Proving a DWI Beyond a Reasonable Doubt

Travis County Judge’s DWI Charge Reduced

Judge Gisela Triana of Austin, Texas, recently had her DWI charge reduced to a speeding offense. Triana sits as a judge in the 200th District Court of Travis County, Texas. On March 20, 2015 Triana was pulled over for going 47 miles-per-hour in a 30 miles-per-hour zone.

Triana said she had consumed four drinks and refused a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) test, however, later that night there was a warrant released for her blood draw. Upon refusal of the BAC test, the arresting officer had Triana perform a series of field sobriety tests. The police also found an open bottle of Mike’s Hard Lemonade in the center console of Triana’s vehicle, though there was no indication that she has consumed it that night. Although her field sobriety tests showed that she was within the parameters of a person with normal use of his or her mental and physical faculties, Triana was subsequently arrested and charged with driving while intoxicated, a Class B misdemeanor.

Upon receipt of her blood tests, it was discovered that Triana’s BAC level at the time of her arrest was at 0.076, just below the legal limit of 0.08. No drugs were found in her system. Triana’s DWI charge was then lowered to speeding, a Class C misdemeanor which will require a $100 fine and court costs. Triana faces a reduced offense than previously because the evidence presented failed to prove that Triana had committed a DWI offense beyond a reasonable doubt.

Beyond a Reasonable Doubt vs. Probable Cause

The Texas Penal Code sets the standard of proof for an individual to be convicted of a criminal offense. Each element of the offense must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. If this standard is not met, there cannot be a conviction and the alleged offender is presumed to be innocent. Beyond a reasonable doubt does not mean complete certainty that the alleged offender has committed a crime but rather that there is enough evidence presented to lead a jury to believe, without hesitation, that the alleged offender has committed the crime.
The beyond a reasonable doubt standard of proof for a conviction differs from probable cause. An officer must have probable cause to question, pull over, or arrest an individual for committing a crime. Probable cause is a reasonable suspicion, which is a much lower standard than beyond a reasonable doubt.

Proving a DWI Beyond a Reasonable Doubt

In order for an alleged offender to be convicted of a DWI, the prosecution must prove each element of a DWI beyond a reasonable doubt. Section 49.04 of the Texas Penal Code states that a person has committed the offense of driving while intoxicated if the person is intoxicated while operating a motor vehicle in a public place.

This means that the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the alleged offender:

  • Was intoxicated
  • Was operating a motor vehicle
  • Was in a public place

If uncertainty exists with regards to one or all of the elements of a DWI, an individual may not be convicted of the crime.

If you have been charged with a DWI, we urge you to seek legal defense. DWIs involve complex laws and many legal standards, which the attorneys at the Wilder DWI Defense Firm are very knowledgeable on and equipped to handle successfully. Contact our firm today to schedule your free consultation.