Texas takes drunk driving seriously, and a conviction attracts severe penalties. Many Texans know that it is illegal to drink and drive but find it confusing to differentiate between driving under the influence (DUI) and driving while intoxicated (DWI). If you face a drinking and driving offense, you must know how these terms differ and apply to your case.

Texas DWI at a Glance

Per Texas PEN 49.04, it is unlawful for a motorist to drive an automobile with at most 0.8% alcohol in their bloodstream or while intoxicated by controlled substances or alcohol. The abbreviation DWI means operating a car while intoxicated. The law deems you intoxicated if the following is true:

  • You lack the typical use of bodily or mental abilities due to alcohol consumption.
  • You lack normal physical or mental capabilities because of substance consumption.
  • You have at least a .08% concentration of alcohol in your blood for an adult driver or .04% for commercial drivers.

When you are an adult over 21, and the stopping officer has reliable evidence to believe you are intoxicated, you risk DWI charges. The officer obtains probable cause for arrest by conducting field sobriety tests (FSTs) and performing a breathalyzer or drug or substance recognition expert test. Without probable cause, your DWI arrest will be illegal.

PEN 49.04 categorizes DWI as a category B misdemeanor, which attracts at most 180 days of jail incarceration. However, when the blood alcohol mass exceeds .15%, DWI is classified as a level A misdemeanor punishable by at least thirty days and, at most, twelve months in jail.

Overview of Texas DUI

Section 106.041 of the Texas PEN prohibits minors younger than 21 from driving an automobile in public with detectable alcohol levels in their bloodstream. Therefore, when you are underage and take any appreciable amount of alcohol, regardless of the amount and drive, you can be arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) if a stopping officer conducts a breathalyzer test or observes intoxication signs. The reason for the charges is that Texas has a zero-drug or alcohol policy for minors.

You face DUI charges as an underage individual if any alcohol is detected in your system. This is unlike DWI, where the adult must have an illegal BAC of.08% or more or show intoxication signs. For minors, an officer only needs to prove there were alcohol or drug traces in the minor’s bloodstream at the time of driving.

Texas DUI and DWI Penalties

DWI is a more serious offense than DUI, although a conviction for any of these offenses attracts severe penalties. The punishment for DUI is intended to rehabilitate minors and deter them from drunk and drugged driving in the future.

DWI Penalties

The court will likely convict you of the offense when the prosecutor proves all the elements of a PEN 49.04 violation. If you receive a guilty verdict, you should anticipate jail incarceration, hefty court fines, payment of legal fees, and a possible rehabilitation program.

A conviction will attract at least three days of mandatory jail incarceration as a first-time offender. If you had an open alcohol container in the vehicle, your mandatory jail incarceration will be increased from three to six days. It is the least jail term for a DWI conviction. The maximum jail sentence for a DWI guilty verdict is 180 days, equivalent to six months. The court slapping you with a one hundred and eighty-day jail term means you will miss work, school, or family time for an extended duration. The conviction will also damage your professional reputation, affecting your livelihood.

Similarly, the court will impose fines of at most $2,000 for a DWI guilty verdict. The fine figure you will pay depends on your case’s unique circumstances.

Also, as a first-time DWI offender, you must pay a yearly fee ranging from $1,000 to $2,000. The funds go to the Department of Public Safety (DPS) for license maintenance. You will pay the price for no more than three years, and the amount to be paid depends on the nature of your DWI.

Another penalty for a DWI guilty verdict is a driving privilege suspension for six to twelve months. You will face an automatic driver’s license suspension if the alcohol or drug tests in the arrest come out positive. However, you risk additional penalties if you refuse to take a breath test, including license suspension, which is isolated from the DWI proceedings in court. If you receive notice of the suspension, you can salvage the situation by requesting an administrative hearing within fifteen days of the notification.

Lastly, the court can decide to sentence you to a substance or alcohol rehabilitation program if it is your first offense. DWI schools help address the conduct that led you to commit the underlying violation. The court will drop the charges against you if you complete the program.

You should know that DWI is a priorable offense, meaning if you have a prior record, a subsequent one will result in harsher penalties.

DUI Penalties

DUI is a less severe offense than DWI, attracting lenient penalties because the goal is to rehabilitate minors and deter future DWI offenses. Even though these penalties are not as harsh, they are punitive on minors and attain the desired objective.

