By Dallas and Collin County Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal
Drunk driving laws are a one-way road. They’re getting tougher and unless and until politicians begin campaigning on being easier on this sort of thing, you can expect the laws to keep getting even tougher than they are now.
A law passed this past legislative term and now in effect is that it is now a Class A misdemeanor if your blood alcohol result is above a 0.15 at the time the test is taken (not when you were behind the wheel).
The law is yet another example of how the state punishes you for cooperating by taking the breath test.
Not only that, but what they’re also doing is making steeper punishment more arbitrary. Think of it this way… if person A has been drinking steadily all night and gets behind the wheel at, let’s say, a 0.18 blood/ alcohol concentration — it’s possible he’s spared the enhanced punishment because by the time he takes the breath test 2 hours later, his blood alcohol level may be at a 0.14 and he won’t be punished under this new enhancement. Now take person B who took 2 or 3 shots before getting in the car to drive 2 miles home… felt fine… but was pulled over. Two hours later, person B’s blood may spike at o.15. Person B’s conduct is punished more harshly than person A, but clearly the culpability is reversed.
Regardless of why the law may be unfair, here’s the net result — it will be more stigmatizing. Legally the punishment increases from a class b to a class a misdemeanor, so there is always the legal possibility that someone may get punished worse (up to a year in jail instead of 180 days and up to a $4,000 fine instead of $2,000). In reality, people typically don’t see anywhere near the max jail time or fine on a DWI regardless of the breath or blood test scores.
The arrest will simply look worse on someone’s record and gives people facing these charges even more incentive to fight them.
*Jeremy Rosenthal is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and licensed by the Supreme Court of Texas. Nothing in this article should be considered legal advice. For legal advice on any matter you should contact an attorney directly.