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Texas DWI Laws

Under Texas law, driving while intoxicated by drugs or alcohol is a criminal offense that can have extremely serious legal consequences. Authorities are actively looking for people who violate the law, and many drivers are surprised to learn that they can be accused of driving while intoxicated (DWI) even after only a few drinks. 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.”

What is driving while intoxicated under Texas Law?

In Texas, the general drunk driving law is found in Texas Penal Code Title 10, Chapter 49. The statute defines the term “intoxicated” in two distinct ways:

  • Not having the normal use of your mental and physical faculties due to the consumption of drugs or alcohol; and/or
  • A Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of .08 percent or more.

For certain classes of drivers, the BAC limit is lower. Drivers who are under 21 years of age are prohibited from driving with any detectable amount of alcohol in their system, and commercial drivers are subject to a .04 percent legal limit.

DUI Penalties: Adults

Penalties imposed after a DUI 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. The following is a list of some of the penalties that may be imposed after being accused of driving while intoxicated by drugs or alcohol:

  • 1st DWI Charge / Offense – After your first DWI offense in Texas, you may be fined up to $2,000 and spend between three and 180 days in jail. Additionally, your license may be suspended for up to two years, and there may be an annual surcharge of as much as $2,000 to keep your license 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.
  • 2nd DWI Charge / Offense – After a first offense, the penalties associated with DWI in Texas increase significantly. A second 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 2nd DWI offense can last up to two years, and there may be a three-year annual surcharge of up to $2,000. In addition, you may be required to install an ignition interlock device in your vehicle and attend a DWI intervention or education program.
  • 3rd DWI Charge / Offense – The fine associated with a third or subsequent offense in Texas can be up to $10,000. In addition, offenders may be sentenced to 2 to 10 years in state prison, and have their license suspended for up to 2 years. There may also be a surcharge of up to $2,000 assed per year for three years. Finally, there may also be a requirement that you install an ignition interlock device in your vehicle and also that you participate in a DWI intervention or education program.

DWI Penalties for Minors

Texas law defines anyone under the age of 21 as a “minor.” Minors are prohibited from driving a motor vehicle with any detectable amount of alcohol in their systems. For a first offense, minors who are caught driving after drinking any alcohol face fines, probation, loss of their right to drive, mandatory enrollment in an alcohol education class, community service, and the installation of an ignition interlock device. These penalties increase significantly with each subsequent offense, and in many cases can include jail time.

DWI Crimes and Injury to Others

The State of Texas legislature has defined certain crimes involving DWI that involve injury or the risk of injury to others. These include:

  • DWI with a child under 15 in the vehicle;
  • Intoxication assault; and
  • Intoxication manslaughter.

These offenses are prosecuted under different code sections than DWI law and expose offenders to much more serious 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.

Overview of DWI Penalties

Conviction Offense Level Maximum Fine Jail Range License Suspension
1st DWI and BWI Class B Misdemeanor Up to $2,000 72 hours to 180 days 90 to 365 days
2nd DWI and BWI Class A Misdemeanor Up to $4,000 30 to 365 days 180 days to 2 years
3rd DWI and BWI 3rd Degree Felony Up to $10,000 2 to 10 years in Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) 180 days to 2 years
Intoxication Assault 3rd Degree Felony Up to $10,000 2 to 10 years in Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) 180 days to 2 years
Intoxication Manslaughter 2nd Degree Felony Up to $10,000 2 to 10 years in Texas Department of Corrections (TDCJ) 180 days to 2 years
DWI with child passenger State Jail Felony Max Fine $10,000 6mos. To 2 years in a State Jail Facility 90 days to 2 years
1st DWI with Open Container Enhancement Class B Misdemeanor Up to $2,000 6 days to 180 days 90 days to 365 days

DWI Probation in Texas

Probation is an agreement between you and the judge in which the judge agrees not to impose a jail sentence in exchange for you agreeing to do (or not do) certain things during a set amount of time. This set amount of time is known as the probationary period. For a first offense, the probationary period can extend up to two years.

In most cases, if you have no prior convictions, then a judge will suspend your entire jail sentence and place you on probation for a minimum of six months. Typically, a probation period is one year in length. During probation, you are required to do the following:

  • Report to the probation officer assigned to you;
  • Pay fines, court costs, and monthly probation fees;
  • Perform community service for 24 to 80 hours in duration;
  • Attend a Texas DWI Education class;
  • Attend a Victim Impact Panel (VIP);
  • Get a drug and alcohol evaluation;
  • Maintain a job and support any and all dependents; and
  • Take random urinalysis.

In addition to the things that you must do while on probably, there are also some things that you must not do. These include:

  • Drink alcohol or take drugs;
  • Visit bars, clubs, or lounges;
  • Violate the law;
  • Socialize with persons of questionable moral character; and
  • Refrain from committing a crime or associating with criminals.

