When convicted of a driving while impaired (DWI) charge in the state of Texas, an offender may face certain penalties in addition to the required payment of a fine or jail time. Someone convicted of a DWI will likely have to take courses mandated by the court in DWI education or intervention. Every county and municipality in the state has government certified classes listed on the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR) website. Due to Covid-19, some locations may only allow online class attendance – offenders should check with their class location before attending.
DWI Education Programs Are Court-Mandated
Texas considers a first-offense DWI as a Class B misdemeanor, but that doesn't mean the penalties for impairment aren't severe. DWI charges carry with them additional penalties that don't usually come with other misdemeanors. Even if an offender serves probation, the court may also order that person to attend an educational program.
According to the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, Article 42A.403, someone with a DWI conviction must complete mandated DWI classes within 180 days of receiving the court's order. Failing to do so will result in additional penalties.
When the court sentences a driver to a DWI course, it chooses a specific program for that driver. This depends on several factors, including age, the type of substances the drivers were using, and if whether it was a multiple or single offense. However, there are some instances in which a driver can select their own third-party program, but whatever they choose must carry a seal of approval of one or all of these entities: Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation; Texas Department of Public Safety; Texas Department of Transportation; or Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
DWI Education Class FAQs
According to Houston attorneys Sullo and Sullo, the intent behind Texas' harsh penalties, including DWI classes, has been to stop drivers from getting behind the wheel while impaired. Offenders must pay for the courses out-of-pocket, and in most cases, they are not cheap – a single DWI class can cost over $70. For drivers with multiple DWI offenses, they may cost even more. Drivers who have more than one DWI conviction may also see their driver's licenses revoked until they receive their certificate of completion.
What kind and how many DWI classes a driver must attend also depends on their past convictions, and prices will vary depending on their location. Those who have a first-time DWI must complete 12 hours of courses over a three- to four-day period, and in most instances, they can achieve this online. However, the court may require repeat offenders to take up to 32 hours of courses over a five- to seven-week period in person. These classes may be as high as $300 each or more.
A Texas minor charged with a DWI must take an additional six hours of classes, which take about two days to complete and cost at least $60.
Attending DWI Classes
After enrolling in DWI classes, drivers shouldn't come to classrooms empty-handed. According to Alamo City Education Services of San Antonio, the state of Texas requires attendees to have these specific documents with them in order to take the courses:
- DWI case number.
- Attorney contacts, including phone number and email addresses for attendees whose cases are still open.
- Probation officer contacts for those on probation.
- Contact information of applicable parties to send out a certificate of course completion, including an out-of-state department of public safety office or substance abuse professional.
DWI educational programs attempt to get drivers to think before they drink and drive, and the topics they cover reflect that idea. Topics related to alcohol and drug use that are traditionally covered include:
- The impact of alcohol and drugs on a person's ability to drive.
- What alcohol and drugs do to a user's body, mind and the environment.
- The short- and long-term consequences of getting a DWI.
- Drug and alcohol recovery options.
- How to make better decisions about drug and alcohol use.
Not Completing or Failure of DWI Classes
Texas law states that the completion and passing of DWI education classes are mandatory. Drivers convicted of DWI in a Texas court must legally attend and complete the courses within 180 days of the court's order.
If a driver chooses not to complete classes on time, or at all, or if they fail the program, the court will issue strict administrative penalties against that driver. An offender could have their driving privileges revoked or their license suspended, with reinstatement only possible once the successful completion of the course occurs.
Standard Courses for DWI Offenders
For DWI convictions, the court may require drivers to take education courses or intervention courses – which one a driver takes depends on if the DWI is their first or one of several. A DWI Education course is for first offenders. Its objective is to help drivers further their knowledge of the substances that cause impairment and hopefully to develop a plan that reduces the likelihood of negative behaviors. Topics specific to this course include the effects of alcohol on health and driving abilities, drug and alcohol dependency, and the costs – financial and otherwise – that a DWI charge can bring.
DWI Intervention courses are for drivers with multiple offenses. They cover topics such as intervening on an addict's lifestyle, entry into treatment programs, chemical dependency, preventing relapse, the physiological and psychological effects of drugs, and alcohol and treatment options such as 12-step groups, including Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA).
Classes for Drugs and Minor DWI Offenders
If a driver gets pulled over for being under the influence of only drugs, the court may require that driver to take Drug Offender Education courses. This course is about 15 hours long and educates offenders on the dangers of drug use and impairment while driving. Through Drug Offender Education programs, the state also hopes to identify use patterns and assist with treatment options. Classes cover the physical, psychological and social issues associated with alcohol/drug use, reclaiming sobriety after drug addiction, Texas drug laws and the costs – financial and otherwise – of abusing drugs.
If the offender is a minor, they will take a Minors in Possession course, also known as a MIP course. This six-hour course helps minors understand the long and short-term effects of drugs and alcohol in terms of physical, psychological and social impact. It studies the influence of advertising on minors and laws relating to the purchase, possession or consumption of alcohol and drugs. Abuse and addiction are covered topics, along with better decision-making skills regarding impairment. Courses also cover treatment options such as 12-step programs like NA and AA.
- Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation: Offender Education Programs
- Sullo and Sullo: DWI Aftermath: DWI Classes in Texas
- Alamo City Education Services: DWI Education Program
- Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Article 42A.403 Educational Program for Certain Intoxication Offenders; Waiver or Extension of Time
Michelle Nati is an associate editor and writer who has reported on legal, criminal and government news for PasadenaNow.com and Complex Media. She holds a B.A. in Communications and English from Niagara University.