The effects of DWI in Texas weigh differently in every person. The court can decide to prosecute you with different charges depending on the nature of your crime and your prior DWI criminal history. Whether it's your first time or subsequent DWI arrest, the consequences of DWI in Texas can be severe. A DWI conviction can go a long way into affecting your future endeavors, like seeking a job or housing.
Luckily, being arrested doesn't automatically lead to a conviction. It's possible to beat a DWI charge in Texas if you have the right DWI defense attorney at your side. Read this article and learn about the difference between the penalties for a DWI offense in Texas.
A Brief Overview of DWI in Texas
It's a crime to drive while intoxicated in Texas. Intoxication isn't limited to alcohol but also includes the use of drugs. Under Texas Penal Code 49.04, a conviction of DWI requires the prosecutors to convince the jury of the following about you:
- You couldn't use your mental and physical faculties due to the use of alcohol, drugs, or a combination of both
- You had a breath or blood alcohol concentration that's higher than 0.08%
Please note, DWI is different from DUI in that DUI only applies to minors below 21 years arrested with any detectable amount of alcohol in their body. Therefore, prosecutors don't have to prove that the minor was intoxicated but have to measure detectable amounts of alcohol into the child's system to make an arrest.
However, you should note that a DUI can be elevated to a severe DWI charge if a minor has a high BAC and is under the influence of a controlled substance like Marijuana. Prior DUI convictions can also elevate DUI charges to DWI, especially if the minor is above eighteen years but below 21 years.
The Consequences of DWI in Texas
Now that you know what DWI means, you may be wondering about their penalties. Similar to other crimes, a conviction for DWI carries hefty fines and jail time. Defendants are also at risk of administrative penalties like suspension of their driving privileges. Here is a breakdown of the consequences of different forms of DWI in Texas.
The Penalties for 1st Time DWI Offense in Texas
First-time DWI charges are Class B misdemeanors in Texas. Penalties include a fine of up to $3,000 and custody in jail for a maximum of six months. A conviction can also lead to a driver's license suspension for a year. It also imposes a further sentence of license surcharge fee of $2,000 every year for three years once your driving license is reinstated, plus other fees and costs related to your driver's license.
Certain factors can enhance your 1st time DWI charges. These enhancements lead to harsher penalties like longer terms in jail, heftier fines, and loss of your constitutional rights. These enhanced sentences are as follows:
- A maximum fine of $6,000 and custody in jail for a maximum of 12 months for a DWI with a BAC of 0.15% or higher. A conviction can also lead to a permanent suspension of your driver's license.
- DWI with an open Container is a Class A or B misdemeanor based on the defendant's BAC level. The penalties that result are similar to the ones described above. However, a conviction requires the defendant to spend at least six days in jail as an enhancement.
- 1st time DWI with a Child passenger is a felony punishable by $ 10,000 of fines and up to 24 hours of custody in the state prison. A conviction can also lead to the permanent loss of your driver's license plus other consequences associated with felony convictions in Texas.
The Penalties for 2nd Time DWI Offense in Texas
Second-time DWI is a Class A misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $6,000 and a maximum of 12 months in county jail. Additionally, you must spend three days in jail even when probation is granted and have your driver's license suspended.
A conviction for second time DWI imposes a mandatory installation of an Ignition Interlock Device as a condition for your release. You might also be required to pay an annual surcharge of $1,500 to $2,000 every year for three years to retain your driver's license.
The Penalties for 3rd Time DWI Offense in Texas
Third-time DWI carries more severe penalties than 1st and 2nd DWIs. Anyone convicted of a third-time DWI is at risk of spending more time in county jail and paying heftier fines. Here is a breakdown of the penalties of 3rd Time DWI in Fort Worth, TX.
A third-time DWI is a third-degree felony in Texas. A conviction results in imprisonment for two to ten years. However, judges can grant probation and reduce your time in prison as long as you comply with the probation's terms and conditions.
It's worth noting that you must serve at least ten days as part of your plea deal. You'll be required to complete at least 600 hours of community services, attend counseling sessions, and take part in other parts of DWI intervention programs as part of your probation.
