Guide: Texas DUI Penalties and LawsJames Fletcher
Did you know Texans are more likely to report that they got behind the wheel after drinking too much?
According to the CDC, the rate of Texans who drive drunk is 2.1%, which is higher than the national average of 1.9%.
More Texans may get behind the wheel after having one too many, but it’s not because Texas has lenient DUI penalties.
The opposite is true.
Knowing the DUI penalties in the state of Texas can help you make better decisions about when to get behind the wheel. It could do more than save you money and community service time – it could save a life.
Every 20 minutes, someone in Texas is injured or killed as the result of a drunk driver – someone who may not have realized how much is too much both for themselves and in the eyes of the law.
Do you know Texas’s DUI penalties? Keep reading to learn what driving under the influence means in your state.
DUI Penalties And Other Information
What Is a DUI?
In Texas, a DUI refers to “driving under the influence,” and it’s commonly referred to as a DWI, which stands for “driving while intoxicated.”
These acronyms represent the most common legal terms used to refer to drunk driving or impaired driving.
When Might I Get a DUI?
Texas doesn’t allow local or state police to set up sobriety checkpoints.
If you’re arrested for a DUI, it’s because you were pulled over by an officer for a traffic violation or because the officer had sufficient reason to suspect you are under the influence.
Upon stopping a vehicle, an officer who suspects that a driver is under the influence may conduct a field sobriety test.
In most cases, a breathalyzer test is performed in the field, but some officers may use a blood test in more complicated cases to avoid false positives.
What Is the Legal Limit?
Texas has three legal blood alcohol concentration limits.
Your blood alcohol concentration measures how much alcohol is coursing through your veins at the time of the test.
The general limit is 0.08% blood alcohol content. What does that mean?
While the measurement is a hard limit, it doesn’t provide much direction regarding how much you can drink. Everyone metabolizes alcohol at a different rate and your height and weight impact your ability to hold a drink.
If you’re curious about your legal limit, visit NOLO’s weight chart.
According to NOLO’s calculations, a person who weighs 100 to 120 pounds can have two drinks and remain under the legal limit. Meanwhile, someone who weighs 140 to 160 pounds can have three drinks and legally drive.
What is the full list of legal limits?
- Person over 21 driving a personal vehicle – 0.08%
- Person over 21 driving a commercial vehicle – 0.04%
- Person under 21 in any vehicle – 0.00%
Does Texas Have a Zero Tolerance Law?
In some states, merely appearing intoxicated is enough to issue a DUI regardless of your blood alcohol content measurement.
Convictions under the legal limit are the result of Texas’s zero tolerance law. It’s designed to ensure those who are intoxicated but whose blood alcohol content doesn’t reflect their behavior are removed from the road and stops poor drivers from continuing bad habits.
Texas does not have a blanket zero tolerance law.
However, Texas does apply zero tolerance to one area: underage drinking and driving.
If you’re under 21 years of age and are pulled over under suspicion of impaired driving, it doesn’t matter if your blood alcohol content is under the legal limit. Texas’s zero tolerance law means you will automatically be guilty of a DUI/DWI.
What Are Texas’s DUI Penalties?
DUI penalties are tiered according to:
- Number of previous offenses
- Blood alcohol content
- Whether a child was present in the vehicle
If it is your first offense and your blood alcohol was above 0.08 but below 0.15, then it will technically qualify as a Class B Misdemeanor.
If convicted, you will possibly receive either a fine of up to $2,000 and/or a jail sentence ranging from 3 to 180 days.
Your driver’s license will also be suspended for 90 to 365 days.
Those who blow above a 0.15 BAC will see an increase to a Class A Misdemeanor with a fine of up to $4,000 and one year in jail.
Convicted of a second offense? The DUI penalties for a second conviction are in line with a Class A Misdemeanor.
You’ll receive a fine of up to $4,000 with the potential of a 30-day to a 365-day jail sentence.
The most significant change is in license suspension: you will not be able to drive for a period of 180 days to up to two years.
Those convicted of a third offense are left with a Third Degree Felony.
A Third Degree Felony is accompanied by a fine of up to $10,000 as well as the potential of two to 10 years in prison.
Felony convictions in the state of Texas also disqualify you from voting or owning a gun license.
DUI penalties change under the Zero Tolerance Law in Texas.
First-time offenders under age 21 are convicted of a Class C misdemeanor with a fine of up to $500. Other punishments include:
- Alcohol awareness classes
- 20-40 hours of mandatory community service
- 60 days license suspension
Second-offenses are also a Class C misdemeanor with the same penalties as a first-time offense. The primary difference is in the license suspension – second offenses are punishable with a 120 driver’s license suspension.
Open Alcohol Container
If you’re caught driving under the influence and carrying an open container of alcohol, you may be convicted of a DUI and open container, which is a Class B misdemeanor.
An additional fine of up to $500 may be levied and assessed with a minimum of 6 days in jail.
An open container only violation is a Class C misdemeanor with a $500 fine and no jail time.
Carrying Children in the Car
The DUI penalties listed above are related to convictions where only an adult over age 21 is in the car.
Anyone under the influence who is also carrying a child passenger (under 15 years old) can also be charged with child endangerment.
DUI with child passenger convictions are punished with:
- Up to $10,000 fine
- Two years in state jail
- 180 driver’s license suspension
Don’t Drink and Drive
DUIs come with all kinds of consequences and a fine may be the least of your worries – drunk drivers injure or kill another person every 20 minutes in Texas.
If you want to avoid a DUI and all DUI penalties, then don’t drink and drive.
But if it’s too late, don’t wait – find a lawyer. Contact us to learn more about how a DUI lawyer can help your lawyer today.