DWI Punishments in Texas

Common DWI Punishments in Texas

Intoxication related offenses such as DWI or Driving While Intoxicated are common in Texas, with an average of 90,000 arrests every year and over 23% of residents admitting to having driven under the influence at least once in their lives. However, this doesn’t mean that the penalties are light. Texas has more fatal drunk driving accidents than any other state in the U.S., and at least 38% of all fatal traffic crashes involve a drunk driver. As a result, the punishments are intended to have maximum impact. 

In Texas, DWI offenses carry significant penalties that can impact your life. From license suspension to fines, probation, and even imprisonment, the punishments can be severe. In this blog, the team at Hunter, Lane & Jampala PLLC goes over common DWI punishments in Texas and how a criminal defense attorney can help.

Legal Intoxication and Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) Limit

In Texas, your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) most commonly determines whether you are legally intoxicated. This varies depending on your age and whether you’re operating a commercial vehicle.

  • For adult drivers (21 years and older), the BAC limit for DWI is 0.08%. If your BAC exceeds this limit while operating a motor vehicle, you can be charged with driving under the influence.
  • For underage drivers (under 21 years old), Texas has a zero-tolerance policy. Any detectable amount of alcohol in their system can result in a DUI or Driving Under the Influence charge. In other words, underage drivers with any measurable BAC can face legal consequences.
  • For commercial drivers, such as those operating commercial vehicles or holding a commercial driver’s license (CDL), the BAC limit is lower. The limit for commercial drivers is set at 0.04% while operating a commercial vehicle. Exceeding this limit can lead to DWI charges and potential consequences specific to their commercial driving privileges.

Are DWI and DUI the Same Offense?

No. The Texas Penal Code defines DWI as operating a vehicle in public while mentally and/or physically impaired due to alcohol, a controlled substance, or dangerous drug use. A blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 or above most commonly establishes intoxication but intoxication can also be demonstrated through the loss of a defendant’s physical or mental faculties often exhibited through the arrest video showcasing their demeanor and actions at the time of the arrest.

DUI refers to driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol while under the age of 21. DUI charges can be brought even if a person’s blood alcohol content is below 0.08. Consequences may include license suspension for up to 60 days, mandated alcohol awareness classes, up to 40 hours of community service, and a fine of up to $500.

Penalties and Consequences for First Offense DWI

A first-offense DWI is typically classified as a Class B misdemeanor in Texas. If convicted, your license can be suspended for 90 days to one year. However, you may be eligible for an occupational license that allows limited driving privileges.

Other penalties include:

  • Fines of up to $2,000, depending on the circumstances. These fines do not include other associated costs, such as court fees, legal expenses, and increased insurance premiums.
  • Up to 180 days in jail, with three mandatory days.
  • Probation typically involves meeting specific conditions such as attending alcohol education programs, completing community service, and avoiding further legal trouble.
  • Mandatory alcohol education or treatment programs.
  • Annual license renewal charge of $2,000 to $3,000 for three years.

If convicted, the court shall require you to install an IID or Ignition Interlock Device in your vehicle. This device measures your BAC before you can start the car. You will be responsible for the costs associated with installation and maintenance.

It is important to note that if your BAC is 0.15 or higher, you may face enhanced penalties. The higher BAC level indicates a more significant impairment and can result in increased consequences.

Penalties and Consequences for Second Offense DWI

A second offense DWI in Texas carries harsher penalties compared to a first offense. If convicted of this Class A misdemeanor, you can expect the following consequences:

  • License suspension for a period of up to two years. As with a first offense, you may be eligible for an occupational license during the suspension period.
  • A mandatory minimum jail sentence of 30 days, which can increase up to one year. However, if the previous conviction occurred more than five years ago, the minimum jail sentence can be probated.
  • Fines of up to $4,000. 
  • Probation with strict conditions, including mandatory alcohol education or treatment programs, community service, regular check-ins with a probation officer, and possible random alcohol testing.
  • Mandatory installation of an IID in your vehicle. The duration of IID usage can extend up to the period of suspension for your license.

Similar to a first offense, a second offense DWI can lead to significant increases in auto insurance premiums. You may also face difficulties in obtaining affordable coverage, and some insurance providers may refuse coverage altogether.

