Can COVID-19 Get My Harris County DWI Dismissed?

DWI Arrests are Down

Lately, I have been getting questions from people about how the COVID-19 pandemic might affect the dismissal of their DWI case. Arrests for DWI in Harris County, TX are much lower than they were before March. With restaurants and bars being closed for over six weeks, fewer people were out driving after drinking. For that matter, fewer people were out driving at all. 

For several weeks now, Harris County law enforcement personnel have been using masks to help prevent the spread of the aggressive virus. Officers are likely avoiding random contact with drivers as much as they did before this health concern arose. So law enforcement aggression in “spot checking” drivers is probably less prevalent than it was.     

Masks

One factor that is commonly associated with an arrest for DWI is the odor of an alcoholic beverage on the breath of a driver. If both the officer and the driver are wearing masks, the probability that the odor of an alcoholic beverage will reach the detection of an officer’s nose is certainly reduced. Officers may very well be keeping an increased distance from drivers than they were before March, which in turn will reduce how obvious signs of drinking may be to an officer.

Wearing a mask properly over your nose and mouth will also give a driver more potent feedback to their own nose of how much they have had to drink. This may also raise awareness in potential drivers who may decide not to drive after drinking too much.

Sobriety Tests

Obviously, anyone who knows they are positive with COVID-19 should be quarantined and not out in public driving around. If, however, someone is sick with COVID-19 or any similar respiratory inflammation, their balance and coherence following detailed instructions could be impaired. Therefore, if someone were charged with a DWI and later discovers they have these symptoms, a careful examination of the circumstances could question some evidence that the officers assumed was caused by intoxication. With a top DWI lawyer, this could help lead to the dismissal of a Houston DWI.

Breath Test

There is no specific research on how the alcohol level in the breath of a COVID-19 patient may be affected by the virus. The physiologic process of how alcohol in the bloodstream gets to the air in the lungs could be affected, however, by diseased or inflamed lungs. If the COVID-19 virus stays with us for a long time, research may emerge in this area.

Release from Jail

At the time of this writing, most drivers arrested for a misdemeanor DWI in Harris County, Texas are released on a personal bond within a few hours of arrest. For several reasons, including COVID-19, the Harris County jail is trying to confine non-violent arrestees for a minimal amount of time necessary to process them into the criminal justice system.  This concern could also be a factor in the risk of jail time (in the event of the DWI not being dismissed) being less.

Restaurants and Bars Reopening

Houston has begun the reopening of restaurants and bars in the past week. If a driver has some drinks and wants to avoid a DWI, some of the above considerations should be considered. I certainly recommend drinking responsibly before driving; the best way to get a DWI dismissed is not to get arrested at all.

If You Are Arrested

It is not recommended to volunteer information or evidence to an officer who suspects you have committed any crime. Be respectful to officers, but you do not have to assist in their investigation in order to respect them. When you are released from jail, call my office immediately for help. Do not forget that you only have 15 days after your arrest to contest any administrative suspension that the DPS may try to impose on you

Written by

Jim Medley

For more than 20 years, attorney Jim Medley has perfected his craft in the field of criminal justice. He garnered extensive knowledge during his 12 years as a police officer in Texas, and applied that knowledge during his time as a professor of criminal law and criminal justice. Mr. Medley brings a unique skill set to the table, and as a result, he would be an invaluable asset in the courtroom should you need DWI or criminal defense in Houston.

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