The Complete Guide to DWI vs. DUI Laws in Texas
DUI is driving under the influence while DWI is driving while intoxicated. So which gets harsher penalties in Texas? Check out this complete DWI vs. DUI guide.
Are you a resident of Texas? Want to learn more about DWI vs DUI?
Well, you probably already know that DUI is driving under influence, whereas DWI is driving while intoxicated.
To most people, there isn’t much difference posed between the two. However, the difference is there, and it credibly matters quite a bit.
In this article, we will cover everything you need to know about DWI/DUI laws in Texas. So keep reading to find out more.
What “Intoxicated” Means And Why It Matters?
Before we get into actually addressing the DWI vs DUI, we should first cover the most important difference under Texas law. And that’s the legal definition of “intoxicated”.
In Texas law, the definition is:
- Having a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or more (adult, non-commercial driver); and/or
- Not having normal function of the mental and physical faculties due to the consumption of alcohol or drugs
If a police offer has suspected a driver of intoxication, they will develop a probable cause, and discover evidence of this intoxication.
This would involve driver observation for features, such as appearance, behavior, speech. Field sobriety tests might become part of the process as well. However, blood and breath tests are refusable.
However, an implied consent law persists, which means that by driving on public roads, you automatically consent to the tests, so if you do refuse them, your license can be immediately suspended by the officer.
Another thing to remember is that when a driver is subject to arrest for a DWI, there will be two cases filed against them: a criminal case and a civil case.
The civil case would be filed by the Department of Public Safety and involves the suspension of your license. The criminal case is more severe and extends to exponential degrees of punishment, such as heavy fines and potential jail time.
So What Is A DWI?
As mentioned earlier, a DWI stands for driving while intoxicated. In the Texas Penal Code, section 49.04 mentioned that someone is driving intoxicated if they are operating a motor vehicle in a public area while you don’t have normal function of physical and mental faculties as a direct result of:
- A controlled substance
- Alcohol consumption
- Having a BAC of .08 or more
In premise, any person over the age of 21 who falls in one of the categories is subject to a charge. The DWI is a Class B misdemeanor, but it can become a Class A misdemeanor if your back is over .15. However, if controlled substances are involved, your case can be quickly elevated to include drug charges in the state of Texas.
So if you’re 22 and have a BAC of .10 hanging out at your friends place, that’s legal. But if you get up and decide to go for a ride, you’ve entered the land of illegal.
What Are the Penalties for A DWI?
The worst-case scenario is jail time. If a police officer charged you with a DWI, the minimum jail time is 72 hours. If the officer charged you with an open container in your vehicle, you will in jail for 6 days. But keep in mind that these are minimums, your sentence can be as high as 180 days.
If you’re a first time offender, your license will be suspended for 90 days, up to a year. If you test positive for one of the tests, regardless of your conviction – you will experience automatic suspension. If you get another DWI, your license will be suspended for at least 18 months, and you will be bound to pay a $100 fine if you want to get it back.
In some cases, the only punishment is your requirement to complete a program that would address your behavior that has lead to receiving the DWI. If you fail to compete with the program, you will lose you license. Some offenders will have to go through DWI probation in Texas.
A first time offender can get a fine of up to $2000. In addition to that, you might have to pay an annual fee of $1000+ for the next three years to keep your license. So if you’re stuck with the max fines for the offense, you will spend time in jail and pay $8000. Is it worth it?
So What Is A DUI?
As mentioned earlier, a DUI in Texas in driving under the influence. Now if you’re wondering what the difference between a DWI vs DUI is, the primary one is age. The Texas Penal Code, section 106.41 mentions that a DUI is a scenario in which a minor was operating a motor vehicle in a public place with a detectable amount of alcohol in their system.
A DUI is a Class C misdemeanor. However, even if you’re a minor, if your blood alcohol concentration is high enough, you can still get a DWI instead of the DUI. Not to mention, Texas has a zero-tolerance policy for minors driving under the influence of any illicit substance.
In Texas, it is legal for parents to provide their children with alcohol, even if they are under 21. But it is never legal for an individual underage to drive after drinking, even if you’ve had a little swig of alcohol. If the police can smell the alcohol on your breath, you are subject to a conviction with a DUI.
In any case, the specifics of the case will determine whether or not you can get the DUI expunged later as an adult. An experienced lawyer would be able to assist in doing this, otherwise, you’re left to your own devices.
What Are the Penalties for A DUI?
The primary difference between the DWI vs DUI penalties in Texas is the fact that DUI penalties are significantly lighter.
However, DUI charges are still serious, and the charge can have a lasting, severe impact in the future.
Although first time DUI offenders will not spend time in jail, a repeat offender will certainly serve time behind bars.
If a minor was pulled over for driving and drinking, their license is subject to suspension for 60 days.
Much like a DWI in Texas, it is possible that the individual will be required to complete a behavioral program for the DUI. If they refuse to complete the program, they will lose their license. A minor might also have to adhere to and complete 40 hours of community service.
A first time DUI offender can get a fine up to $500. However, these are just the minimums and do not involve the more serious concerns that might occur depending on the severity of the case itself. For instance, bodily harm inflicted to others under the influence instantly changes the stakes and impact of the case.
So Which Is Worse: DWI vs DUI?
In reality, the question of whether or not, the DWI vs DUI is worse will depend on your state of residence. However, in Texas, the DWI is a more severe crime.
DUIs are only applicable to minors under the Texas Traffic Code. Because it can be charged when any amount of alcohol has been found in the system, it is significantly easier for a minor to be found guilty.
However, a DWI is charged under the Texas Penal Code, which makes it a more significant case in the first place. As mentioned prior, the penalties can range from heavy fines to jail time.
Even though you should not take either of the charges lightly, the consequences of a DWI in Texas are significantly more impactful than that of a DUI.
DWI/DUI Lawyer for You
Now that you know about the differences between the DWI vs DUI in Texas, you are well on your way to determining the next course of action. If you’re reading this kind of article, you’re either preparing to not do something you shouldn’t or you/your kids have done something they shouldn’t have.
In any case, it is paramount to the life of your future, that you speak with an experienced criminal defense lawyer who can assist you in minimizing the impact of the situation while helping you get back on the road as soon as possible.
At Scott. M Brown & Associates, we will address all of your concerns and help you get back on your feet after this inconvenience. Now some of the DWI and DUI cases are significantly more complex, especially if they involve the injury or fatality of another person, so we cannot stress enough how important it is for you to employ the services of an attorney.
Get in touch with us now and we will happily accommodate your needs.