Killeen Felony DWI Defense Lawyers

Strong advocacy for clients in Harker Heights, Copperas Cove, and throughout Central Texas

DWI offenses are felonies when there is an extra dimension to the offense. The extra dimension can be a record of repeat offenses, offenses because of a serious injury or death, or for other reasons. In felony cases, the penalties are also more severe. There’s more jail time, larger fines, longer driver license suspensions, and other consequences.

At Mary Beth Harrell Law firm, our Killeen DWI defense lawyers understand how life-changing a felony DWI conviction can be. We fight aggressively to suppress evidence of intoxication or any statements you made in violation of your Constitutional or legal rights. We work to negotiate felonies down to misdemeanors when possible. We have the experience and resources to assert your right to a fair and just trial.

What are felony DWI crimes in Central Texas?

According to the Texas Penal Code, the following DWI offenses are considered felonies in Texas.

  • Intoxication Assault.This offense applies to anyone who operates a car or other vehicle, an aircraft, a watercraft, or an amusement ride while they are intoxicated – if they are operating the vehicle/device in a public place and they cause someone a serious injury. A serious bodily injury is a precise legal term that means an injury which “creates a substantial risk of death or that causes serious permanent disfigurement or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ.” Unless an enhanced penalty applies, this felony DWI offense is a third-degree felony. An intoxication assault DWI becomes a felony of the second degree if the injured person is a “firefighter or emergency medical services personnel while in the actual discharge of an official duty,” and a felony in the first degree if the person injured is peace officer or a judge who was acting in the “actual discharge of an official duty” at the time.
  • Intoxication Manslaughter.This felony DWI applies for operators of motor vehicles, watercraft, aircraft and amusement park rides – if the operator is intoxicated and the intoxication causes death. No intent is required. A driver can be charged with intoxication manslaughter if the death is due to an accident or mistake. This DWI offense is a second-degree felony unless an enhanced penalty applies.

What are enhanced DWI offenses?

If you’re charged with enhanced offenses in addition to your Killeen DWI, you can be facing much more serious consequences. What might normally leave you with fines and probation could end up being a felony crime.

The following offenses can be considered felonies:

  • Driving while intoxicated with a child passenger
  • Flying while intoxicated if you have two prior DWI convictions.
  • Boating while intoxicated, if you have two prior DWI convictions.
  • Assembling or operating an amusement park ride while intoxicated if you have two prior DWI convictions.

Are repeat DWIs considered felonies?

A third or subsequent DWI conviction is a felony crime in Texas. The penalties include:

  • At least 2 years in prison
  • Up to $10,000 in fines
  • Yearly fees and associated costs
  • Loss of license

What are the penalties for a DWI felony in Central Texas?

The possible jail or prison sentences and fines for felonies in Texas are set forth in the Texas Penal Code as follows.

  • 33. Second-degree felony: Prison time from two to 20 years and fines up to $10.000.
  • 34. Third-degree felony: Prison time from two to 10 years and fines up to $10.000.
  • State jail felony: 180 days to two years and fines up to $10,000. Some state jail felonies may become third-degree felonies if the defendant has a prior felony conviction or a deadly weapon enhancement.

What are the BAC amounts that can result in a DWI charge?

Drivers whose BAC is at or above the following amounts can be charged with driving while intoxicated in Texas:

  • .08 for any driver.This is the legal limit across America.
  • .04 for a commercial driver.Commercial drivers are generally anyone with a commercial driver’s license, like truckers.
  • .02 for minors.This strict BAC limit applies if a driver is under 21. This generally means any amount of alcohol can be detected.
  • .15 for any driver.In this case, a DWI offense will be upgraded.

Generally, in DWI cases where the BAC is above one of these limits, our attorneys fight charges by showing that the breath test is either inadmissible, unreliable, or that there are extenuating circumstances.

Which breathalyzer tests are used in Texas?

Blood alcohol concentration (BAC) means the number of grams of alcohol per 210 liters of breath. According to the Texas Breath Alcohol Program Operator Manual, breath testing instruments must meet the following requirements:

  • Expired breath specimens need to be analyzed
  • The device must use a reference system where the results agree with +/- .01g/210 L of the nominal value or such limits as set by the Scientific Director
  • The procedure should be appropriately and adequately specific for the determination of alcohol concentration for law enforcement.
  • Other tests that the Scientific Director deems required must be met. For example, the Director requires that the officer stay in the subject/driver’s continuous presence for 15 minutes before the test is given and should use reasonable care so that that the person taking the test doesn’t place anything in his/her mouth.

One breath machine that Texas has approved for law enforcement is the Intoxilyzer 9000. The Intoxilyzer 9000 uses the scientific principle of “infrared spectrometry.”

What factors can affect BAC results?

Some of the factors that skilled DWI breath test lawyers review, sometimes with the help of breathalyzer machine experts, include:

  • The temperature of the person who took the test
  • The depth of your breath when you breathe into the breathalyzer machine
  • Any physical conditions, such as heart problems or diabetes, you have
  • Your sex
  • The variance of the test results that may indicate a problem with the breath tests or the breath test machine
  • Whether the officer clearly explained how the breath test machine works

Each test operator must be certified on a yearly basis – by November 1 of each year. In addition, every other year, the officer must complete a renewal course and a renewal exam.

