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Why DWI is an “Opinion Crime”

For many law violations, there are set standards that do not fluctuate based on the opinion of law enforcement. Violations such as running a stop sign, theft, assault, or rear ending another driver are all violations that are not solely determined by the immediate observations and discretion of a police officer. It is for this reason that our Houston criminal lawyers commonly refer to a DWI as an “opinion crime.”

Why DWI is an Opinion Crime.

In our decades of experience, we have noticed that in DWI cases, initial guilt is typically based on the sole discretion, and opinion of the officer, who pulls over a driver suspected of driving drunk. For purposes of determining drunkenness, the officer plays the role of judge, jury and executioner, making the decision to send you to jail for a DWI purely off of his or her observations. This decision is usually made within a matter of minutes, but has ultimate consequences of determining whether a person will go to jail or retain their freedom.

Flaws with field sobriety tests

To determine whether a driver is drunk, officers will administer a field sobriety test. This is a test created and standardized by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The test contains three separate examinations:

  • The one leg stand
  • The walk and turn test, and
  • The horizontal gaze nystagmus, which is commonly referred to as the eye test.

All of these tests are designed to assess the inebriation level of a suspected drunk driver. The problem with these tests is that the results of these tests are subject to the discretion of police officers, leaving your fate to the personal opinion of the officer who pulled you over.

What is legal and illegal when it comes to drinking

We also refer to DWIs as an “opinion crime” because it is not, per se, illegal to have one alcoholic beverage and then operate a vehicle. But it is illegal to do so when you are drunk. Drunkenness is gauged differently to different people. For example, having two drinks at a bar can cause one person to experience impaired driving while another may feel perfectly fine to drive. Whether or not the driver decides to commit the crime is determined by their opinion of their faculties after consuming alcohol.

Experience matters in DWI

Lack of experience on behalf of a police officer administering a field sobriety test, and an incorrect observation can cause an officer to be 100 percent wrong about a driver’s level of intoxication. The opinion of the driver that led them to get behind the wheel after drinking and the opinion of the police officer who may be incapable of accurately determining the level of a driver’s inebriation causes catastrophic results and yields many unnecessary charges for  DWI; this requires the assistance of a skilled DWI lawyer to work your case.

If you or a loved one has been charged with a DWI, contact Trichter & Murphy today for a free consultation with one of our expert DWI lawyers in Houston.