hotel room. (Get a taxi or ride to the hotel room.)
Contact a Houston DWI Attorney
If you or someone you love is pulled over during the holidays, remember your legal rights:
- You have the right to refuse a field sobriety test. Tell the officer, “I refuse to take a breath, urine, or blood test. I must contact my attorney.”
- You have the right to refuse a search of your vehicle. “I refuse any search of my vehicle. I want to contact my attorney.”
- You have the right to limit the amount of conversation with the arresting officer. Don’t offer extraneous information. Provide the documents the officer requests and stop talking.
In the event an officer charges you with a DUI/DWI or related crime in Texas, you have a right to legal representation. Don’t speak with law enforcement officers without an attorney present. Contact the Law Office of Matthew D. Sharp in Houston at 713-868-6100 to discuss your legal options.