Driving While Intoxicated
Under Texas law, a person is considered legally intoxicated if he or she has a blood or breath alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or higher. A person over the age of 21 that is operating a vehicle while legally intoxicated can be charged with a DWI. At the same time, a person who is under the age of 21 could also be charged with a DWI if their BAC is over .08.
A first-time charge of DWI is considered a Class B misdemeanor and can be punishable by up to 180 days in the county jail and/or a fine up to $2,000. Punishment could also include the suspension of a driver’s license for up to a year and an annual fee of $1,000 for a year or $2,000 for 3 years to retain a license.
A second arrest and charge for DWI is a Class A misdemeanor. If convicted of a Class A, you could spend up to one-year confinement in the county jail and be fined up to $4,000, along with the suspension of your license and surcharges. With each subsequent conviction, the severity of the penalties increases.
Driving Under Influence
A DUI is different than a DWI due to the age of the driver. Texas has a zero-tolerance policy for under-age drinking and considers those persons under the age of 21 to be a minor. As such, if any person under the age of 21 years is found to be operating a motor vehicle with any alcohol or drugs in their system, they can be charged with a DUI. It is irrelevant whether the person is actually impaired by the alcohol or drugs. Alternatively, if their BAC is .08 or above, they can be charged with a DWI rather than a DUI.
A minor stopped for drinking and driving could be fined up to $500, could face a 60-day suspension of his driver’s license, community service, and mandatory alcohol-awareness classes. Just as with an adult, any subsequent charges of DWI or DUI for a minor will increase the severity of the punishment.
The Texas legislature enhanced the punishment and severity for DWI with a child passenger younger than 15 in the vehicle back in 2003. This means that if a person is convicted of a DWI with a child passenger, it is a state jail felony offense instead of a misdemeanor. The punishment for a conviction is an automatic 180 day license suspension, up to $10k in fines, and 2 years in jail. This range of punishment can be enhanced depending on the history of the driver. In addition, the state could add charges of child endangerment, which could also lead to the Department of Family and Protective Services taking action.
As with a DWI and DUI, a DWI with a child passenger can be enhanced if:
- Driver has Prior Felony Convictions
- Driver has Previous DWI Convictions
- A Child Passenger is Injured in a Crash
- Alleged Drunk Driver Causes Serious Bodily Injury to Passenger of Driver’s Vehicle or Another Vehicle
- A Passenger or Pedestrian is Killed Because of Driver’s Impairment
Regardless of whether you are convicted of a DWI, DWI with child passenger, or a DUI, if you receive two or more DWI convictions within a period of five years, you are required to install a special ignition switch that prevents your vehicle from being operated if you’ve been drinking.
So what happens if you live out of State and get charged in Texas with a DWI? It does not matter if you are a resident of another state or a Texas resident, if you are pulled over and charged with a DWI in Texas, you will face Texas DWI penalties.
The best defense to a possible DWI charge is to not drive under the influence. If you find yourself being charged with a DWI or DUI, it is critical you seek a DWI defense attorney to protect your rights.