For a first DUI offense, a conviction does not result in a mandatory jail term. However, a subsequent DUI can attract jail incarceration.

However, first-time DUI offenders must pay court fines of at most $500, although this is less than the $2,000 adult motorists pay. As an underage, $500 is highly probable the money you make monthly in a part-time job. Consolidating the sum quickly can strain you and your parent’s finances, depending on your socio-economic status.

Another consequence of DUI is withdrawing your license over an administrative proceeding. The license suspension for minors charged with DUI for the first time lasts for two months.

Furthermore, the court can instruct you to enroll in a substance or alcohol treatment program to fight the addiction or problem. Besides, you must complete twenty to forty hours of communal labor for a first offense and sixty hours of community hours for a subsequent conviction.

The punishment for DUI seems more lenient than that for DWI. Nevertheless, both offenses leave you with lasting collateral consequences or disabilities. A record for the offense will make it challenging to acquire college loans. Also, some employers will discriminate against you based on your record, making it difficult to find employment.


On the issue of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs in Texas, it is crucial to differentiate between DUI and DWI. Most states use the abbreviations interchangeably or to mean the same, which can be confusing. However, in Texas, DWI and DUI are different, and it is crucial to understand these differences, especially when you face drunk or drugged driving charges.

DWI is an offense that happens when you drive a car while impaired by drugs, alcohol, or both. Operating an automobile with blood alcohol content (BAC) that exceeds the designated limit of .08% attracts DWI counts. This is different from DUIs because, for this offense, you can be arrested for driving with any traceable BAC when you are under 21. Besides, you can face DUI counts for driving an automobile while impaired by drugs and not alcohol.

The critical difference between the two offenses is that DWI laws only take effect when you, the motorist, achieve a particular level of intoxication, regardless of whether or not the BAC is above the designated limit. When the arresting officer observes signs of intoxication like slurred speech, open alcohol containers, or erratic driving, you will be apprehended for DWI even if your BAC is within the stipulated limit. Texas has a zero-tolerance policy for underage DUI. Therefore, any minor who drives with noticeable alcohol amounts faces DUI charges. Understanding these differences can help keep roads safe. Also, it is best to avoid alcohol or drugs if you plan on driving to avoid the penalties of a DUI.

While the two offenses focus on drunk or drugged driving, DWI attracts harsher consequences as it is a serious crime. The penalties are worse for a repeat offender because you risk a longer prison term, heftier court fines, and an impossible record to expunge, meaning it will haunt you for the rest of your life. Thankfully, there have been changes to the laws, and if you have a record for DWI or DUI, you are eligible for record expungement, but only if it is your first offense. An expunction means that the conviction will not haunt you in the future after you complete your sentence. You do not have to reveal to a potential boss your prior conviction. Again, when someone checks your background, the expunged record will not appear.

Nevertheless, DUI is a lesser offense and primarily applies to underage persons who drive when drunk or drugged. Despite DUI being less severe, it is easy to be convicted of the crime because you can face charges for any detectable alcohol level. You must know that when you decline to take a breathalyzer test, the prosecutor will charge you with aggravated DWI, which attracts stricter penalties than those for driving with a BAC past the designated limit. So, when you plan on drinking, find other means of transport and avoid operating the car to prevent accidents and the penalties of breaking the law.

However, if you are unlucky enough to operate an impaired automobile and are arrested, all is not lost. Despite DWI or DUI being severe offenses, an experienced DWI lawyer can help you understand the charges, penalties, and how to prevent a conviction or obtain a fair verdict.

The Period a DWI or DUI Stays in Your Record

Before, a guilty verdict for DWI used to stay on your record for a lifetime unless you qualify for an expunction. An expungement means sealing your record and no longer disclosing your conviction to anyone. Even though it is beneficial, only particular individuals are entitled to it, particularly those whose charges were withdrawn or were acquitted in trial. Only those with formal counts but no conviction are eligible for record expunction under DWI. The only exception is for people convicted of DUI. Therefore, for an underage person convicted of DUI with a BAC below.08%, you can qualify for an expunction even after a guilty verdict for the charges.