Penalties and Consequences for Third Offense DWI

A third offense DWI in Texas is a third-degree felony. Potential punishments are as follows:

  • The range of punishment is a minimum of two years and a maximum 10 years in jail. The court has the discretion to probate a portion of the jail sentence, but as with all intoxication offenses a minimum period must be served.
  • License suspension for a period ranging from 180 days to two years. You may be eligible for an occupational license during the suspension period, but restrictions will apply. Afterward, you will have to pay to have your license reinstated as well as remit a licensing fee surcharge of $2,000 per year for three years.
  • Fines of up to $10,000. 
  • Probation with strict conditions, including mandatory alcohol education or treatment programs, community service, regular check-ins with a probation officer, and possible random alcohol testing.
  • Installation of an IID in your vehicle for up to the period of suspension of your license.

DWI with a Child Passenger

DWI with a child passenger under 15 is considered a separate offense of child endangerment. This means that you can face both DWI charges and additional charges related to child endangerment. Penalties typically include: 

  • Increased jail time, as DWI with a child passenger carries mandatory minimum jail time in addition to the penalties for a regular DWI offense. The term of confinement can range from 180 days to two years in addition to the mandatory minimum term of confinement for all convictions of intoxication related driving offenses.
  • Higher fines of up to $10,000.
  • License suspension for an additional 180 days. 
  • Installation of an IID in your vehicle.

It is important to note that a DWI conviction with a child passenger can have serious implications for child custody and visitation rights, as it may impact the court’s perception of your ability to provide a safe environment for the child.

Driving with an Open Container

Driving with an open container is typically classified as a Class C misdemeanor offense in Texas. If convicted, you may face fines of up to $500. While a conviction does not result in an automatic driver’s license suspension, it can potentially lead to license points, which can affect your driving privileges.

Fighting a DWI in Texas

When you want to fight a DWI charge, it’s crucial to consult with an experienced DWI defense attorney who can evaluate the details of your case and build a strong defense strategy. Your attorney may: 

  • Challenge the validity of the traffic stop, the accuracy of a breathalyzer or blood test results, or any other evidence against you.
  • Question the reliability or administration of field sobriety tests conducted by law enforcement officers.
  • Negotiate with the prosecution for reduced charges or penalties, depending on the circumstances of your case.

If a favorable plea bargain cannot be reached, your attorney may represent you at trial and present a strong defense to challenge the prosecution’s case.

Expunging a DWI in Texas

In Texas, DWI convictions cannot be expunged, but you may be eligible if your case resulted in an acquittal or dismissal or if you completed a pretrial diversion program. Below are some circumstances that may make you qualify for an expungement:

  • Case Dismissal: If the judge dismisses your case, including reduced or shifted charges, you may qualify for expungement. The absence of a final conviction makes your charges and arrest eligible. 
  • Not Guilty Verdict: If you fight your case and receive a not guilty verdict, your arrest and charges may be eligible for expungement.
  • Minor Arrest: If your first and only DWI offense happened when you were a minor and you fulfilled all subsequent court orders, your charges may be eligible to be sealed as an adult.
  • Deferred Adjudication: First-time offenders may receive deferred adjudication probation, allowing completion of probation without a conviction. Successfully completing probation may make you eligible to file a petition of non-disclosure, sealing your record from public agencies.

Consulting an experienced attorney is crucial to assess your specific situation and guide you through the expungement process. For assistance with DWI charges and expungement in Texas, contact our team at Hunter, Lane & Jampala PLLC. We are dedicated to protecting your rights and helping you achieve a favorable outcome.

Speak to a Texas DWI Defense Lawyer Today

DWI offenses in Texas carry significant penalties and can have long-lasting impacts on your life. With a high number of drunk driving accidents and fatalities in the state, the punishments are designed to make a maximum impact. From license suspension to fines, probation, and imprisonment, the consequences can be severe.

If you are facing DWI charges in Texas, it is crucial to have an experienced attorney in your corner. At Hunter, Lane & Jampala PLLC, our team understands the laws governing DWI cases and will protect your rights as you navigate the legal process.

Whether it’s challenging the validity of evidence, negotiating with the prosecution, or representing you at trial, our attorneys will work tirelessly to build a strong defense strategy tailored to your case. We understand the importance of fighting for a favorable outcome and minimizing the impact on your life. To learn more, call (210) 202-1076 or use our contact form to schedule an initial consultation today.


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