In 2018, over 900 people were killed in car crashes where the driver was under the influence. This number makes up 1/4 of the total number of car accident fatalities each year in Texas.
Driving under the influence can have serious consequences for drivers, their passengers, and innocent bystanders or passengers and drivers in other cars. Because of this, states have gotten extremely tough on drivers who are under the influence.
If you want to know more about the consequences of a DWI in Texas, keep reading.
Every state is different in how they label driving under the influence. Some use DUI (driving under the influence), some use the term OWI (operating while intoxicated), while others, including Texas, uses DWI (driving while intoxicated) and DUI.
If you are driving in Texas, you are prohibited from driving while intoxicated. You are considered to be too intoxicated to drive once your blood alcohol content (BAC) is .08 or above. If you are 21 and are pulled over and your BAC is .08 or above, you may be charged with DWI.
If you are under 21 and get pulled over, any amount of alcohol in your system could result in a charge of DUI.
These laws don’t just apply to alcohol, either. If you are under the influence of drugs, prescription medication, or any other substance that could impact your capability to drive the vehicle, you can be charged with a DWI.
There are also enhanced penalties for having an open container in your vehicle when you get pulled over, intoxication assault, intoxication manslaughter, and DWI with a child under the age of 15 in the car.
DWIs in Texas are classified as misdemeanors or felonies, depending on how many times you have been in trouble before (e.g., the classification increases the more DWIs you have).
First offense DWIs are considered Class B misdemeanors, second offense DWIs are Class A misdemeanors, and third and subsequent DWIs are escalated to felonies. The degree of felony depends on what offense it is, whether you’ve been incarcerated before, and how many times.
Over the past decades, the DWI laws have gotten harsher all over the country, and Texas is no exception. Many states have habitual offender penalties, which punishes you more severely the more DWIs you have and states also have stiffer penalties for a higher BAC.
Your first DWI charge in Texas will bring with it a fine up to $2,000, anywhere between 3 and 180 days in jail, and a license suspension for up to two years.
For your second offense, the penalties increase to fines up to $4,000 and one month to one year in jail.
The fines and incarceration periods jump significantly with your third DWI offense. The fine rises to up to $10,000 and you face between two and 10 years in state prison (no more county jail for the third offense).
For each of these offenses, you also may be required to install an ignition interlock device in your car. This device is a breathalyzer that is installed in your vehicle and you must blow into it to start the vehicle.
If any alcohol is detected, your car will not start and this information will be recorded and shared with the court system. This device is installed at your expense and can be costly.
You may also be required to pay an annual surcharge of $2,000 to keep your license (for up to 3 years) and attend a DWI educational class or intervention program.
Anyone who drives in Texas is subject to their implied consent laws. This means that by obtaining a driver’s license, you are implying your consent to a chemical test if a law enforcement officer suspects you are under the influence.
If you refuse testing, you can lose your license for 90 days up to two years. It’s important to note that this suspension is separate from any suspension due to being convicted of DWI, so your suspension will be even longer if you are convicted.
The suspension is not immediate and automatic. You do have the opportunity to request an administrative hearing regarding the suspension. For this hearing, you should hire a DWI attorney to represent you and dispute your suspension.
After your license suspension is over, your car insurance rates are almost certain to increase after you get a DWI. In addition, you also will need to file an SR-22 certificate. This is done through your insurance company and gives the state proof that you have car insurance that meets the state’s minimum standards.
The SR-22 will need to be on file for two years after your conviction. If you let it lapse, you will lose your license and have your vehicle registration canceled.
You must have the SR-22 Certificate on file with the state for two years after your conviction. If it lapses, you will lose your license and the state will cancel your vehicle registration.
If you are facing a DWI in Texas and are in the Houston area, you’ll want to hire an experienced Houston DWI lawyer to handle your case. An experienced attorney can advise you of your rights, negotiate a penalty, and represent you during court proceedings.
Don’t attempt to navigate the criminal justice system on your own. Hiring an experienced attorney will give you an advantage over representing yourself, which is often a mistake.
If you’ve been charged with a DWI, contact the offices of Christopher T. Gore to set up a consultation.