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Common DWI Terms and Phrases

Absorption Rate: The rate at which consumed alcohol finds its way into the blood stream. While alcohol sits in the stomach, its absorption is delayed. Absorption rate will be affected by how much was eaten, individual biologic differences, and what type of beverage was consumed. When drinking continues over a course of hours, both absorption and elimination (metabolizing of alcohol) may be happening simultaneously.

Administrative License Revocation: A law that allows the prompt suspension of the license of drivers arrested for Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) when a driver has a BAC above a 0.08, or if a driver refuses to take a blood or breath test.

BAC: Acronym for blood alcohol concentration. BAC refers to the amount of alcohol in your bloodstream and is measured in percentages. BAC can be measured either by breath, blood, or urine testing and is often used by law enforcement to determine whether or not a driver is legally intoxicated.

Breathalyzer: A portable breathalyzer is sometimes used by law enforcement to estimate the BAC of suspected drunk drivers. Measurements or readings from this handheld device are not admissible in Texas courts other than to show the presence of alcohol. Breath test results that are admissible in court come from a device that is calibrated more often and checked daily pursuant to DPS rules. These larger and more complex machines (such as the Intoxilyzer 5000 in Texas) are usually located at the jail and are only administered after an arrest for DWI.

Chemical Test: The Texas Alcohol Breath Testing Program requires that in each breath or blood test certain guidelines must be followed. A DWI lawyer will thoroughly review each case to ensure that the person giving the test and the person testifying about the results of the test have complied with all scientific rules, regulations, and laws. If any of these requirements have not been met, various motions to suppress the results of the chemical tests can be filed and argued. In addition, there are other areas that may affect the validity of a breath or blood test. These areas include: residual mouth alcohol; the body temperature of the suspect taking the test; and certain medical conditions of the suspect taking the test.

Community Service Restitution: A minimum of 40 hours of community service is typically required as a condition of probation in Denton County. The length of community service can be increased significantly based on the facts of the case and individual needs of the client.

Driver License Suspension: DPS can pursue an administrative license revocation ("ALR") after a DWI arrest. The length of the suspension depends on a number of factors including your age, whether or not you consented to a breath or blood alcohol test, and whether you have a commercial driver license. An additional one-year license suspension can be enforced upon a convicted for DWI. Attending a DWI education class may eliminate that license suspension, and a judge may also grant an occupational driver license based on need.

Driver Responsibility Act Surcharges: Texas imposes a surcharge for a DWI on top of regular fines. The surcharge is $1,000 per year for three years for a first DWI conviction, $1,500 per year for three years for a second DWI conviction, and $2,000 for a first or subsequent conviction if the persons BAC level was double or more the legal limit (0.16).

DUI: Driving Under the Influence - this offense is a Class C Misdemeanor and is reserved only for individuals younger than 21 years of age.

DWI Education Program: First time offenders must complete a 12-hour DWI Education Program during the first 180 days of probation.

Elimination Rate: The rate at which alcohol in the body is metabolized and eliminated from the blood stream.

FST: Acronym for Field Sobriety Tests. A series of standardized physical and mental coordination tests designed to help officers decide whether a driver is intoxicated. The 3 FSTs standardized by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) include the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test (HGN is the involuntary jerking of an eye as it moves across a horizontal plane), the Walk and Turn test, and the One Leg Stand. There are other, non-standardized tests, which include reciting the alphabet from a certain letter to a certain letter (D-Q, for example) and counting backwards and remembering to stop (56-23, for example). Field Sobriety Testing is highly subjective, but if the officer concludes a driver is intoxicated, and the officer does not get a breath or blood specimen to test the BAC, often times the FSTs are the State's only evidence of DWI at trial.

Ignition Interlock Device: An ignition interlock device is an in-car alcohol breath-screening device that prevents a vehicle from starting if it detects a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) over a pre-set limit of .02. The device is located inside the vehicle, near the driver's seat, and is connected to the engine's ignition system. The device is required for all Class A DWI offenders during probation (persons convicted of DWI with a BAC of 0.15 or higher or DWI 2nd offense).

Implied Consent Laws: Texas has an implied consent law which states that because you have a driver license, you have, by implication, consented to have your blood alcohol concentration measured after an arrest for DWI. This law is what allows Texas DPS to enforce a driver license suspension upon your refusal to provide a test.

Intoxilyzer: A brand name for the blood alcohol breath-testing instrument used in Texas. Although there are more current models available and used by other states, the model used in Texas is the "Intoxilyzer 5000".

Miranda Rights: The formal warnings police must recite prior to questioning someone who is already under arrest. These warnings include the right to remain silent and the right to have a lawyer present before and during any questioning while in custody. Miranda Rights are seldom relevant in DWI cases because law enforcement officers typically question a driver about the offense during the investigation, prior to arrest. However, if after a person is arrested and taken to the jail for breath testing or to the hospital for blood testing the officer wants to ask additional questions regarding the offense, he or she must advise you of your rights under Miranda.

Occupational Driver License: An occupational driver license ("ODL") may be issued based on "essential need" and usually only when the court orders an offender into alcohol assessment/rehabilitation. In Denton County it is common for the judge to order a few meetings at an Alcoholics Anonymous group or some other type of alcohol counseling.

Refusal: If you refused a chemical test, the law enforcement and the prosecutor will attempt to use your refusal as evidence of guilt. Before your refusal to take a certain test can be admitted, the state must meet certain evidentiary requirements.

Regurgitation: Ejecting some stomach contents up into the throat or mouth. When there is mouth alcohol present during a breath test, an Intoxilyzer can be fooled into thinking that the blood alcohol level is much higher than it is. A breath test operator administering the test is supposed to observe a suspect for a minimum of 15 minutes to ensure he or she does not burp or regurgitate prior to the test. A cloud of alcohol burped up into the mouth will invalidate the breath test results and should be reflected on the breath test print out itself.

Vehicle Impound: Vehicle impound is the process of an officer releasing a vehicle to a tow company for impound after a driver has been arrested for DWI. Sometimes, if the passenger is not intoxicated, police will ask a driver's permission to release the car to the sober passenger. However, these policies do vary from agency to agency.