DWI: A Federal Case?

In most circumstances it is state law that prohibits drinking while intoxicated. That means that each individual state, including Texas, has its own laws on what constitutes a DWI, what level of proof is needed to get a DWI conviction, and what penalties apply for DWI. But that changes once a person is accused of DWI on federal lands.

Federal DWI laws are part of an overall scheme that seeks to set certain federal policies for states. In fact, the almost universal standard of .08 blood alcohol level is mandated to the states by the federal government, and if the state do not set it at that level, they miss out on important highway funds. And when it comes to DWI, the federal government is as strict as any state.

Federal DWI: Two Approaches

The major difference between a federal and state DWI is where the driving takes place. To be accused of a federal DWI the driver must be driving on, of have driven on, federal lands. There are a number of places this can happen:

  • national parks;
  • military bases and installations;
  • federal monuments; and,
  • other lands owned by the federal government.

There is not as much risk in Texas of getting a DWI on federal lands as there is in other states. Of the over 160 million acres of land in Texas, a little less than 3 million acres are federal. But the risk is still there.

If arrested and charged with DWI on federal lands, a federal prosecutor will handle the case, and it will be dealt with in federal court. The applicable laws will change based on where the alleged DWI took place. If the alleged DWI took place in a national park, then 36 CFR 4.23 will apply. Included in that portion of the federal regulation is a requirement that the operator of the vehicle submit to a blood, breath, or saliva test for alcohol.

On non-national park federal land, a different set of laws will apply. The federal government passed a law known as the Assimilative Crimes Act. Under the terms of this act, if you are charged with a DWI on federal lands, the federal prosecutor will use the laws of the state where the federal land is located to prosecute the DWI. That means that if you are charged with a DWI on a military base in Texas, you would likely be charged by the federal government using Texas DWI laws.

Defending Your Rights

Regardless of whether you are charged for DWI in federal or state court, you have rights. But those rights will not do you any good if you do not have a qualified DWI attorney at your side asserting your rights to the court, prosecutor, and police. At the Wilder DWI Defense Firm we know what your rights are in a DWI case, and we will be there to defend and assert those rights. If you are accused of DWI in the Dallas Texas area, contact us. We look forward to going over your case and your legal options with you.