Driving under the influence. It can be dangerous, and sometimes even fatal.
People say it is something that needs to be controlled and contained, but more people fall victim to doing it in the Lone Star State than you may expect.
In 2020, there were actually 6.3% more DWI-related fatalities in Texas than there were in 2019.
If you or a loved one happen to be driving under the influence one night and make that dreaded mistake or get pulled over by a police officer before doing something worse, you may be wondering what the DWI laws are and what the punishment is.
But maybe you or a loved one have been around the block one too many times and want to know what the consequences are for a second or even third DWI charge.
This is your guide to the DWI laws in Texas.
What Is a DWI?
Before talking about the penalties for multiple DWIs, you need to understand what exactly a DWI is. DWI stands for driving while intoxicated and it essentially means operating a motor vehicle when you have too much BAC (blood alcohol concentration) in your system.
In Texas and most of the United States, the BAC level that is too high to legally operate a vehicle is .08%. This can make your judgment impaired and it makes the quality and safety of your driving diminish.
Getting DWI charges is serious business, especially if it happens more than once. Not only can it take away your freedom to operate a motor vehicle for a temporary period, but it can also affect your financial stability and possibly your overall freedom.
What are the specific penalties? It depends if you are a repeat offender according to Texas state law.
In Texas, the first DWI offense is not as big of a deal as being a repeat offender, but you still face a fine of up to $2,000 not to mention a lawyer’s fee.
You are not likely to go to jail for long in this situation but depending on the severity of the case, you could be facing up to 180 days. However, the mandatory sentence in Texas is three days in jail.
The most severe penalty here comes from the loss of your driver’s license. For a first offense, you could lose your license in Texas for up to a year.
On top of this, you may have to pay an additional $3,000 in state fines to retain your license.
You see above that even a first DWI offense gets you automatic jail time for three days, but a second offense drastically increase that minimum. It goes from three days to one month. On a second offense, you could be facing up to one year in prison.
Then, of course, come the fines. In Texas, the fine for a second DWI goes up to $4,000 and you could end up paying another $4,500 in fees to retain your driver’s license. But, you cannot forget the lawyer’s fee and all of the other fees in your daily life you will have to incur.
Finally, there is the loss of your driver’s license. Here, instead of losing it potentially for one year, you would lose your license for two years. That can be a long time to go without access to a car in Texas, and it is one step closer to potentially losing your license for much longer.
Having any type of DWI offense is not ideal but in Texas, you REALLY do not want to be facing a third offense in this category because every penalty goes up significantly.
Let’s start with the jail time. Instead of facing up to one year in prison, you are looking at a minimum of two years in prison. On the higher side, you face up to 10 years in prison for a third DWI.
Then, there are the fines. Instead of fines reaching a maximum of $4,000, a fine for this is $10,000! Plus, if you have any chance of keeping your license, you have to pay at least $6,000 to retain it during this time.
Finally, you have the possible loss of your license permanently. You start to flirt with this possibility when you get up to your third DWI and you lose it for at least two years.
So, not every DWI case is the same severity, so you have to factor in certain situations that could make regular penalties increase. One of the biggest examples of this is if you have a child in the car while you are driving under the influence.
If this is the case, every regular penalty above can go up significantly. You can face an additional fine of up to $10,000 on top of the regular fine that you would be facing.
Then, you can lose your license for an additional 180 days on top of whatever amount of time you were going to lose it on your DWI charge. As for jail time, you face two years in prison for a DWI with a child in the car, particularly if that child is under 15 years old.
These are the types of things that you need to keep in mind and obviously, the penalties are more severe if bodily harm or death is caused because of a DWI.
Learn More About DWI Laws
These are some of the most important things to know about the DWI laws in this state. One DWI is bad enough, but the more you do it and the more innocent victims are involved, the worse your penalties will be.
Do you or a loved one need a DWI lawyer? If so, contact us today.