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Understanding DWI Laws

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DWI license suspension

Driving while intoxicated is a serious issue that causes dozens of accidents every day. When you drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs, you put yourself and others at risk. DWI laws in Texas are meant to protect drivers, passengers, and pedestrians from injury or damage. If you are caught driving while impaired, you could face hefty fines, license suspension, and even jail time. These severe measures are in place to dissuade drivers from getting behind the wheel while intoxicated.

DWI vs. DUI

Although drugs and alcohol are at the heart of both issues, there is a subtle difference between a DWI charge and a DUI charge. Unfortunately, the difference between them depends on the state you’re driving in. In some states, a DUI is more severe than a DWI. However, Texas law treats a DWI charge as more serious than a DUI.

DUI stands for ‘driving under the influence’ and refers to any amount of alcohol or drugs in your system, even if they are within the considered ‘safe’ limits. DWI stands for ‘driving while intoxicated.’ To fall into this category, a driver’s blood alcohol content level must be above .08, making them legally intoxicated by Texas laws.

Zero-Tolerance DWI Laws

Although many use the terms interchangeably, you’ll likely only see a DUI charge for minors (drivers under 21). Texas’ zero-tolerance policy requires all minors to drive completely free of alcohol or drug use, even if they are not actively impaired by it. Any detectable amount of drugs or alcohol in a minor can result in a DUI case. Minors can still be charged with DWIs if they are legally intoxicated.

Open Container Laws

In Texas, it is illegal to have an open container with alcohol in the passenger area of your motor vehicle. If you knowingly possess an open container and your car is located on a public road (even if the car is stopped or parked), you can be charged with a class C misdemeanor. The passenger area of your car refers to the specific areas designed for seating. You can have open containers in your:

  • Locked glove compartment or storage container
  • Trunk
  • Last area behind the furthest upright seat (if your motor vehicle does not have a trunk)

Although it’s legal to carry open containers in these areas, as soon as you remove them from those locations, they are now in the passenger area. While you can legally drive with closed containers in your passenger areas, it’s important to note that if the container breaks at any point as you drive, it is then legally an open container.

Child Passenger DWI Laws

The punishment for driving while intoxicated with a child passenger is considerably harsher than other DWI laws. A child passenger is any passenger under the age of 15. Texas law considers driving while intoxicated with a child passenger a felony, and it results in state jail incarceration.

Intoxicated Assault and Manslaughter

Driving while intoxicated is the number-one cause of fatal accidents. Being pulled over and charged with a DWI is a lot less severe than being charged with intoxicated assault or manslaughter. When under the influence of drugs or alcohol, your driving skills are severely impaired, and you are more likely to cause an accident. If your intoxication causes serious bodily injury to another person, Texas law considers it intoxicated assault. If your intoxication causes the death of another person, then Texas law considers it intoxicated manslaughter. Both of these offenses are felonies that result in severe penalties.

Subsequent Offenses

Texas laws considers a DWI a class A misdemeanor, with a maximum confinement time of thirty days. However, repeat charges for DWIs lead to heftier penalties and fines. A DWI charge becomes a felony if you have either been previously convicted of intoxicated manslaughter or you have two previous DWI charges already.

The typical penalties for a DWI are as follows:

First Offense

  • $2000 fine
  • 180 days in jail
  • One-year license suspension

Second Offense

  • $4000 fine
  • One year in jail
  • Two-year license suspension

Third Offense

  • $10000 fine
  • Ten years in jail
  • Two-year license suspension

Help with DWI Laws

If you are charged with or were injured in a DWI case, the Hager Law Firm is here to help. Our extensive knowledge of DWI laws can help protect you and others. Whether you’re fighting for compensation after an accident or looking to minimize the impact a charge has on your record, trust us to help you through the process. Call us today at (903) 466-0001 for a consultation about your case and how we can help.

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