The Dallas Law Office of Stephen P. Karns

DWI Defense

If you have been arrested for the offense of DWI, the value of representation by an aggressive, experienced trial attorney cannot be underestimated. Whether disposing your case prior to a trial, or trying your case in front of a jury, an aggressive, experienced trial attorney gives you the best chance for success. When it comes to DWI offenses, Mr. Karns is the aggressive, experienced trial attorney that you need on your side.

The law and the judicial system in the area of DWI offenses is complex on several levels and there are many aspects to your case of which you ought to be aware.

Resource: Online Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) Calculator

Administrative License Revocation

First, your driver license may be suspended both by the court that handles your criminal case and also by the Texas Department of Public Safety prior to the disposition of your criminal case. If your driver license was confiscated after your arrest, you have fifteen days from the date of the incident to request an administrative hearing to fight the suspension of your license. If you do not request this hearing, your license will be suspended on the fortieth day after the date of the incident.

Mr. Karns believes that requesting the license suspension hearing is important because it gives you the opportunity to gather information that will be used against you in later criminal proceedings. For example, it gives you the opportunity to subpoena and cross-examine the arresting officer which is the first opportunity to challenge the officerís claim that he or she had sufficient "probable cause" to stop you in the first place. An administrative hearing also gives you access to the police reports and other evidence which may be used in your criminal case. In addition, by requesting the hearing, you may extend the period of time for which you may drive on your temporary permit after your driver license was confiscated.

Occupational Driver License

If your driver license is suspended, you may be able to keep driving during the period of suspension by filing a Petition for an Occupational License. By showing the court that an "actual and essential need" exists for you to drive, the court may issue an order for an occupational driver license. Examples of this need are traveling to and from your place of employment, traveling within the scope of your employment, e.g., making sales or service calls, traveling for essential household duties, e.g., transporting your children to school, or traveling to and from your place of worship.

Investigating and Evaluating Your Case

Videotape evidence is often important evidence in DWI cases, especially where the case is brought to a jury trial. Mr. Karns will obtain any videotape evidence in your case, and schedule a one hour office appointment for you and he to watch the video together. Mr. Karns may also employ an investigator to take pictures and measurements of the scene and interview witnesses. Of course, if there is any blood or breath evidence and police reports, Mr. Karns will obtain that documentation as well.

Pleading Your Case

Mr. Karns prefers to aggressively defend his client before a jury where the facts and the law indicate that the client will likely net a better result than what the prosecutor is willing to offer prior to a trial. Depending on the evidence in your case, a plea bargain may be a viable course of action. Plea bargains avoid the expense of a trial and possibly a term of incarceration. Please be aware that deferred adjudication is no longer available for DWI cases. Depending on the nature and quality of the videotape and other evidence in your case, Mr. Karns may be able to negotiate with the prosecutor to "reduce" the offense to either a lower offense level (from a Class B misdemeanor to a Class C misdemeanor), or one that is not necessarily related to alcohol use.

Trial by Jury/Trial by the Court

Along with investigating and pleading your case, should you so choose, having a lawyer try your case before six of your peers is the most obvious benefit of hiring an attorney to handle your case. The biggest reason is this: evidence and testimony in these cases can be very technical. Mr. Karns has the training and materials to evaluate the scientific evidence in your case and more importantly, cross examine the police officers. In his experience, many cases reveal that the difference in obtaining a verdict of "not guilty" or "guilty" for the client depends to a great extent on how well or poorly an attorney cross examines the police officers. This is not to say that the facts of the case, witnesses, blood, breath, and videotape evidence, are not important or possibly dispositive, but there is little doubt that juries penalize the prosecution for sloppy police work or the inconsistent testimony of their officers. Of course, the standard for the prosecution to prove its case (that you were intoxicated while driving) is that of "beyond a reasonable doubt." Intoxication is a sophisticated legal term, in general taken to mean that one has lost the "normal" use of either oneís mental or physical faculties.

Driver License Surcharges

Driver license surcharges imposed by the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) are the latest reason why it is critical to hire an attorney to represent you against the State of Texas during a prosecution for DWI. Along with the increased cost of automobile insurance coverage that follows a conviction for DWI, any plea or verdict that results in a conviction for DWI after September 2003 enables the State of Texas through the DPS to charge the driver $1,000 (first time offense), $1,500 (second or subsequent offense), or $2,000 (blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.16 or greater) each year for up to three years for having a driver license. Furthermore, these charges are cumulative, meaning that for a second offense (with a BAC less than 0.16), the total surcharge would be $2,500 annually for three years. These surcharges are unavoidable except in the case where your case is dismissed by a judge for lack of probable cause or where you are found "not guilty" after a trial.


If your case is dismissed by a judge for lack of probable cause or where you are found "not guilty" after a trial, you are entitled to have your arrest and court records expunged. Expunged means the records relating to the offense are physically destroyed and any computer records are purged from law enforcement and court computer systems and databases. If your case is expunged, you may truthfully deny that you were ever arrested for this offense.

