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Know the Consequences: Driving While Intoxicated in Texas

The Law Firm of Andrea M. Kolski

Driving while intoxicated in Texas can have serious consequences. A recent study found that Texas has the fifth most drunk driving incidents in the country, and the number of fatalities due to driving while intoxicated increased in 2020.

Not only does drinking and driving put you, your passengers, and others at risk, but it also comes with serious legal consequences when caught. The safest decision is to never take the wheel when you’ve been drinking or under the influence of any intoxicant. However, sometimes bad decisions happen and it’s too late to turn back the clock. In that case, here’s what you should know about Texas and the driving while intoxicated (DWI) consequences that you could face.

What Is a DWI in Texas?

The Texas Penal Code defines driving while intoxicated (DWI) as operating a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 or above. You are considered intoxicated as soon as you do not have the “normal use of mental or physical faculties by reason of the introduction of alcohol, a controlled substance, a drug, a dangerous drug, or a combination of two or more of those substances.”

The penalties for DWI in Texas vary and are based on whether it is your first offense, second offense, or third or subsequent offense. There are also enhanced penalties for having an extremely high BAC, a child passenger, or causing the death of another person due to a DWI accident.

First DWI Offense

Your first offense is a Class B misdemeanor in Texas, and you will serve mandatory jail time. In addition, penalties include:

  • A maximum of 180 days in jail
  • A fine of up to $2000
  • The loss of your license for 90 days to one year
  • A state fine of $3,000 that is assessed upon sentencing

You also will likely need to pay an additional fee for three years to keep your license. This is called SR-22 insurance, and most states require it for offenders convicted of DWI. This will cost significantly more than your regular car insurance, and you will often need to carry it for three years if you want to keep your license.

You also may face probation and required participation in alcohol education programs. If you don’t comply with these requirements, your license could be suspended for even longer.

Second DWI Offense

Your second DWI offense is elevated to a Class A misdemeanor. This means that your penalty increases to the following:

  • A jail sentence of one month up to a year
  • A fine of up to $4,000
  • License suspension of 18 months and a $100 fee to regain your license
  • A state fine of $4,500 that is assessed upon sentencing

You also may be required to have an ignition interlock device installed in your car. This requires you to blow into a Breathalyzer to be able to start your vehicle. You will be responsible for the installation costs and the monthly maintenance fees.

Third DWI Offense

Once you have been convicted of a third DWI, you are no longer facing misdemeanor charges. A third DWI is considered a third-degree felony. Potential penalties include:

  • A prison sentence of two to ten years
  • A fine of up to $10,000
  • License suspension of up to two years
  • A state fine of $6,000 that is assessed upon sentencing

Like your first and second DWI offenses, you’ll also need SR-22 insurance once you are able to get your license back. You could also be required to attend alcohol education classes, install an ignition interlock device in your vehicle, and serve time on probation.

DWI With a Child Passenger

Having a child passenger in the car with you while you are driving impaired also brings additional penalties. If you have a passenger who is under the age of 15 in the car with you, you will be charged with child endangerment and will face the following punishment:

  • An additional fine of up to $10,000
  • A jail sentence of up to two years
  • License suspension for an additional 180 days (on top of the suspension that would normally come with your sentence)

DWI With High BAC

If your BAC is at 0.15 or over, you face additional penalties. You automatically are charged with a class A misdemeanor (unless it is your third offense, you have a child passenger, or you commit intoxication or manslaughter).

The punishment includes 3 days to one year in jail, a fine of up to $4,000, and license suspension between 90 days and one year.

Intoxication Assault and Intoxication Manslaughter

If you commit intoxication assault, which is a DWI that results in serious injuries, you are facing a second-degree felony, which comes with the possibility of a $10,000 fine, two to ten years in prison, and a license suspension of 180 days to two years. Intoxication assault carries the same penalties as a third offense DWI.

Intoxication manslaughter, which is a DWI that results in death, is a state jail felony punishable by a fine of up to $10,000, two years to 20 years in prison, and a license suspension of 180 days to two years.

Collateral Consequences

In addition to the criminal penalties for DWI in Texas, you’ll also face collateral consequences. You may lose your job or have to quit school.

Your employer may have a zero-tolerance policy and they can terminate you if you get a DWI. If your job involves driving, you will almost certainly lose your job.

The financial costs of DWI are significant, including fines, fees to get your license reinstated, alcohol education classes, and ignition interlock devices. A DWI will have a heavy impact on your finances.

DWI could impact your custodial rights to your child and even your right to vote if you are charged with a felony.

Driving While Intoxicated in Texas

It is clear that DWI costs offenders greatly, from criminal penalties to collateral consequences. Laws against driving while intoxicated in Texas are harsh, and the state does not go easy on offenders.

If you are facing DWI charges, you need to speak with an attorney as soon as possible. They will help you fight the charges, potentially negotiate a deal with prosecutors, and ensure that your rights are not violated.

If you’ve been charged with a DWI, it’s important to get an experienced, capable DWI lawyer on your side as soon as possible. Montgomery DWI attorney Andrea M. Kolski has over 20+ years experience defending the rights of those charged with DWI. Her track record of dismissals and reduced charges are second to none. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help.

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The Woodlands, TX 77381

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