What is “Driving While Intoxicated”?


In Texas and across the nation, Driving While Intoxicated, or DWI for short, is a criminal accusation brought by the State against an individual citizen for operating a motor vehicle in a public place while intoxicated. There are various levels of charge in Texas, ranging from a Class B misdemeanor up to a second degree felony. Regardless of the level of charge, a DWI is a serious accusation with serious consequences if a person is convicted.

In a criminal prosecution, the burden of proof is always on the State, never shifting to the Defense, to prove each and every element of the charge beyond a reasonable doubt. For a DWI, there are seven individual elements to the charge:

  1. A person;
  2. On or about a particular date;
  3. Operated;
  4. A motor vehicle;
  5. In the county of prosecution;
  6. In a public place;
  7. While intoxicated.

If the State cannot meet their burden on each element of the charge, a person is Not Guilty of the allegations. Most often this comes down to the final element, intoxication. Intoxication can be caused by either alcohol, drugs, or a combination of both. It is not a legal defense if a person is intoxicated on prescription drugs provided by a medical professional. Even with the modern advancements in alcohol detection science and their adoption by law enforcement agencies across the nation, it is still possible to fight a DWI case.

Many cases are highly litigated on the third element, “operation”. The State must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a person actually operated a motor vehicle. A common scenario where this becomes a problem for the State is when a person is outside of the vehicle when the police arrive at the scene, such as after an accident or when a person is changing a flat tire.

There are many ways to fight a DWI charge, but it takes an experienced, knowledgeable attorney to do this. It is rarely a good idea to represent yourself in a criminal prosecution, especially so when it comes to a DWI case. The best idea is to find an attorney that knows how to handle a DWI, has experience trying DWI cases to juries, and who has secured acquittals for their clients in the past. Very few attorneys have the knowledge and experience to truly know how to fight and win a DWI case.

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