A third-time DWI carries stiffer fines that amount to a maximum of $10,000, although the court doesn't necessarily have to go for the maximum amount. However, there are additional costs hooked to the court fines like counseling fees, court costs, interlock device costs that you should pay. Ultimately, you'll have to pay a staggering amount to secure your freedom.
Driver's License Suspension
A third-time DWI can lead to suspension of your driver's license for two years. If you would want to reinstate the license, you'll have to install an ignition interlock device. The suspension can also require you to pay a license fee surcharge of $2,000 every year for three years.
The Penalties for 4th Time DWI Offense
A fourth DWI in Texas is a third-degree felony with a maximum of ten years of imprisonment and a maximum fine of $10,000.
Additionally, there are other penalties associated with this crime, which are as follows:
- Driver's license suspension for a maximum of two years.
- Annual surcharges fee of $2,000 to retain your driver's license.
- Community service.
- The requirement to install an IID.
- Participation in alcohol and drug abuse sessions.
- Treatment for alcohol and drug dependency.
- Completion of a DWI court-ordered program for repeat offenders.
- Submitting to random drug and alcohol testing.
- Payment of a monthly probation fee if released.
- Completion of your probation's requirement.
The Penalties for Underage DWI in Texas
As stated earlier, minors can be charged with DWI if aggravating factors are associated with their arrest. Aggravating factors include driving with an open container and having a BAC level of 0.15% or above, seriously injuring or killing someone. Here is a breakdown of the consequences of Underage DWI in Texas.
1ST Time Offense
A first-time underage DWI offense with aggravating factors is a Class B misdemeanor with the following penalties:
- A fine of up to $2,000.
- Custody in jail for a minimum of 72 hours to a maximum of 180 days.
- A driver's license suspension for a minimum of 90 days and one year.
2nd Time Offense
A second DWI conviction is a Class A misdemeanor with the following penalties:
- A maximum fine of $4,000.
- Custody in county jail for a minimum of 30 days and up to one year.
- License suspension for 180 days to two years.
3rd or Subsequent Offense
A third time or subsequent conviction for 3rd time or subsequent DWI is a third-degree felony with the following penalties:
- A maximum fine of $10,000.
- Imprisonment for two to ten years.
- License suspension for 180 days to 2 years.
The Penalties for DWI Assault in Texas
You can be charged with DWI assault if you injure someone as a direct consequence of your driving while intoxicated. Prosecutors and judges usually subject defendants to harsh penalties in these kinds of cases.
DWI assault or intoxication assault is a third-degree felony, whether It's your first or subsequent criminal charge. Penalties include at least two years of imprisonment and a fine of up to $10,000. You are also at risk of the following consequences:
- Suspension of your driver's license.
- Community service for a maximum of 600 hours.
- Community supervision with a minimum of thirty days of custody in county jail.
- Mandatory attendance to DWI education classes.
- Completion of a drug rehabilitation program.
The judge might order you to install an ignition interlock device as part of your release from prison. You'll have to drive with the interlock device for one year once your driver's license has been reinstated.
The Penalties for DWI Manslaughter in Texas
In Texas, DWI manslaughter or intoxicated manslaughter refers to causing a motor vehicle accident while driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. You can still be charged with intoxicated manslaughter even if you weren't technically at fault in the accident.
Please note that manslaughter requires a victim's death due to criminal negligence from the accused, meaning that the death wasn't intentional. Therefore, in the context of DWI, criminal negligence refers to any behavior that's reckless beyond all reason and is performed with disregard to other people's safety. Driving while intoxicated qualifies as criminal negligence, including other behaviors that put other people at risk of their safety.
DWI manslaughter is punished much more severely than other DWIs. DWI manslaughter is a second-degree felony punishable by:
- 2 to 20 years of imprisonment.
- A maximum fine of $10,000.
- 240 to 800 hours of community service.
- License suspension for six to 12 months.
Collateral Consequences of DWI in Texas
There are several other possible side effects or collateral consequences that might arise from a DWI conviction. These effects can significantly impact your life, even after incurring penalties like jail time, driver's suspension, fines, and adhering to probation requirements. These collateral consequences are as follows:
Loss of Employment
You can lose your job if you're sent to prison or jail due to your DWI charges. Apart from that, you can lose your job if your employer doesn't favor people with a criminal history. This is true when you're working in a profession that takes morality into great concern.
