DWIs devastate communities all over Texas. Alcohol and drugs contributed to more than 18,000 car accidents in Texas in 2019. More than 700 of those accidents resulted in at least one fatality.
That’s why the state of Texas provides strict guidelines for a DWI, even for a first offense. Every driver needs to understand what Texas regulations are like.
What is the DWI meaning, and how does a DWI compare to a DUI? How do the penalties for a first offense compare to subsequent offenses? What are some additional offenses that drivers may face?
Answer these questions and you can navigate through a DWI case with the help of a DWI attorney. Here is your quick guide.
What Is a DWI?
Section 49.04 of the Texas Penal Code provides regulations for alcoholic beverage offenses. Driving while intoxicated (DWI) occurs when someone “is intoxicated while operating a motor vehicle in a public place.”
Intoxication occurs when a person loses their normal mental and physical faculties after they consume a substance. A motor vehicle is any device that transports a person down a highway.
A public place is any location that the public has access to. Streets and highways are where most DWIs occur. But a person can receive a DWI for driving while intoxicated on the grounds of a school, hospital, or office building.
DWI vs DUI
“DUI” stands for driving under the influence. In the state of Texas, the official label for the crime that one commits when driving a vehicle while drunk is “driving while intoxicated.” There is no separate offense for driving under the influence.
Some people use “DUI” because the term is commonly used, especially in other states. You can use the two interchangeably, though you should try to use “DWI” in legal settings.
First Offense DWI
Even though it is “only” a first offense, a first offense DWI can be devastating. Someone can get charged with a DWI with any blood alcohol concentration. The impairment of their facilities is what counts, not how many drinks they have had.
A first offense DWI carries a Class B misdemeanor weight. A person faces minimum confinement of 72 hours in prison, and their prison sentence can go to 180 days. A judge can require them to pay a fine of up to $2,000.
If someone has a blood alcohol concentration higher than .15, a prosecutor may charge them with a Class A misdemeanor. It carries a minimum prison term of 30 days, but a judge can issue a prison sentence of up to one year. A defendant may be forced to pay a fine of up to $4,000.
The Administrative License Revocation (ALR) program examines the circumstances of each DWI. They can decide to suspend someone’s license for up to one year.
A person can receive second offense DWI penalties after a previous conviction for DWI. Being suspected of or charged with a previous offense is not enough to lead to second-offense weight.
A second offense DWI is a Class A misdemeanor. In addition to a prison sentence, an individual may need to fulfill 80 to 200 hours of community service. The ALR program may suspend someone’s license for up to two years.
A third offense DWI carries felony weight. It is sometimes called “aggravated DWI.” A person may face third offense DWI penalties if they have one DWI conviction in Texas and another conviction in a different state.
A third offense DWI is a third-degree felony. A person convicted of one may go to jail for two to ten years. They may also have to pay a fine of more than $10,000.
The ALR program can suspend someone’s license for up to two years. They may mandate that an interlock device goes into the person’s car. The driver must blow into the device to prove that they are not intoxicated, and the vehicle then turns on.
A felony DWI conviction has many collateral consequences. An individual loses the right to vote or own a firearm, even after they have served their incarceration.
If a person drives while intoxicated with a minor in their car, the weight of their DWI elevates to a felony. It does not matter where the minor is seated in the vehicle or how many prior offenses the driver has.
Possession of an open container of alcohol in a car is its own offense. Someone driving with an open bottle of beer can get charged with it and a DWI if they are intoxicated. It carries Class C misdemeanor weight, though it does not apply to passengers in a limo or RV.
Intoxication assault occurs when someone causes serious bodily injury to someone else while committing a DWI. It carries a third-degree felony weight. It does not matter if the assault was an accident or a mistake.
If the injured person receives a traumatic brain injury that causes a vegetative state, the offense can carry a second-degree felony weight. This can send someone to jail for 20 years.
Intoxication manslaughter involves a DWI that results in someone else’s death. It is a second-degree felony. If the driver kills a first responder or firefighter, manslaughter is a first-degree felony offense.
Find the Best DWI Lawyer
A DWI can lead to significant penalties. The definition of DWI is vague, based on how drugs affect a person, regardless of the amount.
There is no DUI in Texas law. A first offense DWI is a misdemeanor that can result in a six-month prison sentence. A second offense can lead to a one-year sentence, while a third offense can cause a ten-year sentence.
A prosecutor can tack on enhancements and additional charges to any offense. You must get legal assistance when facing any DWI case.
The James R. Fletcher Law Firm, PLLC serves the Austin area. Contact us today.