Last year, the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS), reported that Texas law enforcement charged over 80,000 drivers with driving while intoxicated (DWI) violations.
Roughly 14 percent of those charged drivers plead guilty to this offense. Five percent of those charged drivers plead not guilty and had their charges dismissed or reduced.
The important lesson from these statistics is don’t be caught off guard if you find yourself in this situation. History shows that you have a good chance of having your charges reduced or dismissed if you know the basics of Texas DWI and DUI laws.
Read this guide for everything you need to know on the differences between a Texas DWI and DUI. Then you’ll avoid some common mistakes and protect your rights.
Texas DWI Laws
Texas DWI statutes define “intoxicated” as someone who has a .08 BAC (breath or blood alcohol concentration) at the time they are pulled over by the police. Impaired persons can either be passengers or drivers, especially if there is an open alcohol container in the car.
Driving while intoxicated charges in Texas can differ based on the history of the offender in each case. The level of consequences depends on how many previous convictions the defendant has.
First-time offenders of Texas DWI law could spend anywhere between 72 hours and six months in jail if they have a BAC over 15 percent. These first-time offenders could also face up to $4,000 in fines and have their license suspended for 90 days or longer.
First-time offenders can apply for an occupational license during this suspension. An occupational license is a restricted license that you can request that allows you to drive a motor vehicle only for work, school, or household-related reasons.
Second-time DWI offenders can expect to see between one to twelve months of incarceration. Fines for a second offense can be up to $4,000. Offenders can also expect between six months to two years of jail time.
Third-time offenders can expect even more severe treatment. These offenders could face jail time between two and ten years. Fines will be as much as $10,000. Expect to have your license suspended for over two years.
Difference Between Texas DWI and DUI Offenses
A DUI and a DWI in Texas are two different offenses. Driving Under the Influence (DUI) is a class “C” misdemeanor. Class “C” offenders don’t see jail time but pay a maximum fine of $500 for their first offense.
DUIs usually apply to minors suspected of drinking during a traffic stop. Minors stopped will receive a notice of suspension to suspend their driver’s license in most cases.
DWIs are oftentimes prosecuted as criminal offenses. As noted above, DWIs can apply to persons not operating the vehicle as well and includes substantial jail sentences.
What Is Implied Consent?
One of the conditions for getting your driver’s license in Texas is that you’ll consent to take a sobriety test if law enforcement suspects that you are under the influence.
Texas law enforcement needs to have probable cause to assume that drivers were under the influence at the time they are pulled over. If a driver refuses to comply with this implied consent law, the driver may have their license suspended.
Sobriety tests are mandatory if the driver is involved in an accident where there is a death or serious injury. Sobriety tests are also required if the driver has multiple previous DWI convictions. These convictions might include intoxication assault or child endangerment.
Other driving while intoxicated penalties include child endangerment. Child endangerment is a state felony n Texas if you’re arrested for a DWI with a child under 15 years old in the car.
You could face between 180 days to two years in a state jail facility. You’ll also receive a fine of up to $10,000 and a suspension of driving privileges.
In Texas, judges will most likely send first-time DWI offenders to supervised probation instead of jail. Probation or “community supervision” means the offender can return to their community under the supervision of a probation officer.
Probationers must carry out certain assignments during their probation period that are ordered by the judge. Some of these assignments include paying fees and other court costs.
DWI probationers might also have to take periodic sobriety tests. Judges might also order first-time offenders to attend DWI education classes. Probationers might also have to attend Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD) meetings as well.
Probationers meet with a probation officer once a month. These meetings are necessary to discuss how defendants are complying with the judge’s orders. Probation periods can last between six months and two years.
Ignition Interlock Devices
Another condition for probation might include ignition interlock devices. An ignition interlock device mounts directly inside your vehicle. It’s a handheld breathalyzer that is roughly around the same size as a cell phone.
Drivers with these devices inside their vehicle must blow into the breathalyzer’s mouthpiece. Blowing into the mouthpiece turns on the transmission.
If the breathalyzer reads your BAC at or close to the Texas limit, the car won’t start. If the breathalyzer reads a lower level, the driver can insert their ignition key and turn the car on.
Most ignition interlock devices require drivers to provide breath samples every 4-6 minutes. This allows drivers enough time to safely pull over to find a safe area to complete the next test.
This mechanism is a safety precaution. It makes sure that DWI offenders don’t ask a sober person to turn their car on after they’ve been drinking or using drugs.
Familiarize yourself with these basics of Texas DWI and DUI laws. Then you’ll know what to expect if you are pulled over by police.
If you are a first-time offender, discuss possible probation with a DWI attorney. Your attorney might argue that probation is the most effective way to make sure you never make this mistake again.
Still not sure if your case qualifies as a DWI or DUI? Then it’s time to hire a DWI attorney to assist you.
Check our website for more helpful information. We’ll help you navigate your experience until the case is closed.