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Is a Blood or Field Sobriety Test Necessary for a DWI Conviction in Texas?

Under Texas law, a person is legally intoxicated when they do not have “the normal use of mental or physical faculties by reason of the introduction of alcohol” into their body. There are a number of ways a prosecutor can prove intoxication based on this definition in a DWI case. One such method is presenting the results of a blood (or breath) test that measures the concentration of alcohol in the defendant’s system at the time of his arrest. Another method is for the arresting officer to administer one or more field sobriety tests.

Defendant Convicted of DWI with Child Passenger, Assaulting a Police Officer

But even without a blood or field sobriety test, the state–and ultimately a jury–can rely on other evidence to establish a defendant’s guilt on DWI charges. The Texas 14th District Court of Appeals here in Houston recently upheld just such a conviction. In Fryer v. State, prosecutors charged the defendant with two crimes: DWI with a child passenger and assaulting a public servant.

At trial, the jury heard testimony from a husband and wife who witnessed the defendant pushing a child out of his car. The husband and wife said they moved to assist the child, whereupon they discovered the defendant and another person who had “just come from a wedding where the [defendant] had been drinking.” The husband further testified he observed an open container of liquor in the defendant’s car. Both witnesses said that prior to stopping, the defendant had been driving “erratically” and “recklessly.”

A police officer arrived at the scene. He later testified in court that there was a strong odor of alcohol “emanating from” the defendant. At one point, the defendant “assaulted” the officer and attempted to take his gun. Another officer confirmed “there was a strong odor of alcohol coming from [the defendant’s] breath,” as well as other signs of intoxication, such as the defendant’s inability to follow commands and “slow and methodical speech.”

The jury convicted the defendant on both charges. On appeal, the defendant challenged the sufficiency of the evidence. Specifically, he pointed to the absence of any blood or field sobriety test evidence proving his alleged intoxication.

The 14th District rejected this argument. It said viewing the evidence in the “light most favorable to the jury’s verdict”–as an appellate court is required to do in Texas–a “rational juror” could find based on the witness testimony alone that the defendant “did not have the normal use of mental or physical capacities by reason of the introduction of alcohol into his body.”

Speak with a Houston DWI Defense Lawyer Today

A DWI conviction is serious business when a child is a passenger in the intoxicated driver’s car. The defendant in the case above received a two-year prison sentence on that charge–on top of an eight-year sentence for assaulting the police officer.

When it comes to any type of drunk driving charge, the last thing you should do is provoke a confrontation with the police. Instead, remain silent and contact a qualified Houston DWI defense attorney. Call the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates today at (281) 280-0100 , if you need to speak with someone immediately.