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What’s Next? What To Expect When Navigating Your First DWI in Texas

The Law Firm of Andrea M. Kolski
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Alcohol is big business in the US. It’s advertised heavily during sports events, endorsed by celebrities, and sold at virtually every non-fast food restaurant throughout the country. Texas is no exception in the big business of alcohol sales and distribution. Texas also fills its revenue on the other side of the alcohol business with thousands of DWI arrests and convictions every year. With some of the highest conviction rates in the US, Texas courts can be especially brutal for those charged with a DWI.

A DWI in Texas is not only big business for the state, it’s also serious business for anyone facing a first DWI charge. A first DWI in Texas is a class B misdemeanor. If you receive a conviction, it could cost you thousands in fines and up to six months in county jail. Beyond the fines and jail time, there are other, longer lasting costs as well. These include missing work, having a DWI on your record for all to see, and the potential denial of employment, especially side gigs like rideshare driving or delivery.

If you or a loved one were pulled over for driving under the influence in Texas, it’s important to know your rights. Read this guide to a DWI 1st offense and what ways to minimize the DWI impact on your life.

What are the Penalties for a First DWI in Texas?

Texas DWI penalties are intended to deter driving under the influence. While the connection between harsher punishments and safer roads is debatable, the consequences for a DWI offender are unquestionably serious. In Texas, a first-time DWI offender is very likely to face administrative penalties even before they go to court. If they go to court and receive a first DWI conviction, they are likely to face significant criminal penalties.

First Penalty: The Seizure of Your License

Texas has very little in the way of public transportation. Even the largest cities like Houston, Dallas, or Austin have few public transportation options available to get around town. Therefore, Texans are usually dependent upon driving a vehicle to work or any other activity. So, having a valid drivers license in Texas is critical to daily life and losing a drivers license due to a DWI can be devastating.

When pulled over, if a driver fails a chemical test or refuses to take one, then Texas law allows the officer to take your license. The driver will then receive a “Notice of Suspension” from the officer. The notice enables you to drive because it is functionally a temporary driving permit.

A driver may be innocent but they will have to prove that in court or through specific procedures outlined by the county. That can takes weeks or months and most of us don’t have that kind of time to go without a license or settle for a temporary one. Can you appeal the license suspension? Yes, if you choose. In certain circumstances, it’s possible to continue driving on your temporary permit until you attend the hearing and the board makes a final decision.

However, if you fail to properly contest the decision, your license is automatically suspended for 90 to 180 days. The 90 days begins on day 41 after your arrest.

It’s unlikely to lose all your driving privileges for a first time DWI, but there are no guarantees. First-time offenders have the option to apply for an “occupational license.” It allows you to continue to drive to work, school, and places like the pharmacy, doctor, and grocery store. An experienced Texas DWI lawyer can help navigate this process so that you can avoid missing work or other activities.

In many cases, a DWI lawyer can acquire an occupational license if you agree to an ignition interlock device (on every vehicle in your name), and you’re able to provide evidence of responsibility (job, class attendance, etc.).

Second Penalty: The Criminal Penalties

Texas DWI first convictions are generally classified as a class B misdemeanor. There are exception such as a blood alcohol content of .15 percent – the legal limit is 0.08 percent. In those cases, the DWI will often be moved up to a class A misdemeanor.

Upon conviction, you can receive either a fine or a jail sentence – or both. The maximum penalties are $3,000 (for class B) and $6,000 (for class A). A jail sentence may range from 72 hours to six months (one year for class A).

The fine and jail sentences are standard, but there’s more – even for a first conviction.

If convicted of a DWI in Texas, the court may also require the following:

  • Probation
  • Community service
  • DWI education
  • Further license suspensions (90 days to one year)

If you get your license back, you will also pay an annual surcharge on your license for three years. The typical penalty surcharge is between $1,000 and $2,000.

Further Penalties: Injuries, Children in the Car, Etc.

The penalties listed above only cover the DWI itself. However, if other circumstances are present, there may be additional penalties adding to the severity of the DWI charge.

For example, if you are caught driving under the influence with a minor in the car, then you face increased penalties. Driving with someone under 15 in the vehicle is a felony and your fine can grow to $10,000. It’s also punishable with up to two years in jail.

If you get in an accident and someone dies, then you can be charged with Intoxication Manslaughter, which is a second-degree felony.

There’s alot of confusion about a drivers rights and Texas law enforcement “no-refusal” tactics. The first time you get pulled over, you might wonder whether it’s worth it to take the field sobriety test. Texas uses the implied consent policy that was designed to punish those who refuse to take a chemical test. However, some courts around the state have been inconsistent in how they apply the policy so it’s unclear exactly what to expect. A driver in Texas has the right to refuse chemical or field sobriety tests but they will face a license suspension for doing so.

COMON Defenses for First Time DWIs

Every situation is different and the there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to defending against DWI charges. The best defense is to never drive while intoxicated. However, if it happens, there are some legal arguments an experienced DWI lawyer may use if you’ve been pulled over while intoxicated. This doesn’t mean they will work every time or that there’s any way to predict the success of these strategies, this is strictly an overview of some typical defenses used by DWI lawyers. There is no way to guarantee results for any legal issue so it’s best to discuss your situation with an experienced DWI lawyer.

If a driver has agreed to a breathalyzer or field test and the results show the driver was over the legal limit, all is not lost. Here are some strategies used by DWI attorneys when defending their clients. Some defenses include:

  • Drove drunk out of necessity
  • Drove drunk because you had no choice to
  • Drove drunk because an officer told you to
  • Drove drunk without realizing you were drunk
  • Drove drunk without consenting to drink

An experienced DWI lawyer can carefully review the circumstances around the arrest and identify technicalities that could lessen the charges or get the case dismissed altogether.

Some common technicalities include:

  • Improper and unlawful traffic stops
  • Inaccurate field sobriety tests (including breathalyzers)
  • Chain of custody on blood tests

You can refuse a chemical/blood test if the stop was illegal. However, the punishments associated with the refusal still apply and implied refusal enforcement is vague. You will need to beat the DWI charges on the grounds of an unlawful stop and then beat the chemical test refusal charges.

If You Got a DWI, DON’T GIVE UP!

A Texas DWI may seem like a no-win situation but an experienced Texas DWI lawyer could turn the tables in your favor. In fact, lesser charges or complete dismissals are possible with an experienced Texas DWI attorney by your side. Texas DWI attorney Andrea M. Kolski has successfully defended and won countless dismissals and lessened charges for DWI clients.

DWIs are among the most common crimes in Texas, and sometimes drivers don’t take them as seriously until it’s too late. However, treating them as ‘something that happens’ is a mistake because a DWI is a crime and the consequences can be severe.

A DWI starts as a class B misdemeanor. But if you blew a 0.15 or higher, got in an accident, or drove with a minor in the car, it quickly becomes more serious. Even if you didn’t engage in a more serious crime, the first time DWI penalties can get in the way of your ability to go to school, apply for a new job, or keep a job, which can have real consequences for your life.

Are you or a loved on facing a DWI? Click here to get in touch with a criminal defense attorney to help you stay in control of what happens next.

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