In 2016, over 1 million drivers were arrested for driving with alcohol or narcotics in their system.
These arrests are classified as driving under the influence, otherwise known as DWI. And while they don’t always result in jail time, they almost always carry serious consequences.
If you’ve just received your first DWI in Texas, you should understand what those consequences are. Understanding what to expect can help you prepare for your court case – and decide whether or not to get legal representation.
But before making any decisions, read this article about your first DWI offense in Texas.
What Is A DWI?
As mentioned, DWI stands for “driving while intoxicated” or “driving while impaired”. You receive a DWI if you’re caught operating a motor vehicle in a public space while you’re intoxicated.
In relation to DWI’s, intoxicated means two things.
The first is that you ingested alcohol, narcotics, or another substance that impaired your ability to use your mental or physical faculties in a normal way.
The second is defined is through blood alcohol concentration (BAC). Intoxicated, in the state of Texas, is legally defined as having a blood alcohol concentration of .08% or more. For many people, that limit isn’t hard to reach. Your BAC can exceed .08% after just a few drinks.
Administrative Penalties for Your First DWI in Texas
In most cases, when you’re charged with a crime, the charge itself doesn’t carry any punishment. That is, you don’t receive a penalty for your crime until you’re actually convicted of the offense. Conviction comes through a guilty verdict in the courts or via entering a plea.
DWI’s, on the other hand, carry immediate consequences. If you’re lawfully arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or narcotics, the arresting officer may enforce administrative penalties at the scene.
The immediate administrative penalty following a failed field sobriety test is the confiscation of your license. Once the arresting officer has confiscated your license, they’ll issue a “Notice of Suspension”. You have 15 days following the Notice to request a hearing and contest your suspension.
If and when you’re convicted of your first DWI in Texas, the administrative penalty is a license suspension. Your license may be suspended for as little as 90 days or as much as 12 months, depending on the circumstances of your conviction. In addition, you’ll pay an annual license surcharge of $1,000 to $2,000 for three years following your DWI.
A Note on Occupational Licenses
If this is your first DWI offense in Texas, you might be granted an occupational license. This license functions as a temporary license while your license is suspended.
An occupational license is only available to first-time offenders. It’s intended to help you get to places you absolutely have to be, such as school, work, or places necessary to continue running your household.
But, in order to qualify for this temporary license, you have to prove that you have financial responsibilities that require the use of your vehicle. You’ll also have to install an ignition interlock device on all of the vehicles you use, with the exception of vehicles you use at work.
Criminal Penalties of Your First DWI
In the cases that your BAC was under 0.15%, your first DWI offense in Texas will most likely be considered a class B misdemeanor, which carries criminal penalties. These penalties include:
- a license suspension lasting anywhere from 90 to 365 days
- a fine of up to $2,000
- the possibility of 72 hours to 6 months in jail
Many times, judges will forego sentencing the driver to jailtime. Instead, they’ll place first-time offenders on probation, which comes with its own strict set of rules and restrictions.
Sometimes, judges will impose additional penalties for a first DWI. These might include a DWI education program or community service.
A Note on Non-Disclosure
If this is your first DWI in Texas, and your BAC was under 0.15%, you might be eligible for non-disclosure.
Non-disclosure means that your criminal record is restricted to certain parties, and you can apply for it as quickly as two years following your probation. However, you’ll have to install an ignition interlock device on your vehicle for 6 months to qualify.
Enhanced DWI Charges
There are a number of circumstances in which the above penalties are not applicable. Below we describe the other potential penalties for DWI in Texas.
For example, if you were driving with a BAC higher than 0.15%, you’re more likely to receive a class A misdemeanor charge.
Being convicted of class A brings higher fines ($2,000 to $4,000) and up to one year of jail time.
If you were driving with a minor or minors in your car at the time of your DWI charge, the punishment is more severe. You’ll be sent to state jail for as long as two years. You’ll also face a hefty fine that can be set as a high as $10,000.
In the case that you caused an accident while driving intoxicated, your punishment will be more severe depending on the outcome of the accident.
For example, if the accident caused serious bodily injury to another person, you might be sentenced to 2-10 years in prison. If the accident caused the fatal injury of another person, you may be imprisoned for as much as 20 years.
Other enhanced DWI charges may be applied to cases where you were driving with a suspended or revoked license or where you were speeding excessively.
Fight Your First DWI Charge
If you’ve been charged with your first DWI in Texas, the potential consequences are severe. If you were driving with a BAC below 0.15%, your fines can be as high as $4,000 and you might even face jail time.
If your BAC was higher than 0.15%, if minors were in the car with you, or if you caused bodily harm to another person, those penalties are even more severe.
But getting charged with your first DWI doesn’t mean you’re hopeless. You can fight your DWI – and win. Contact us today to find out how.