How can you challenge breath test results in Central Texas?

Breath tests can be contested based on a variety of defects. These include:

  • Use of breath test machines that haven’t been approved
  • Use of breath test machines that haven’t been properly validated
  • Use of breath tests administered by an officer who isn’t certified
  • Failure to maintain the equipment properly
  • Failure to administer the test properly

Other challenges may apply, depending on the basis for stopping you in the first place, when the test was given, and where it was given.

What if I refuse to take a breathalyzer test in Central Texas?

Texas has an implied consent law which requires that all drivers submit to a breath test (provided the police officer had grounds to request the breath test). Drivers who refuse a breath test will face an administrative license suspension, which can result in a loss of your driver’s license for up to 180 days. Drivers do have the right to contest the license suspension at an administration license suspension hearing – within 15 days. A subsequent refusal can result in a two-year suspension.

What are the three standard field sobriety tests?

A study from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) found that 4.2 million Americans admitted to drinking and driving in the prior month. The NHTSA authorizes only three field sobriety tests for use across the nation, including Texas. These tests were designed and based on controlled laboratory studies, and are as follows.

Horizontal gaze nystagmus test

In this test, the officer will ask the driver to step out of their car and move away from any flashing lights. The officer should check to see if you use contact lenses or have a problem with your vision other than wearing glasses. The police officer will hold a stylus, flashlight, or pen about 12-15 inches from your eyes. He/she will then ask to you to follow the stylus/flashlight/pen with your eyes while keeping your head still. Everyone has some involuntary bouncing eye movement when they follow an object. The HGN test checks to see if the bounce is exaggerated. The officer will also look to see at what point in the movement of the object your eyes bounce.

This test is often the one sobriety test that is subject to the strongest challenge. Officers aren’t trained eye doctors. They often fail to record the movements they saw or fail to be able to distinguish the eye movements from normal eye movements.

Walk and turn test

Here, the officer should explain the test and show you how it’s done. After asking you if you understand, the officer will then ask the driver to stand toe-to-heel. You should then walk in a straight line, turn around, and then walk back towards the officer. As you walk, your heel of your front foot should touch the toe of your rear foot. The officer will watch your feet while you walk to see if you:

  • Keep your arms at your side while you walk
  • Walk in a straight line
  • Count out loud incorrectly as you walk
  • Stop or stumble while walking
  • Lose your balance
  • Take nine steps in each direction
  • Start before the officer stays to start
  • Don’t turn properly

There may be legitimate reasons why you fail this test other than intoxication. For example, the road may not be level, or the officer didn’t explain how close your heel and toe need to be together.

The one-leg stand test

In this test, the driver will be asked to stand erect with one foot raised off the ground for up to 30 seconds. The officer will ask you to count while your foot is raised. The officer is looking to see:

  • How long you can hold your foot off the ground
  • If you can count correctly
  • If you need to use your arms to keep your balance
  • If you move sideways or hop while performing the test

As with the walk and turn test, there may be simple legitimate reasons for failing the test. For example, you may have a bad leg, you may be tired, experience normally poor balance, are overweight or have a health condition that affect your ability to do any physical test.

The police officer is giving these tests to determine if there is probable cause to give more invasive breath or blood tests. The tests can also be used as evidence without the chemical tests.

What if I refuse to submit to a field sobriety test in Central Texas?

Unlike breath or blood tests, if you refuse to submit to the three field sobriety tests, there is no direct penalty, such as a suspension of your license for failing to take the tests. However, the refusal to take the tests can be introduced at your DWI trial. By virtue of obtaining their driver’s license, Texans give their implied consent to breath and blood tests, which can result in losing your driving privileges for 180 days (or more for prior DWI arrests).

If you refuse the breath test:

  • You will likely be arrested for DWI, even if you were perfectly sober.
  • The officer will need to rely on the breath test or blood test results, which may show low readings, which means you could be released. They could also show that your blood alcohol level is more than .08, which means you’ll be arrested.

How can a Killeen felony DWI defense lawyer help?

Our skilled Killeen felony DWI attorneys can assert many different legal defenses, depending on your particular circumstances. Some of the possible defenses include:

  • Challenging the right of the police officer who stopped you
  • Asserting that any statements you made violated your Fifth Amendment rights
  • Asserting that any field sobriety tests or breath tests were invalid
  • Contesting that the specific terms of the felony DWI statutes were met
  • Arguing that the prosecution did not prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt
  • Other legal and factual issues relevant to your legal defense

Charged with felony DWI? Call us in Killeen today

At Mary Beth Harrell Law Firm, our Killeen felony DWI lawyers understand how harsh felony convictions are. They can mean lengthy prison sentences, huge fines, a loss of driving privileges, and the need to use an ignition interlock device. Our lawyers have a strong track record of success working to negotiate fair plea agreements, to have evidence suppressed, and to obtain just trial verdicts. To discuss your felony DWI, call us at 254-680-4655 or fill out our contact form to schedule an appointment. Our office locations include Killeen and Copperas Cove.