Many people think Texas’ DWI laws only apply to traditional motor vehicles like cars and boats. This simply isn’t true. Texas authorities can charge you with driving while intoxicated if you operate any vehicle impaired (including ATVs) on any public road. From a legal perspective, driving an ATV while intoxicated on a dirt road in one of Texas’ many state parks is no different from driving a car down a public roadway.
That means anyone from a park ranger to a Texas Department of Public Safety officer can arrest you for DWI if they have probable cause to believe you’re operating your ATV while intoxicated from alcohol or drugs. The penalties are also the same with an ATV DWI as they are in a car, meaning you can face imprisonment, fines, and license suspension. However, a DWI attorney can still fight the charges for you in court.
What Is the Legal Standard for DWI?
Under Texas law, driving while intoxicated (DWI) means operating any motor vehicle on a public road (or a boat on public waterways) with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) exceeding .08%, or under the influence of controlled substances or dangerous drugs, or any combination of these substances.
Even if your BAC is below .08%, a law enforcement officer can charge you with DWI if they believe you don’t have the “normal use of your mental or physical faculties.” That means you can be arrested for failing roadside sobriety tests after being pulled over on your ATV.
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What Are the Penalties for DWI on an ATV?
A conviction for DWI on an ATV carries the same punishment as a conviction for DWI in a car. A first-offense DWI conviction in Texas is a class-B misdemeanor and punishable by:
- 72 hours in jail up to a maximum of 180 days
- A fine of up to $2,000
- Up to a one-year suspension of your driver’s license
However, if there was an open container in your possession, the minimum jail time can increase. If your BAC is above .15%, your charge can be upgraded to a class A misdemeanor. The penalty for this is three days to a full year in jail and a $4,000 fine, in addition to the driver’s license suspension.
Are There Other Consequences for a DWI on an ATV?
If you aren’t granted probation in an ATV DWI case, the 72-hour or six-day prison terms will apply. Further, a DWI also comes with professional consequences. For example, if you hold a commercial driver’s license (CDL) or drive professionally, a DWI conviction will probably put an end to these careers.
A DWI conviction will also become part of your criminal record. That means whenever you apply for a home loan, auto insurance, or even a job, you must explain this unfortunate past. A DWI lawyer can fight to avoid these kinds of consequences on your behalf.
Can DWI on an ATV be Charged As a Felony?
DWI on an ATV can be charged as a felony instead of a misdemeanor under certain circumstances, including:
- Driving on the ATV with a child under the age of 15 at the time of arrest.
- Being involved in an ATV accident while intoxicated that caused serious bodily harm (Intoxicated Assault).
- Being involved in a fatal ATV accident while intoxicated (Intoxicated manslaughter).
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Potential Defenses Against DWI on an ATV
The state must prove its case against you beyond a reasonable doubt to a jury of your peers, just as they do for DWI in a car. However, a DWI lawyer has several potential ways to fight for an acquittal or case dismissal in your ATV DWI trial.
First, law enforcement must have probable cause to stop you while riding your ATV. If your DWI lawyer can prove that you didn’t commit the moving violation that led to the initial traffic stop, they may be able to get the charges against you dismissed.
Second, the arresting officer must have reasonable suspicion to investigate you for DWI. This is another area where your DWI attorney may be able to raise reasonable doubt with the jury or convince the judge the police officer had no legal basis to assume you were intoxicated. This could result in the evidence the police collected in sobriety or breathalyzer tests being ruled inadmissible, which could result in a case dismissal.
A DWI Lawyer May Also Challenge the Science in Your Case
In many DWI cases, the evidence against you is based on the results of the breathalyzer or blood tests. This may seem intimidating, but it’s not insurmountable. The machinery used to conduct breath and blood testing is very sensitive, one rude comment and it could be out of service for days. It must be properly maintained, and the tests must be administered according to strict guidelines for their results to stand up in court.
However, a DWI attorney with an extensive background in the science of DWIs, chemical testing, and roadside sobriety may be able to demonstrate that your tests were not properly conducted or that the machines weren’t in good working order. This is why it’s so important to find a DWI lawyer who understands how both the law and the science of DWI convictions work. That uncommon combination could make all the difference in a DWI case.
Talk to a DWI Attorney About Your ATV Case
No one ever thinks a day of good, clean fun on an ATV will result in a DWI charge – until it does. If you’ve been arrested for DWI on an ATV, you are not without hope. A DWI lawyer can mount several potential defenses against your charges and fight hard for your best outcome.
Blass Law offers confidential case evaluations to people in your situation. We’ve been fighting for the rights of DWI defendants across Southeast Texas since 2009. We would love the opportunity to talk to you about your case and how we might fight for you. Reach out to us today.