If you receive a second DWI conviction, then your chances of having your entire jail sentence reduced in place of probation are much more minimal. Instead, there is a minimum 72-hour continuous confinement requires for a second DWI conviction. The judge may, however, suspect the rest of yours sentence and place on you on probation. For a third DWI conviction, which is considered to be a felony conviction, you must spend 10 days in county jail. After that, you may receive a probation sentence in lieu of a jail sentence that requires you to perform community service and participate in a substance abuse program.

Above intoxication manslaughter and intoxication assault are briefly discussed. If you obtain probation for intoxication manslaughter, then you will be required to serve a community service sentence ranging between 240 and 800 hours; serve a minimum jail sentence of 120 days; and participate in substance abuse/alcohol programs whether they be in-patient or outpatient. The penalties are similar with an intoxication assault probation—you will have to serve community service, serve in county jail for a minimum of 30 days, and participate in a substance abuse program.

Other DWI Penalties

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, 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 completely separate from the criminal part of a DWI case, and can result in a license suspension of 90 days to two years.

Drivers will not lose their license immediately after a refusal takes place – after a refusal, you have 15 days to request an administrative hearing regarding your suspension. If you do not request a 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.

DWI Education Program

Individuals who are first-time offenders and are put on probation will be required to attend a DWI education program administered by the Texas Department of State Health Services. The program lasts 12 hours and educates individuals on how drugs and alcohol relate to a person’s ability to drive, their own patterns of drinking, drug use, and driving, and how they can avoid engaging in similar conduct in the future.

The course must be completed within 180 days of being placed on probation, or an offender’s license will be revoked.

Alcohol Education Program for Minors

As its name indicates, the Alcohol Education Program for Minors is designed for minors who have been convicted of a DWI or DUI. The program teaches its participants about the ways that alcohol can affect driving, social issues related to drug and alcohol use, and the kinds of behaviors that can lead to abuse and addiction.

In some cases, participation in the program will be substituted by court-ordered community service. Failure to complete either within 90 days can lead to a six-month license suspension.

Additional Intoxication Crimes

Boating While Intoxicated (BWI)

In Texas, a boating while intoxicated (BWI) charge carries the same penalties and license suspension consequences as does a DWI. Boating While Intoxicated is defined as having a BAC over .08 percent or loss of physical or mental faculties. Your license will likewise be confiscated, and the state may attempt to suspend your Texas driver’s license.

Flying While Intoxicated (FWI)

In Texas, Flying While Intoxicated (FWI) has the same potential penalties as in a DWI case. A person charged with a FWI had lost the normal use of his/her physical or mental faculties or had a BAC of .08 percent or above while operating an aircraft.

Assembling or Operating an Amusement Ride While Intoxicated

Assembling or operating an amusement park ride while intoxicated is illegal. Assembling or operating an amusement park ride while the use of your physical or mental faculties was impaired or while your blood alcohol content was above .08 percent at the time of operation.

Applying for an Occupational License

Texas law allows people whose drivers’ licenses are suspended to apply for an occupational license, also referred to as a restricted license or a hardship license. These licenses allow people whose drivers’ licenses are suspended to drive to and from certain places during the suspension, such as school, work, or for the performance of household duties. In order to obtain an occupational license, you must:

  • File a request with the court that is handling your DWI case;
  • Obtain a court order for an occupational license and other supporting documents to the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS);
  • Order your Texas Driver Record
  • Pay a $10 fee to obtain an occupational license; and
  • Pay reinstatement fees.

Reinstate Your Texas Driver’s License

While the steps to reinstate your driver’s license are usually very clear, the process often takes a considerable amount of time and effort. These steps include the following:

  • Complete any period of revocation or suspension ordered by the court;
  • Pay all fines associated with your DWI, including court costs;
  • Complete any sentence ordered by the court;
  • Complete the Alcohol Education Program for Minors, the DWI Education Program, or the DWI Intervention Program, whichever the court orders; and
  • Pay all fees associated with reinstatement.

Fees Associated with License Reinstatement and Surcharges

Getting a DWI is Texas is an expensive event. In addition to any court-ordered fines and insurance increases that you face, there are additional fees to reinstate your license. For example, you must pay a $125 fee after an Administrative License Revocation in order to reinstate your license. In addition, under the Texas Driver Responsibility Program, you have to pay surcharges associated with the maintenance of your license, which can be as much as $2,000 per year for three years.

Class Schedule

Texas DWI 12-Hour Education Program (1st Offense)

Location:

Austin Community College
(Highland Business Center)

Austin Community College
(Highland Business Center)

Date:


February 27 – March 2


April 24 – April 27

Time:

M/T/W/Th
6:00 pm – 9 pm

M/T/W/Th
6:00 pm – 9 pm

Cost:


$126


$126