DWI Penalties In Texas (With Chart)

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Driving while intoxicated (DWI) in Texas is a crime that carries serious penalties. DWI is also known as DUI, or driving under the influence, in other states. The more prior drunk driving offenses a driver has, the more severe the penalties are for a new DWI. Everyone who drives in Texas should get an overview of the sanctions involved, which include fines, imprisonment and loss of driving privileges. The penalties may be sufficient to deter a driver from taking the wheel after imbibing.

Texas DWI Laws

Penalties for a Texas DWI

First DWI Second DWI Third DWI Fourth DWI

Fines

up to

$3,000

up to

$4,500

up to

$10,000

up to

$20,000

Imprisonment

30 days maximum

30 days to 365 days

2 to 10 years

2 to 20 years

License suspension

1 year maximum

2 years maximum

2 years maximum

2 years maximum

Ignition interlock device (IID)

1 year if BAC 0.15 or above

50% of any supervision period

50% of any supervision period

50% of any supervision period

Annual fees

$1,000/

3 years

$1,500/

3 years

$1,500/

3 years

$1,500/

3 years

Texas Penal Code Section 49.09

Don't think that a driver in Texas has to be falling-down drunk in order to get arrested for driving while intoxicated. The offense of driving while intoxicated may suggest that result, but a closer reading of the statute tells a different tale. "Intoxication" is defined in the state's DWI law as applying to either a driver whose normal mental or physical faculties are impaired by the use of alcohol or drugs or to a driver who has a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 percent or higher.

If a person operates a motor vehicle on Texas public roads in either of those conditions, they can be arrested for a DWI. If the charge is based on impairment, the prosecutor must introduce evidence of the person's reduced faculties and the presence of alcohol or drugs in their system. This will include testimony of the police officers who stopped the car about their observations of how the car was being operated and the way the driver looked, spoke and acted when stopped.

Alternatively, if the charge is based on the driver's breath alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent or above, no other evidence of impairment is necessary for a conviction. This type of DWI is called a "per se" offense. Per se means "in and of itself," and it applies here since the result of the chemical test is enough, in and of itself, to prove intoxication.

Consent to Chemical Testing

Chemical testing in Texas includes a breath test taken on a machine called a breathalyzer. A driver blows into the breathalyzer and it registers the individual's alcohol concentration. Other chemical tests are blood tests and urine tests, but these are less commonly used.

Texas law requires that drivers submit to a chemical test if arrested for a DWI. If a driver arrested for a DWI refuses to take a chemical test, the police officer is required to inform the driver that there are automatic penalties that follow refusal. If the driver again refuses to take a chemical test, they will be subject to penalties for the refusal, such as driver's license suspension for 180 days for a first offense, in addition to any administrative or criminal penalties for the DWI offense itself.

Prior Convictions for DWI Charge

It's clear that prior DWI convictions weigh heavily on a driver's shoulders when they are charged with a new DWI. Obviously, prior driving while intoxicated charges count against the driver. But that isn't the only charge that is a prior in Texas. The state makes a variety of activities crimes if undertaken while intoxicated, and a conviction of any of them serves as a prior DWI offense.

The law makes any of these acts a prior offense to a charge of operating of a motor vehicle while intoxicated: operating an aircraft while intoxicated, operating a watercraft while intoxicated or operating or assembling an amusement ride while intoxicated. And Texas does not "forgive" offenses that happened five years ago or even 10 years ago like some states do. For example, a conviction of assembling an amusement ride while intoxicated that a person got 25 years ago will count as a prior offense for today's DWI.

Penalties for a First Conviction

If a driver is convicted of a DWI and has never had a prior DWI-related offense, they will be charged with a class B misdemeanor. The punishment includes jail time of between 72 hours and 180 days, a fine of up to $3,000 and Driver's license revocation of up to one year.

Generally, no interlock ignition device (IID) is required for a first-offense DWI conviction. The IID is a kind of breathalyzer device that the driver must blow into. The car will not start if there is alcohol on their breath. The driver will have to pay a surcharge of $1,000 a year for three years to keep their license from being revoked.

If the driver has a BAC of 0.15 percent or higher, the first offense is a Class A misdemeanor. The jail sentence for this offense is between six days and one year. In that case, the fine can be up to $6,000, and the driver can be required to install an interlock ignition device on every car they own or use regularly.

Penalties for a Second Offense

A second DWI is also a Class A misdemeanor. For this offense, a driver can be ordered to pay a fine up to $4,500 and to spend up to one year in the county jail. The person's driver's license can be suspended for up to two years, and they will have to install an IID.

If they do not want their license to be revoked, they will have to pay an annual surcharge of $1,500 for three years, in addition to the fine. Penalties increase if the individual's BAC is 0.15 percent or higher.

A driver convicted of a second DWI in Texas can also serve a period of time in supervised probation of up to two years. The probationary period can include drug testing, alcohol testing, DWI school, a substance abuse evaluation program and between 80 to 200 hours of community service.

Penalties for a Third Offense

Both fines and imprisonment time increase for a third DWI conviction in Texas. This offense is classified as a third-degree felony and is punishable by fines of up to $10,000 and 10 years of imprisonment in state prison or in a federal penitentiary.

The individual's driver’s license can be suspended for up to two years. A felony conviction also disqualifies the driver from voting and possessing a firearm. The same surcharge applies as for a second conviction, and an IID will be required.

Penalties for a Fourth DWI Conviction

A fourth conviction for DWI in Texas is a second-degree felony. Fines for this offense can go as high as $20,000. The potential time in prison cannot be more than 20 years.

Sentence Enhancements in Texas

As serious as a DWI offense is in Texas, it can get more serious very quickly if there are any circumstances that result in sentence enhancements. For example, if a driver is stopped for a DWI and is found to have an open container of alcohol in the vehicle, additional penalties can be assessed. On a first offense, that can double the minimum jail time. In and of itself, having an open container is a Class B misdemeanor.

Driving with a child passenger aged 15 or younger elevates a first DWI to a felony, with increased imprisonment time and fines. And if an intoxicated driver injures another person, it is intoxication assault, a third-degree felony. If the person dies of their injuries, the driver is charged with intoxication manslaughter, which carries a potential prison sentence of up to 20 years.