Learn the Texas Law Consequences
Under Texas law, driving while intoxicated by drugs or alcohol is a criminal offense that can have extremely serious 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.
For a first offense, minors who are caught driving under the influence face:
- Loss of their right to drive
- Mandatory enrollment in an alcohol education class
- Community service
- Ignition interlock device installation
These penalties increase significantly with each subsequent offense, and in many cases can 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. Although there are many factors that can affect the severity of DWI penalties, the most important is the number of prior offenses and your blood alcohol content (BAC).
Here are some details about the possible penalties for driving while impaired 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.
Finally, you may be required to install an ignition interlock device on your car and attend a DWI intervention or education 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.
A second DWI conviction can result in a license suspension of up to 2 years. There may also be an additional $3000 per year surcharge. In addition, you may be required to install an ignition interlock device in your vehicle and attend a DWI intervention or education program.
Texas Third DUI
A Texas third offense or subsequent offense can result in a $10,000 fine. In addition, offenders may be sentenced to two to 10 years in state prison and have their license suspended for up to two years.
A surcharge may be assessed up to $2,000 per year over three years. You may be required to place an ignition interlock device in the vehicle and take part in a DWI intervention program.
DWI Crimes and Injury to Others
The Texas legislature has defined certain crimes involving DWI that involve injury or the risk of injury to others.
- DWI with a child under 15 in the vehicle
- 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.
Penalties for Refusing Chemical Testing
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.
If you refuse to take the test, your license could be suspended. This suspension is completely separate from the criminal part of a DWI case and can result in a license suspension of 90 days to two years.
After refusing a chemical testing, drivers will not lose their driver’s license. You have 15 days to request an administrative hearing about your suspension after a refusal. You should hire an attorney to request an ALR hearing, at which you can dispute your license suspension.
If you miss the 15-day window of opportunity to request this hearing, an automatic suspension begins 40 days after your refusal. The administrative hearings are handled by the State Office of Administrative Hearings and can be requested online.
Mandatory Installation of an Ignition Interlock Device
In some cases, a judge will require that an offender install an ignition interlock device. In addition, the offender’s driver’s license will have a restriction indicating that he or she may only operate a vehicle with such a device installed. 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 can be done through your insurance company. It provides proof to the state that you have auto insurance that meets state minimum standards.
The SR-22 Certificate must be kept on file by the state for at least two years following your conviction. If it lapses, you will lose your license and the state will cancel your vehicle registration.
An SR-22 will cost you more, and your car insurance rates could rise if they consider you a high-risk driver after a DWI conviction. A conviction could result in your insurance premiums significantly increasing.
DWI & Commercial Drivers
Commercial vehicle drivers who get behind the wheel put us all at risk. The individuals who drive commercial vehicles often are behind the wheel of cars or trucks that are designed for highly specialized purposes.
They are therefore often larger and more difficult to maneuver than passenger cars. These characteristics can make them capable of causing serious injury if they are involved in accidents. Furthermore, commercial drivers are often entrusted with the transportation of hazardous materials or even 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.
Under Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulations, a person who holds a commercial driver’s license (CDL) is subject to a .04 blood alcohol content (BAC) limit when he or she is 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:
- Refusal to submit to a chemical test
- 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 holder DWI charges and related offenses have the potential to result in significant fines, the loss of your CDL license, jail time, and in the case of commercial drivers, the inability to make a living and potentially the end of your career.
Commercial drivers facing DWI charges should consult an experienced DWI defense lawyer as soon as possible.