DWI or drinking while intoxicated is a criminal offense which entails penalties and punishment. An offender is given DWI Charges depending on the state’s drinking and driving laws. The degree of damage done by the DWI incident is also used in determining the DWI penalties imposed.
For example, in the state of Texas, you can get DWI charges if you are caught driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or higher. You are charged regardless of whether your driving ability was actually impaired or not.
Additionally, under the Texas DWI laws, if you are driving a vehicle, you have already given a consent to submit to a chemical test for the purpose of determining the level of alcohol present in your blood.
Knowing the DWI penalties can help you in the event that you or your loved ones are arrested for this offense. Ultimately, the purpose of knowing these DWI penalties is to deter you from going behind the wheel after a having a drink or two. Here are the most common penalties among different states that you should know about.
DWI Charges Equals Jail Time
In all states across the country, first-offense DWI or DUI is classified as a misdemeanor. It is normally punishable by at most six months of jail time.
The period of jail time may be increased under certain circumstances. For example, state laws imposed harsher DWI penalties for offenders whose blood alcohol concentration (BAC) at the time of arrest is excessively high. The excessively high range falls between .15% to .20%. Those levels are very high considering the fact that the legal limit of .08%.
If you are a first time offender, you might get lucky and only several minimum jail sentences of at least several days under the state law. Subsequent DWI charges are penalized with longer jail sentences of several months to a year.
For example, under the laws of Texas, a first offense is punished with 3 days imprisonment, the second one will be 30 days of jail time, and the third one is an imprisonment for 2 years. When a DWI is classified as a felony it's because either the drunk driving accident resulted in a killing or injury to someone. It is also upgraded to a felony it is the driver's third or fourth offense. The DWI penalties for a felony will result to a jail sentence of several years.
Check your state’s specific law in order to ascertain the specific jail times imposed on offenders.
DWI Penalties Also Include Fines
Aside from jail sentences, the law and the courts impose high fines for DWI charges. These fines range from $500 to as much as $2,000.
In addition, there are fees you need to pay such as litigation fees, attorney’s fees, damages, and court fees that, although not meant to be punitive, can still amount to a substantial amount.
Other DWI Penalties
Your Driver's License Is At Stake
A DWI offender will usually have their driver's license suspended. This is imposed either by court order or mandated by the state’s motor vehicles department.
Many states suspend a first offender's license for a period of 90 days; a second offender's license for one year; and a third offender's license for three years. Also, the refusal to take tests such as blood, breath, or urine can result in a license suspension regardless of the presence of guilt.
In Texas, the consequence of refusing to take a chemical test is suspension of license. A first offender will have their license suspended for a period of 180 days, a second offender and third offender for two years.
For people who are highly dependent on their vehicles, it's possible to obtain a "hardship license". This allows the offender to drive to and from specific places like work and school during the suspension.
Some states impose stricter policies, especially if the offender is a recidivist, by not letting them get back on the road. The state may confiscate the car involved in the DWI or cancel its registration. In some instances, the state may require an ignition interlock device (IID) to be attached to the DWI offender's car.
The state requires the driver to blow into a small handheld alcohol sensor (IID) attached to the dashboard. If the IID detects that the BAC of the driver is above a certain level, which is usually .02% to .04%, the car will not start. In Texas, an IID is required for a second offense within 5 years.
Other Forms Of Punishment
There are other DWI penalties resulting from DWI charges aside from jail time and expensive fees. Those punishments may include alcohol teaching and prevention programs, treatment for alcohol abuse, community service or victim restitution.
The judge may also recommend these steps in lieu of jail time or paying fines. This is usually done for first offenders.
Penalties From Other Entities
With DWI charges, the suspension of the offender’s driving privilege is not the only penalty imposed. Insurance companies have the authority, under the policy contract, to cancel the insurance policy or drastically increase premiums. This is possible due to DWI charges or a conviction. Also, If the driver's license is suspended, the insurance company will likely cancel the insurance policy.
Probably the hardest hit to an offender aside from imprisonment is the loss of employment. Specific jobs are closed to DWI offenders These jobs are usually those related to driving or handling a vehicle. Examples would include driving a school bus, delivery van, or any other vehicle.
Lastly, the offender may also face a separate civil lawsuit in the event that an accident victims from the DWI sues for property damages or bodily injuries.
DWI Penalties For Minors
A minor driver is not immune to DWI penalties under the law. In fact, being a minor in a DWI can be a more dire circumstance. Most of the time, a DWI of a minor driver can lead to two separate crimes. The legal drinking age is 21 so anyone below that age caught drinking is a separate crime.
Moreover, some states set lower BAC levels on young drivers instead of the .08% usually imposed on adults. This level is typically pegged at .02%. Suspension of license and jail time is also imposed on offenders below the legal drinking age. In Texas, minors convicted of a DWI is mandated to perform community service, in addition to any other penalties.