Can I be arrested for a Texas DWI if I was not driving?
Most drivers realize they can be arrested for a Texas DWI or driving while intoxicated in Texas if they are operating a motorized vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol (not having the normal use of their mental or physical faculties) or if they have a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08% or higher.
If you are arrested for a Texas DWI this is a Class B Misdemeanor and it is defined under Texas Penal Code ß49.04. That provision states that, “A person commits an offense if the person is intoxicated while operating a motor vehicle in a public place street, highway, beach, parking lot, etc.” But what happens if you are sitting in the parking lot and the car is not moving? How can you be arrested for drunk driving if you are not “driving”?
Texas laws defines operating a motorized vehicle or drunk driving as having the ability to “dominate, direct or regulate the vehicle” this may mean that you can be arrested for a Texas DWI even if you are not driving at the time you are arrested for drunk driving.
Unfortunately, this interpretation of the drunk driving law may punish those drivers who realize they are too intoxicated to drive and have a high blood alcohol concentration and decide to pull over to the side of the road or into a public parking lot to wait until they are able to safely drive.
So can you be arrested if you are simply sitting behind the steering wheel? It may be possible, especially if the keys are in the ignition or the car is running, and the state can prove that you have “actual physical control” of the car.
What happens after first DWI arrest in Texas?
Drivers arrested in Texas are likely to face not only criminal DWI charges but also an administrative license suspension if they are arrested for DWI. Administrative penalties may be enforced if you refuse to take a chemical test or if you take the blood, breath or urine test and your blood alcohol concentration is above the legal limit. Keep in mind you may have your license suspended through the administrative license suspension process even if you are ultimately not convicted of DWI in Texas.
Criminal charges for DWI conviction in Texas
As mentioned above, a first DWI conviction is Class B misdemeanor. Drivers can expect to spend a minimum of 72 hours in jail or 6 days if an open container is present. Drivers will pay DWI fines and costs up to $2,000 and a possible surcharge of $1,000 per year for 3 years. Fines can increase dramatically if your blood alcohol concentration level is double the legal limit of 0.08%. The driver may have their license suspended for up to one year, although the state of Texas does offer occupational licenses for certain qualifying drivers.
Talking to a DWI lawyer after a DWI arrest in Texas
Although you may be tempted to plead guilty if you are arrested for a Texas DWI if you were sitting in your car and the keys were not in the ignition, talk to a DWI lawyer about how you can prove you did not have the capability to operate the vehicle and have them review your DWI arrest.
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