With the holidays coming up, many of us are planning to travel. At this time of year, we often hear to be careful of drunk drivers. But exactly how bad are the numbers?
In December 2017, drunk driving killed 885 people in America, and more than a third of December’s deaths occur between Christmas and New Year’s.
In 2016, a full 7% of that year’s deaths from drunk driving in the US took place in December. For the last couple of years, Texas has been the state with the highest number of drunk driving deaths.
Death is not the only risk.
An arrest is a very serious risk as well. In 2013, Texas law enforcement offers made 99,915 DWI arrests. Of those arrested, 71,030 drivers were convicted. The penalty for a first offense DWI in Texas ranges from a fine up to $2,000, a jail sentence up to 180 days and suspension of your license for up to a year. Things only get worse from there upon subsequent offenses and the addition of other factors such as getting into a crash or driving while intoxicated with a child in the car. The offense can remain on your record permanently. (https://www.dmv.org/tx-texas/automotive-law/dui.php)
With the cost of hiring an attorney and other fees, the cost of a first offense for a DWI in Texas can run from $6,750 to $12,958 on average (which means it could be higher!) On the third offense, the estimate begins at $27,500 and a prison sentence. Having any DWI offense on your record may impact your employment prospects over your lifetime when jobs require background checks, which may continue to cost a driver many thousands of dollars.
You will almost certainly get caught.
Every New Year’s Eve, North Texas law enforcement officers conduct no-refusal operations. Anyone pulled over and suspected of a DWI will be subjected to a blood test. If the driver refuses, a judge is on call to provide an immediate warrant for a blood sample anyway. In 2016, during the Christmas-New Year’s corridor, officers made 439 DWI arrests. (https://www.star-telegram.com/news/local/community/fort-worth/article192307929.html)
An average Uber ride is $30-$40.
Compared to the thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars involved in a DWI arrest, using Uber and Lyft just makes good sense. Both have easy-to-use apps available for your smartphone and come with the dual bonus of friendly drivers who contribute to your local economy. Your ride will help buy someone’s Christmas and provide you with a pleasant conversation.
It is also worth noting that if you usually drive for Uber or Lyft yourself, a DWI will end that relationship—you cannot drive for either with a DWI on your record within the last seven (Lyft) or ten (Uber) years.
Know your rights.
You have the right to remain silent. If you are pulled over and the officer asks you questions, you do not have to answer them. This includes asking you if you know why you have been pulled over and whether you had been drinking before driving. The officer cannot arrest you or suspend your license for refusing to answer whether you have been drinking.
You may refuse to perform field sobriety tests. You may attempt to refuse to take a breathalyzer or blood test, but this may get your license automatically suspended for 180 days (on the first offense) with limited opportunity to protect your license. However, it may still be better to have your license suspended than to let them obtain your exact blood alcohol content (BAC.)
You may ask to consult an attorney before participating in any tests, but the officer may also refuse you that opportunity. If you are pulled over for suspicion of DWI, you will want to contact your attorney at the earliest possible opportunity. If you cannot do so before you are asked to be tested, then you should do so as quickly as you can after being arrested.
Be polite throughout the encounter. You are probably being recorded, and you don’t want a judge or a jury watching footage of you being rude to a police officer.
Have a plan before you even go out.
The very best thing you can do before even taking the first drink is to decide to take an Uber, Lyft or taxi service home. Save both apps on your phone with your payment information already linked to the account. And save the phone number of a DWI defense attorney to your phone too, just in case. You could save lives—including your own! You could save thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars in fees and fines. And you will save yourself the hassle of making decisions after you might already be buzzed.
To learn more about this issue or to consult with one of our attorneys, call the Flores Harbour Law Office today for a private consultation (940) 387-3909.