Understand the Consequences Under Texas Law
Driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol in Texas is a crime that can lead to severe legal consequences.
Police are actively searching for violators of the law. Many drivers are shocked to discover that even one or two drinks can lead to a conviction for DWI.
In some cases, drivers may be arrested for a DWI even if their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is below the limit that the law defines as “intoxicated.”
An experienced Houston DWI defense attorney can often help you reduce the potential consequences of being accused of drunk driving.
A skilled lawyer might be able to get the case against your dismissed. The charges could be reduced to a lesser crime or dropped by the state because there is no evidence or illegally obtained evidence. They can also push for the dismissal of the case against the state.
DUI Penalties for Minors
Texas law, which governs DWI and other alcohol laws, defines anyone younger than 21 years old as a “minor.” Minors cannot drive a motor vehicle that has any alcohol detectable in them.
Minors caught driving under the influence will be charged with a first offense.
- Their right to drive is lost
- Mandatory enrollment in an alcohol education class
- Service to the community
- Ignition interlock device installation
The penalties for each subsequent offense are more severe and can often include jail time. An experienced Houston DUI defense attorney can help minimize these and other long-term consequences minor DUI offenders might face.
DWI Penalties for Adults
The penalties in Texas associated with DWI have grown increasingly harsher over the past few decades. While specific penalties imposed after a DWI depend on a variety of factors, the most relevant are the number of previous offenses as well as your blood alcohol content (BAC) at the time of your arrest.
Below is some information on the penalties that may be imposed after being accused of driving while intoxicated by drugs or alcohol.
Texas DWI First Offense Penalty
You could be sentenced to a maximum of $2,000 for your first DWI offense in Texas and may spend anywhere from three to 180 days in jail. Your license could be suspended for as long as two years, and you may have to pay an annual surcharge up to $2,000 in order to keep it for three years.
You may also be required to install an ignition lock device on your vehicle and participate in a DWI education or intervention program.
Second DWI Offense in Texas
After a first offense, the penalties associated with a second DWI in Texas increase significantly. A second DWI offense could result in fines of up to $4,000 and a jail sentence of one month to one year.
The license suspension associated with a second DWI charge can last up to two years, and there may be a three-year annual surcharge of up to $2,000. You may also be required to install an ignition lock device in your car and participate in a DWI intervention program.
Texas Third DUI
The fine associated with a third or subsequent offense in Texas can be up to $10,000. Additionally, offenders can be sentenced to between 2 and 10 years in state jail and their license may be suspended for up to 2 years.
A surcharge may be assessed up to $2,000 per year over three years. Finally, you may also be required to install an ignition interlock device in your vehicle and participate in a DWI intervention or education program.
DWI Crimes & Injury to Others
Texas’ legislature has established certain DWI crimes that can cause injury or risk to others.
- DWI in a vehicle with a minor under 15 years old
- Intoxication assault
- Manslaughter by intoxication
- These offenses can be prosecuted under different codes than DWI law, and could result in much more severe consequences.
Additionally, there are other “enhanced offenses” defined by the law, including injuring a firefighter, peace officer, or other emergency medical personnel, or causing a traumatic brain injury that results in a persistent vegetative state.
Refusing chemical testing can result in severe penalties
Anyone who operates a motor vehicle in Texas is subject to the “implied consent” rule, which holds that by obtaining a driver’s license and operating a motor vehicle in Texas, you have consented to a chemical test if a law enforcement officer suspects that you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Because of this rule, you can lose your license if you refuse such testing. This suspension is separate from the criminal component of a DWI case. It can lead to a license suspension of up to 90 days or two years.
Drivers will not lose their license immediately after refusing a chemical test. You have 15 days to request an administrative hearing about your suspension after a refusal. To request an ALR hearing and dispute your license suspension, you should consult an attorney.
You can request the hearing within the 15-day period. After that, your suspension will begin 40 days. You can request an administrative hearing online.
Mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device
An ignition interlock device may be required by a judge in certain cases. The offender will also have a restriction on his or her driver’s license that prohibits him/her from operating a vehicle without such an ignition interlock device. The device must be an approved device and be installed by an approved service provider.
SR-22 – Insurance & Proof Of Financial Responsibility
People who are convicted of DWI in Texas are required to prove that they have car insurance by filing an SR-22 certificate. This is done through your insurance company and provides the state with proof that you have car insurance that complies with state minimum standards.
You must have the SR-22 Certificate on file with the state for two years after your conviction. If it lapses, you will lose your license and the state will cancel your vehicle registration.
In addition to the cost of an SR-22, your car insurance rates will increase if they view you as high risk after a DWI conviction. As a result, a conviction may cause your insurance premiums to significantly increase.
Commercial Drivers & DWI
Drivers of commercial vehicles put everyone at risk. Commercial vehicle drivers often drive trucks or cars that are specifically designed for their use.
As such, they are often much larger and less maneuverable than the passenger vehicles that most of us drive. These characteristics can make them capable of causing serious injury if they are involved in accidents. Commercial drivers often have to transport hazardous materials and other people.
Due to the inherent dangers associated with commercial vehicle operation, nearly every aspect of this industry is regulated and licensed by the federal government.
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regulations state that a commercial driver’s licence (CDL), is subject to a.04 blood-alcohol content limit (BAC) when operating a commercial vehicle. This is significantly less than the.08 BAC limit for non-commercial drivers.
CDL holders who have been found to be under the influence of drugs and alcohol can be disqualified from driving commercial vehicles for one year. If the driver operates a commercial vehicle that transports hazardous materials, he or she can be disqualified for three years.
Other types of offenses that may result in disqualification from driving a commercial vehicle include:
- Chemical test refusal
- Leave the accident scene
- Operating a commercial vehicle with a BAC of 0.04 or more
- Operating a motor vehicle under the influence of a controlled substance
CDL License Holders DWI and related offenses can result in severe fines, your CDL licence being revoked, jail time, or in the case for commercial drivers, inability to earn a living, and possibly the end of your career.
As a result, it is extremely important that commercial drivers who are facing allegations of DWI discuss their options with an experienced DWI defense attorney as soon as possible.