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Common DWI Terms and Phrases

Absorption Rate: This is the speed at which alcohol is absorbed into the bloodstream after consumption. The longer that alcohol sits in the stomach, the longer it takes to be absorbed. This process can be slowed down by a number of factors, including the type of alcohol consumed, the individual’s unique biology, the amount of food in the stomach, and more. If the person drinking continues to drink over several hours, the process of elimination/metabolization of alcohol may happen at the same time as the absorption into the bloodstream, making it more difficult to know exactly how much alcohol is present in the bloodstream.

Administrative License Revocation: This law allows officers to suspend the license of a driver arrested for Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) when their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is above 0.08 percent. Officers can also suspend the license of a driver who refuses to take a breath or blood test when they are suspected of driving under the influence.

Blood Alcohol Concentration: Also known as BAC, this refers to the percentage of alcohol present in someone’s bloodstream. This can be measured by a urine, blood, and/or breath test, and can determine whether or not a driver is legally allowed to drive. The legal limit for most drivers is 0.08 percent BAC, but is only 0.04 percent for commercial drivers.

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. Other issues could affect the validity of a blood or breath test, including the presence of residual alcohol in the subject’s mouth, the test subject’s body temperature during the test, and certain medical conditions.

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 person’s 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 bloodstream.

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: This device can be fitted to a vehicle and hooked up to its ignition system in order to prevent the vehicle from starting when it detects a BAC above a pre-set limit, typically 0.02 percent. The device is usually installed near the driver’s seat and is required for anyone convicted of a Class A DWI – someone convicted of their second DWI offense of someone convicted of a DWI with a BAC of at least 0.15 percent – during their probation.

Implied Consent Laws: Texas has an implied consent law which states that because you have a driver license, you have already consented to have your BAC measured after you are arrested for a 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: Also known as spitting up, any amount of vomit in the mouth can affect a breathalyzer test, causing it to come back with a considerably higher BAC than normal. The person operating the breathalyzer during the test is supposed to observe their suspect for at least 15 minutes to make sure that there is no regurgitation present prior to or during the test. Even a simple burp can invalidate the test results and needs to be reflected on the printout of the breath test results.

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.

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