Actual Case Examples from Mr. Karnsí Practice *

  • Mr. Karnsí client was stopped for suspicion of DWI in the Knox-Henderson area of Dallas because he was driving without his headlights on. After he was given field sobriety tests which the officer claimed that he failed, he refused to provide a sample of his blood or breath. During the investigation of the circumstances of the stop and field testing, photographs illustrated to the jury that the sidewalk upon which his client was required to perform these tests was clearly sloped. Inconsistencies in the officerís testimony from the license suspension hearing were also exposed during cross examination at trial. Mr. Karnsí client was acquitted by the jury and the charges were expunged from his record.
  • After crossing the solid white line that divides Commerce Street from Elm Street in downtown Dallas as he sought to avoid entering the ramp for northbound Stemmons Freeway, this client was stopped by police for disregarding a traffic device (the solid white line). Further, he did not use his turn signal and the officer testified that he nearly collided with the median. He refused to perform the requested field sobriety tests or submit a blood or breath sample. Despite having bloodshot eyes, slurred speech, breath smelling of alcohol, and what the officer described as an extreme driving maneuver, Mr. Karnsí cross examination rendered this officerís testimony as largely exaggerated and unreliable. He received a "not guilty" verdict by the court, his record was expunged, and his driver license returned.
  • This client was stopped in the late night hours as he traveled on Central Expressway in Dallas. He was speeding 77 mph in a 60 mph zone and weaving into the next lane. After the officer administered field sobriety tests, the client was arrested for DWI on the basis of his performance on these tests, specifically his "unsteady balance and nystagmus (unsteady or jerky eye motion)." Mr. Karns was able to convince the prosecutor that the conditions of the testing were unfair and deviated from the standardized protocols for testing as established by the National Highway & Traffic Safety Administration and the offense was changed to obstruction of a highway.
  • This client was also stopped on Central Expressway in Dallas for speeding 90 mph in a 60 mph zone and improper lane changes during the early morning hours. The client was given field sobriety tests on the shoulder as traffic sped by on both sides of he and the officer (all three lanes of the expressway on one side and an exit ramp on the other side of them). Mr. Karns was able to convince the prosecutor that the conditions of the testing were unfair and deviated from the standardized protocols for testing as established by the National Highway & Traffic Safety Administration and the offense was changed to obstruction of a highway.
  • This client "slammed" his brakes as he entered an intersection having nearly run a red light. After he stopped this client, the officer noticed his bloodshot eyes and a strong odor of alcohol on his breath as well as slurred speech. The officer gave him the "pen test," "walk and turn," and "one leg stand" test, all of which the client failed. Mr. Karns took this case to a jury trial and the client received an acquittal.
  • After having dinner in Dallas with a group of friends where four bottles of wine were consumed, this client was stopped by police. While driving home through Irving on State Highway 183, he was pulled over for failure to maintain a single lane. When the client attempted to exit his vehicle, he left his car in reverse and came within 8 inches of hitting the officerís car. The officer was so distressed by the clients impairment that he called for a backup unit. The clientís eyes were bloodshot, and he had a strong odor of alcohol on his breath. He swayed heavily from side to side while standing outside of his vehicle. He was unable to balance on one leg for any period of time without hoping or using his arms to regain his balance. He could not keep his balance during the "walk and turn" test. Mr. Karns took this case to a jury trial and the client received an acquittal.
  • Driving in Richardson at night without her headlights on, speeding 49 mph in a 40 mph zone, and failing to maintain a proper lane, this client was stopped by the police. The police immediately noticed her slurred speech, odor of alcohol on her breath, and bloodshot eyes. After being contacted by the officer she stated "Iíve had a few drinks; Iíve had a few glasses of wine at a friends house; Iíve probably had too much to drink." She swayed while standing and had to use her car for support to remain standing. She further told the officers that her headlights were not on while driving because they did not work. The officers were able to turn them on as they interviewed her. She was then arrested for DWI. Mr. Karns tried this case in front of a jury and the client received a "not guilty" verdict. Mr. Karns then had the records of this incident expunged. This client worked in the insurance industry and would have lost her job as a result of a conviction.
  • As this physician approached an intersection in a "right turn only" lane, he continued to drive straight. After he was stopped, the police officer noticed a heavy odor of alcohol on his breath and his bloodshot eyes. The client admitted drinking to the officer. The client failed the "pen test," swayed, raised his arms and hopped for balance on the "one leg stand " test. He failed to walk heel to toe, keep his balance, and stay on the line during the "walk and turn" test. He agreed to provide the officer with a sample of his breath, which was measured by a portable breath unit as 0.122, legally intoxicated. Mr. Karns tried this case in front of the court and the client received a "not guilty" verdict.
  • A client who was a minor received a DUI and ticket for backing in an improper manner. A minor is prohibited from having any detectable amount of alcohol on his or her breath. Although this client had alcohol on her breath and was clearly driving when stopped, Mr. Karns was able to convince the prosecutor to change the offense to public intoxication.
  • This client was stopped for speeding 72 mph in a 65 mph zone. The officer noticed his bloodshot eyes and a strong odor of alcohol on his breath. The client exited the vehicle and was interviewed by the officer. He had slurred speech and could not balance himself without leaning on his car. He admitted to the officer that he had "eight or nine beers." The client could not stand heel to toe or hold one foot off the ground for more than twenty seconds. He failed the "pen test" and was arrested for DWI. Mr. Karns was able to get this case dismissed by submitting a motion showing that the client had not received a "speedy trial."

* Past results achieved are not a guarantee of future results. Each case is unique and reference must be made to the specific legal and factual circumstances presented.