Texas Law- Defining Intoxication

When I use a word it means just what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less.’
– Humpty Dumpty, Through the Looking Glass

Most of the rhetoric surrounding DWI includes statements about drunk drivers. For example, Texas MADD has a “campaign to end drunk driving.” No one supports drunk driving which makes the label great to stifle debate.

The reality is that Texas DWI law is not aimed at drunk drivers. Texas law forbids driving while “intoxicated”. Ask most people what intoxication means, and they will say “drunk”. Webster defines intoxicated as “affected by or as if by alcohol : drunk.” Proving a driver was drunk would be a high standard and lead to less convictions for DWI. To make convictions easier the Texas Legislature simply redefined intoxicated for the purpose of DWI. From the Texas Penal Code- Intoxication means-

not having the normal use of mental or physical faculties by reason of the introduction of alcohol, a controlled substance, a drug, a dangerous drug, a combination of two or more of those substances, or any other substance into the body; or (B) having an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more.

I’ll save .08 for a future discussion. Let’s start with “loss of normal use.” If an officer states that you have lost the normal use of your faculties what does that imply? That the officer actually knows what your normal physical mental or faculties are. The reality is that the police have no idea what you act like normally. Most will readily admit to this fact during cross examination. How do officers swear to something they do not know is true? Training!

Since the State of Texas has invented a new definition for intoxication, they can also simply invent evidence that shows you meet their new definition. This explains the bizarre laundry list of driving behaviors that are taught to be evidence of intoxication.

Field sobriety testing is another great example. SFSTs were designed to detect specific BAC levels (which they don’t). SFST were never designed to detect “intoxication.” However, officers are taught to use SFST’s as evidence you have lost your mental and physical faculties.

How can that be? Made up definitions, allow for made up evidence. DWI laws are written to maximize convictions, not to reflect reality. No one support drunk drivers. If only convicting the innocent carried the same stigma.

‘The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’
‘The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master – that’s all.’


7 responses to “Texas Law- Defining Intoxication”

  1. Mark Bennett says:

    Speeding? Are you sure about that?

  2. Robert Guest says:

    Speeding came from the DWI training video I received. Now I can’t find my copy to confirm.

    However, I put speeding in my original post on the topic. I’ll take it down for now, search my open records file and see if I can find it.

  3. W. W Woodward says:

    “not having the normal use of mental or physical faculties by reason of the introduction of alcohol, ….. or any other substance into the body;”
    One could possibly be “intoxicated” by drinking buttermilk and eating pickles if an adverse reaction to that combination caused the impairment of one’s ability to operate a vehicle.

  4. Mark Bennett says:

    I think that if speeding were even arguably evidence of intoxication NHTSA would have included it.

  5. Robert Guest says:

    I agree. However, the video listed different signs from the manual.

    And, I still can’t find the video. It’s here somewhere.

  6. Robert Guest says:

    Thanks Mark,
    You are right. The DWI movie does not listed speeding itself is not a sign. However, a host of “speed and braking problems” are listed.

    I can see know what I meant in my original post, I meant Speeding/Braking Problems. However, I didn’t put that.

    Since I just copied and pasted that section for this post. I ended up repeating the same mistake.

    This highlights my need for an editor. On that note I’ll be taking application for blawg editor from law students. Send in your resume and a writing sample.

  7. andrew says:

    i can not understand why the anyone can say if you have marijuanna in your blood, you are dui. So if you smoke a joint and you drive four days later you get pulled over and are asked to take a blood test
    your blood test will show marijuanna in your system. how does this mean your intoxicated at the time you are driving?

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