DWI and DUI Penalties in Texas

In Texas the term most often used is DWI which means driving while intoxicated. The term DUI or driving under the influence is used in Texas, but it is used only to refer to those under the age of 21 who operate a motor vehicle with any detectable alcohol in the minor’s system. DUI’s in Texas carry a lesser charge than those of DWI’s.

In order to obtain a conviction the following must first be proved. The person must be intoxicated while operating a motor vehicle in a public place. The term intoxicated means two things. First means not having normal use of mental and 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. Secondly the term intoxication means having a a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or more.

Texas has recently enacted the toughest DWI laws in its history. Misdemeanor offenders can now face up to two year license suspension without the possibility of even a work-related driving permit. Repeat offenders often face punishments comparable to those meted out for sex-offenders and felony level theft offenses. Almost every person arrested for a DWI or DUI in Texas has more than one case to defend against.

Penalties for the first DWI are a jail sentence of up to 180 days, an optional fine of up to $2,000 dollars and a one year license suspension. The jail sentence is almost always probated. A second arrest within ten years of the first offense carries a punishment of up to a year in jail, a $4,000 fine and a two year license suspension. Felony level offenses provide for a minimum of two years in state prison and as many as twenty years for an intoxication manslaughter charge. It is not uncommon for a driver arrested for a felony DWI to receive a maximum sentence of ten years in prison.

A first offense carries a Texas criminal status of Class B misdemeanor. Jail time is a minimum of 72 hours or 6 days if an open container is present. Fines and costs include $2,000 and a possible surcharge of $1,000 per year for 3 years. The surcharge is raised to $2,000 if the person’s BAC level was doubled or more than the legal limit. License suspension is for one year. Attending a DWI class may avoid this. An occupational license may be granted based on need.

The second offense carries a Texas criminal status of Class A misdemeanor and a third offense is a third degree felony. Jail time for a second offense is 72 hours and not more than one year. A third offense can mean 2-10 years in prison. Fines are not to exceed $4,000 and the surcharge is $1,500 per year for three years and $2,000 if the person’s BAC level was doubled or more than the legal limit. License suspension is anywhere from 180 days to 2 years.

The laws for a DWI and driving with a minor and DWI while in a commercial vehicle carry stiffer penalties. It is a felony to drive while intoxicated with a minor younger than 15 in the vehicle. If a person is driving a commercial vehicle and has a BAC level over .04 the commercial drivers license can be suspended for one year and up to three years if the driver was carrying hazardous materials.

Another penalty of a DWI is car insurance rates will go up or the insurance company will cancel the policy. Most states require insurance companies two provide the state motor vehicle agency with an SR-22 proof of insurance certificate, which removes license suspension. Although it sounds simple enough, not all insurance companies offer the SR-22 policies, therefore the policy may be non-renewed or canceled simply because the company can no longer provide insurance for the DWI offender.

DWI’s carry many consequences that are not easily affordable. They carry with them lasting effects that become a permanent part of the lives of the offenders. Most importantly driving while intoxicated not only puts the offenders life at risk, but they also risk the lives of those with them and those that are in their path. Designated drivers are an easy solution to this problem, unfortunately they are rarely used, which causes the number of DWI-related fatalities to rise. If everyone thought the consequences of drinking while intoxicated were too great to risk, then maybe it would no longer be an issue.

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