If you’re facing a DWI, the possible penalties will depend on your exact situation–but this article offers a broad overview of potential DWI consequences.
Every 20 minutes, someone is injured in an alcohol-related vehicle crash in Texas according to the Texas Department of Transportation.
Driving while intoxicated puts the lives of you, your passengers, and everyone else on the road at risk. For this reason, the state of Texas takes driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol very seriously.
What happens if you get a DWI in Texas?
Let’s take a look at DWI consequences you might face depending on how many prior convictions are on your record.
What Is a DWI in Texas?
In Texas, you are considered to be legally intoxicated when your blood alcohol concentration is 0.08% or higher. However, you are actually breaking the law at any point that alcohol or drugs affect your ability to operate a vehicle. This applies to not only automobiles and motorcycles, but also boats or planes.
What this means is that you are driving illegally if your physical or mental faculties are affected due to of alcohol, drugs, or a combination of both even if your BAC is not 0.08%. If your BAC is this high, and you have not lost control of your physical or mental faculties, you are still breaking the law.
Your level of impairment can be determined by an officer through a field sobriety test as well as a breath sample test to measure BAC.
What Are the DWI Consequences in Texas? Criminal Punishment
The penalties for a DWI in TX include both administrative and criminal consequences. How severe the consequences are will depend on how many prior DWI convictions you have.
There are a number of various legal consequences for a DWI in the state of Texas. The penalties for a DWI will get more strict with each number of prior DWI convictions you have.
The first and second convictions are considered misdemeanors. Any convictions after this are felonies. There are a series of maximum penalties for each consecutive offense.
DWI 1st Offense
If you have received your first DWI, it is considered a Class B misdemeanor. For this offense, you can receive a jail sentence for up to 180 days and pay a fine of up to $2000. There is a mandatory three-day jail sentence associated with this offense.
If your BAC was 0.15% or more at the time of driving, the offense becomes a Class A misdemeanor. This means that you can be sentenced to up to a year in jail and receive a maximum fine of $4000.
A license renewal surcharge can also be a consequence of a first offense conviction. This can mean a surcharge of up to $2000 each year for the following three years.
DWI 2nd Offense
When you have one previous conviction for a DWI and you receive another, it is considered a Class A misdemeanor. The penalties for this can leave you with a jail sentence of between one month and one year and a maximum fine of $4000. Even if your jail time is probated, there is a mandatory three-day sentence for individuals whose prior conviction was more than five years ago, and five days for people whose first offense occurred in the previous five years.
DWI 3rd Offense
After your second offense, DWIs become a felony. It is a third-degree felony to get a third DWI conviction.
You can end up in the state penitentiary system for somewhere between 2 and 10 years for a third offense DWI. You can also be responsible for paying up to $10,000 in fines.
DWI 4th Offense
It is a felony offense to get a four DWI conviction. There is a maximum prison sentence associated with this offense which is 10 years. The maximum fine for a fourth DWI is $20,000.
In all of these scenarios, these maximums are the most extreme consequences you could face. In many cases, people will receive penalties that are below these maximum limits. This is why having an experienced DWI defense attorney is crucial, as they can help you achieve the lightest possible sentence for your offense.
What Are the DWI Consequences in Texas? Administrative Punishment
Getting arrested for a DWI also comes with administrative consequences in addition to the legal consequences. These can affect your ability to drive a vehicle.
Some examples of administrative consequences include excessive fees and mandatory license suspensions. With each additional prior DWI offense that you have, these administrative penalties will get more severe.
DWI 1st Offense
If you have your first DWI, your driver’s license can be suspended by the state of Texas for anywhere from 90 days to one year. You can also be required to pay a license surcharge for three years of $2000 a year in order to retain your license.
DWI 2nd Offense
A 2nd DWI offense will result in a license suspension for up to two years. You can also be required to pay excessive fees for retaining your driver’s license after the privilege is returned to you. This annual fee can be a maximum of $2,000.
DWI 3rd Offense
You can lose your driver’s license for three years when you get a third DWI. You also might be required to pay $2,000 every year for three years in order to retain your license.
If you are convicted of a felony, you will also be disqualified from possessing a firearm and voting.
DWI 4th Offense
Your driver’s license can be suspended for up to two years if you get a fourth DWI. In order to retain your driver’s license once the privilege is returned, there might be an annual surcharge of up to $2,000.
It’s also possible that you will be required to complete community service and participate in a drug and alcohol abuse evaluation. You might also be required to attend treatment for dependency on alcohol or drugs. Additionally, you might have to complete a court-ordered program for people who are repeat offenders.
You may be required to have an ignition interlock device installed in your vehicle once you are driving again. It’s also possible that you will have a monthly probation fee and have to submit to random alcohol or drug testing.
What Happens If You Get a DWI? Other Possible Consequences
Beyond administrative and legal consequences for DWI, there are also a number of other consequences that you might face.
For one, it is possible that you will lose your job There are a number of employers that have a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to DWI convictions. It can also impact your ability to get a job in the future as well because it is common for employers to run criminal background checks before they hire someone.
Also, if you maintain a professional license for your job or business, you might also lose this as a result of a DWI conviction Whether or not it affects your professional life will depend on the license that you have. You might have to face a disciplinary hearing or you might simply have your license suspended or taken away from you.
Licenses such as nursing licenses, pilot licenses, and medical licenses can be seriously impacted by DWI convictions. You can also experience that you have for a job if you are convicted of a DWI.
Getting a DWI conviction can also make it difficult for you to find housing. Landlords will also run criminal background checks before agreeing to take on new tenants. They do not have any obligation to rent an individual that has a criminal record, and you might find that it makes renting an apartment difficult.
It can also impact your custodial rights if you get a DWI. This is because getting arrested and convicted for a DWI suggests that you have bad judgment. This gives the other parent fodder to be against you if you are engaging in custody proceedings.
If you are convicted of a felony DWI, which typically means it was your third or a subsequent offense, you can lose your right to vote and your right to own a firearm. The only way to regain these rights after they’ve been taken away from you is by receiving a pardon from Texas’ governor.
A DWI Defense Attorney Can Help Minimize the DWI Consequences You Face
As you can see, being convicted of a DWI can have a huge impact on just about every aspect of your life. Not only can you go to jail, but you can be burdened with heavy fines. You can also lose your license and have to pay excessive fees in order to retain it for years to come.
That’s not even to mention how a DWI can impact your personal life. The additional financial strain, potential loss of income, and jail time can wreak havoc on personal relationships. DWI consequences are serious and should not be taken lightly.
A DWI defense attorney can help you navigate the legal process when you have been arrested for a DWI. They can help to ensure that the penalties you face are as minimal as possible.
Have you been arrested for a DWI in Texas? If so, contact our team of experienced attorneys today.