What to Know about Texas DWI Laws
Driving while intoxicated is a serious issue that Texas courts handle strictly. Texas DWI laws are governed by Texas Penal Code § 49.04 and dictate penalties based on the severity of the charge. For example, a DWI charge where only the driver is present is going to be lesser than if there was a child passenger, as well. Becoming familiar with the specifics of Texas DWI laws can help you understand your case and the charges against you, which in turn will help you build a strong defense.
DWI vs. DUI
You’ve probably heard the terms “DWI” and “DUI” used interchangeably. For many in the world, the two terms are synonymous. However, Texas DWI laws are different from Texas DUI laws, and it’s important to understand how and why.
Driving While Intoxicated
Any legally intoxicated driver can face DWI offense charges. Texas DWI laws consider a driver legally intoxicated if their blood alcohol content reaches 0.08. It’s important to keep in mind that Texas, like most states, has adopted the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulations for commercial drivers. Intoxicated commercial drivers can face DWI charges if their blood alcohol content reaches 0.04.
Driving Under the Influence
While adult drivers may be able to drive with low blood alcohol content in their systems, Texas has a strict no-tolerance policy when it comes to drivers under the age of 21. Drivers under 21 found to have any amount of alcohol in their system can be charged with a DUI offense. While not as harshly punished as DWI offenses, DUI charges still carry hefty fines and license suspension in an attempt to dissuade younger drivers from picking up unsafe driving habits.
When you face DWI charges, there are different penalties you may encounter. Which penalties are applied and how severely they are applied will depend on the situation. During a DWI case, you’ll appear before a judge and give a testimonial. The judge will examine all the evidence and then assign punishment as they see fit. The average severity of each penalty increases with each DWI offense on record.
First DWI Offense
A driver’s first DWI offense is a class B misdemeanor, according to Texas DWI laws. These offenses come with a mandatory minimum of 72 hours in jail (six days if there was an open alcohol container in the vehicle), but can go up to a maximum of six months at the judge’s discretion. If the BAC is .15 or greater on a first offense, it gets bumped up to a class A misdemeanor.
First offenders can also expect a driver’s license suspension lasting between 90 days and a year. This suspension will be applied if you were proven to have a high blood alcohol content, even if you aren’t convicted of the DWI charge. You have fifteen days after being notified to request a hearing in which you can challenge a license suspension. Having a DWI lawyer on your side can help you fight these charges and get your driving life back on track.
Fines for a first-time offense can get pretty high – up to $2,000. Additional court fees may also apply, and drivers may need to pay up to $2,000 a year as part of their deal to keep their driver’s license unsuspended for the next three years. There are legal fines. Drivers may be required to participate in DWI educational programs. These have their own associated costs.
Second DWI Offense
Your second DWI offense is considered a class A misdemeanor according to Texas DWI laws. Penalties for your second offense include the following:
- Fines up to $4000
- A maximum of one year in jail
- Driver’s license suspension for 18 months
When you reach your third DWI offense on record (or are charged with intoxicated assault, regardless of which offense it is), Texas DWI laws consider your charge a third-degree felony. Punishments for felonies are much more strict. They include fines up to $10,000, with a minimum of two years in prison and a maximum of ten years in prison.
Understanding Texas DWI Laws
Getting a DWI charge can severely impact your life. Fines can leave you with financial struggles. License suspension can interrupt your daily life. Also, court and DMV appointments can have you on a tight schedule. Working with a DWI lawyer from the Hager Law Firm can help you understand Texas DWI laws so you can get your life back on track. With assistance with both the court and the DMV, you can build a strong defense for your case. This can help you find some stability in your situation. For help with Texas DWI charges, call the Hager Law Firm today at (903) 466-0001.