Texas Considering Creation of DWI “Lite”

Drinking and driving is never a good idea.  Soon it may be an even worse idea in Texas.  Austin police chief Art Acevedo has given his support for the creation of a DWI “lite” classification for drivers that have a BAC of .05 to .07.  For some drivers, this is equal to drinking a few beers with dinner and then driving home.  Acevedo has gone so far as to petition the Senate Committee for Criminal Justice last October to seek the passing of a DWAI law, or driving while ability impaired law.

With a BAC of .08 or higher, first time offenders in Texas are punished with a fine of $2000 and a 90 day license suspension and is a class B misdemeanor.  A second offence causes the fine to double and the offender’s license can be suspended for a year.  It is important to note that the DWAI punishment would be less severe.  Only Colorado and New York have current laws established that are similar to the Texas proposal.  In Colorado, a DWAI charge is a class C misdemeanor which results in a $500 fine, 24 to 48 hours of community service and possible jail time.  No suspensions of licenses take place in Colorado for DWAI charges.

There are certain drawbacks and benefits of a DWAI charge in Texas.  Every year, thousands of Texas drivers successfully plea bargain DWI charges to lesser, non-DWI charges.  For example, of the 7,165 cases of DWI in Travis County in 2009, 2,216 were dismissed.  This may be because the case against the offender is weak or if the person charged did not have a BAC of .08 at the time of arrest.  Art Acevedo sees problems with this current system.  Those who plea down are not treated like repeat offenders if they drink and drive again.  The DWAI classification would alleviate this problem because DWAI convictions would show on record that any repeat offender has already been cited for drinking and driving.

Critics of this proposal include DWI defense attorneys, proprietors of establishments that sell alcohol and people who feel they can drink responsibly.  Defense attorney Jamie Spencer said that DWAI legislature is close to a zero-tolerance policy because “every driver with even a hint of alcohol on their breath will be taken to jail.”  Not only that, but since Texas does not have a public transportation system like New York most people will have little opportunity to get home safely after a few drinks.

DWAI is a scary prospect when one considers that a 140 pound woman would be in trouble after having two drinks in one hour.  If you are charged with driving while intoxicated, please contact a Texas DWI defense attorney.