Losing a job means that you are losing your source of income, which affects how you'll be paying your bills and supporting your family. A DWI conviction can also affect you seeking a job, especially when required to pursue further training to gain employment.
Loss of Professional License
A DWI conviction can severely affect your ability to apply and maintain a professional license. Many professional licensures require applicants to have a good moral standing to qualify for their licenses. This includes applicants seeking licenses in the following fields:
- Businesses and finance
- Real estate
- Animal health
Some occupations require people to have special licenses to continue working in their specific fields. A DWI can lead to the revocation of your previously held license until further review.
Issues With Security Clearance
Many government jobs require people to seek security clearance. A security clearance refers to an in-depth background check that flags any criminal convictions for a job seeker or a license applicant. A DWI conviction can make your security clearance application process difficult and possibly disqualify you.
You should note that not all security clearances are unavailable due to a DWI conviction. It depends on the type of job you're applying for and the particular requirements for your clearance. In some cases, you can explain your DWI conviction and prove that you're not a repeat offender to have your name cleared.
Impact on Custodial Rights
Family courts usually look into custody applicants' criminal history to determine their eligibility. A look into your criminal history can reveal your DWI conviction. However, a DWI conviction doesn't necessarily mean that you cannot have custody but significantly weighs the court's decision.
It can only impact your custody if the DWI demonstrates that you have issues with addiction. Family courts usually put addiction into heavy consideration and can easily deny a person custodial rights as a result.
Impact on Securing a Loan
A criminal history has a significant impact when getting a loan. Whether you're seeking a loan from a payday lender, financial institution, or bank, a criminal record will act as a red flag. Lenders primarily seek reliable borrowers, and they usually take a look into the applicant's criminal history to make their decision.
DWI convictions can particularly affect your ability to secure a car loan. Most car loans use vehicles as collateral, and a driver with a DWI conviction would possibly be regarded as a higher risk, even if the person has no subsequent DWI arrests.
Issues with Housing
A DWI conviction can have a significant effect on seeking mortgages and rent. Many landlords are hesitant to grant rent to people with criminal charges on their background checks. You can also find it challenging to seek public housing assistance.
Impact on Your Gun Rights
Under Federal laws, individuals convicted of a felony can lose their right to own or use a firearm. Therefore, if you're convicted of a felony DWI, you cannot own or use your gun and have to surrender it to the local authorities.
Common Defenses to DWI Cases in Texas
Facing DWI in Texas can be intimidating and fearful. One of the best ways to minimize this is to work with a DUI attorney and employ relevant defense strategies. Here is an overview of some of the common defenses that you can use.
No Breath or Blood Test
In Texas, law enforcement officers should not conduct a blood test unless they secure a warrant. However, certain circumstances can cause them to draw blood without a warrant. These include factors like the unavailability of a judge to grant the warrant and insufficient budget to draw blood.
Law enforcement officers might also fail to take a breath test due to several reasons. In that case, they make DWI accusations out of observation, making this an opinion crime. In this situation, your attorney can disqualify the accusation since there's no tangible evidence to prosecute you.
You Were Not Driving
A DWI arrest that occurs when you are parking or sitting in your car doesn't suffice as a genuine arrest. Under Texas DWI laws, prosecutors must prove beyond reasonable doubt that you were operating a vehicle to proceed with your case. A skilled attorney would try to push your case to a jury trial and secure an innocent verdict if the prosecution cannot clearly explain that you were driving.
You Were Not Intoxicated While Driving
Under Texas DWI laws, law enforcement officers must prove beyond reasonable doubt that you were operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated. It takes about thirty minutes for a BAC level to rise to the prohibited levels. Therefore, if the police hold you for more than thirty minutes, it doesn't necessarily mean that you were intoxicated while driving. Your attorney should present this argument to have your case dismissed.
Find a Fort Worth DWI Defense Lawyer Near Me
There are dire consequences of a DWI arrest and conviction in Texas. Thankfully, hiring the right DWI attorney can help you dismiss or reduce your charges. If you’re arrested for any DWI crime in Fort Worth, TX, the Fort Worth DWI Defense Lawyer is here to help. Contact us today at 817-470-2128 and schedule an appointment.