With Austin among the worst cities in the nation when it comes to per capita DUIs it truly cannot be overstated that without mindfully abiding by DUI/DWI laws, anyone can be charged with drinking anywhere and at any time. Regardless of whether you are seen driving recklessly or the cause of an accident, if you’re pulled over on suspicion of a DWI or DUI in Austin, you can anticipate a long road of complex legal troubles ahead of you. Here’s exactly what you can expect each step of the way when you’re charged and convicted of DUI Austin.
- Getting Pulled Over: No matter the mistake that got you pulled over, if an officer suspects that you are under the influence of alcohol or other drugs, they are likely to initiate a DUI investigation. A DUI investigation will often begin with a field sobriety test. Field sobriety tests provide officers with clues that may indicate intoxication and take place in three parts including the one-leg stand, the walk-and-turn, and the horizontal gaze nystagmus test. While it is crucial to fully comply with an officer if pulled over sober, given the variety of variables and potential inaccuracies of DUI tests, many lawyers advise against taking them if you’re intoxicated.
Aside from field sobriety tests, an officer who suspects a DUI will likely conduct a breathalyzer test. While breathalyzer tests can provide inaccuracies similar to field sobriety tests, refusing a breathalyzer test, as with blowing above .08% will result in an Administrative License Revocation due to Texas having an implied consent law for DUI chemical tests.
- Being Placed Under Arrest, Arraignment Hearing, and ALR: Upon being placed under arrest for a DUI, you will be sent to jail and arraigned on charges within 24 hours. DUI charges will differ depending on previous convictions, whether the offense resulted in an accident or injury, the presence of an open container or child in the vehicle, and blood alcohol concentration, but a standard first-time DUI charge results in a Class B misdemeanor carrying a potential three to 180 days in jail, a maximum fine of $2,000 and a probationary period of one to two years. Prior to an arraignment, it is important to consult with a skilled DUI defense attorney to secure your best possible outcome.
While it’s not uncommon for first-time offenders to be sentenced to the minimum penalty for a non-enhanced first-time DUI and avoid jail time, all DUIs in Austin (and the state at large) are subject to the ALR process which occurs separately from criminal charges and will automatically suspend a driver’s license for 90 days. While a hearing can be scheduled to fight an ALR if you’ve refused to take a breathalyzer or blown above a .08% you have no chance of appeal.
2A. Deferred Adjudication: Prior to first-time DUIs becoming subject to deferred adjudication in 2019, an Austin DUI conviction guaranteed a tarnished criminal record and a likelihood of jail time. However, with deferred adjudication now available for first-time DUIs, it is possible to avoid jail time and the harsh repercussions of a DUI as long as a defendant was not involved in an accident and blew below a .015% on a breathalyzer. A defendant eligible for deferred adjudication can plead guilty or no contest to their DUI charges and, instead of jail, follow normal probationary procedures which upon completion will result in the removal of the conviction from a criminal record.
- Serving Jail Time, Probation, and Order of Nondisclosure: Individuals ineligible for deferred adjudication who are convicted of a DUI will have to serve at least the minimum sentence (72 hours for a BAC of .015% or higher) and complete probation. The conditions for DUI probation in Austin are extensive and include a variety of additional fines, DUI education courses, community service, abstinence from alcohol, random drug tests, home inspections, and mandatory employment among a laundry list of other potential requirements.
After completing a DUI jail sentence and probation, it is highly beneficial to petition the court for an order of nondisclosure. Given the highly stigmatized nature of DUI convictions, without an order of nondisclosure sealing an offender’s record, they are likely to face difficulties obtaining a job or housing opportunities.