However, even if you have a conviction for DWI, the update of nondisclosure laws has become a relief because you can expunge a DWI under unique circumstances. Non Disclosure statutes make it possible to seal first-time guilty verdicts for DWI so that the records are no longer accessible to the public. You must know that the criminal history is not erased but concealed from public review. The files will still be present, but the obligation to reveal them to potential employers, landlords, and when applying for school or mortgage loans no longer exists.

DUI and DWI Legal Defenses

When you have pending DWI or DUI counts in Texas, you are likely to feel stressed and overwhelmed because the case seems hopeless. However, you do not have to worry because the charges do not necessarily result in a guilty verdict. Your defense lawyer can exploit several defense strategies and mitigating circumstances for evidence exclusion or count dismissal. Defending yourself against the charges is not advisable. Therefore, you need a competent DWI defense lawyer for a favorable verdict in the case. The defenses your lawyer will mount in the case for a fair outcome are:

  1. The Evidence Against You is Inadmissible

There are several reasons why the DWI evidence gathered against you could be inadmissible in court. One of the reasons evidence can be deemed inadmissible is if the apprehending officer disregarded the procedures laid out by law, including:

  • Not having probable cause that you were committing a crime.
  • Failure to read to you your Miranda rights during arrest.
  • The officer is continuing interrogation after you have requested your lawyer’s presence.
  • The officer conducting a chemical test after you turned down the request.
  • Inaccurate chemical blood, urine, and breath tests.

An apprehending officer needs reasonable suspicion that you are committing a crime to stop you in traffic and detain you temporarily. Observations that can give an officer a sensible suspicion that you are DWI or DUI include:

  • Frequent braking.
  • Erratic driving.
  • Illegal turns.
  • Lane swerving.

Any sign that you are intoxicated will prompt an officer to stop you. If, after the stop, the officer discovers signs of DUI like alcohol odor or slurred speech, they will have reasonable suspicion you are DWI. This will give them a reason to conduct further investigations, including performing FSTs or breathalyzer tests. If you fail the FSTs and the breath test indicates an illegal BAC, the officer will have probable cause or sufficient evidence to make an arrest. An office needs reliable proof to make an arrest. Your lawyer can argue that the arrest was illegal if the evidentiary standard is not met.

If you believe the officer violated your constitutional rights or the results are inaccurate, your lawyer will file a motion to suppress the illegal discovery. An officer violates your rights when they stop you without reasonable suspicion, perform FSTs and chemical tests, or arrest you without probable cause. When the judge grants the motion to suppress, most of the proof against you will be deemed inadmissible in court and, therefore, thrown out, leaving the prosecutor with weak or insufficient evidence to prove beyond moral certainty that you are operating a vehicle while intoxicated. The prosecutor or court cannot dismiss or reduce your charges when there is insufficient evidence.

Occasionally, apprehending officers disregard procedures guaranteed to every Texan motorist. For instance, when an officer fails to read your Miranda rights, like having the right to remain silent or to have a lawyer present during interrogation, any evidence obtained during the cross-examination is inadmissible in court. Even if you confess to the DWI, the prosecutor cannot use it as evidence in a courtroom; hence, they will drop the charges or charge you with a lesser offense.

  1. The Prosecutor did not Satisfy the Aspects of DWI

The DA must demonstrate all the DWI elements to secure a guilty verdict. The court will find you innocent of your charges if they cannot meet the evidentiary standard. Luckily, most of the time, prosecutors file formal charges without sufficient evidence to prove the case's facts. Usually, they fail to prove you were in physical control of the vehicle. Therefore, if you were only seated in the pilot's seat, but the engine was not running, or the keys were not in the ignition, it is not proof that you controlled the vehicle, meaning you are not guilty of DWI.

There are several other defenses for DWI, depending on the unique circumstances of your case. However, it would help if you had an experienced and board-certified criminal lawyer to increase the chances of a favorable outcome. A lawyer who treats every case like it is going to trial will deliver a good result.

Find an Experienced DWI Lawyer Near Me

An arrest for DWI or DUI can have immediate and long-term disabilities if the court finds you guilty. If you deliberate on hiring a lawyer for your case, do not hesitate to contact the Fort Worth DWI Defense Lawyer at 817-470-2128. Our DWI lawyers will explain the charges, outline your options, and defend you in court for a fair ruling.