Every hear of the phrase, "Everything is bigger in Texas"? The phrase can be applied to Texas DWI laws. In Texas the laws are clear and very tough against people who decide to drink and drive. Continue reading to get a better understanding of Texas DWI laws.
Driving while intoxicated (DWI) is one of the most regulated offense in the country. Every state has its own set of laws and regulations to minimize DWI incidents as much as possible. Each state has a different priority – some focus more on prevention rather than punishment while others do the opposite. Knowing the state laws on DWI will help you be more cautious in your actions within state lines.
In Texas, the drinking and driving laws are strict. Even if you only a few drinks, you would be surprised to find out that you have already violated the Texas DWI laws.
Continue reading to learn more about the consequences on getting a DWI in Texas.
The Texas DWI Laws Explained
Under Texas law, getting a DWI in Texas either by drugs or alcohol is a criminal offense with very serious consequences. DWI is a misdemeanor on the first offense in Texas.
A DWI conviction will carry penalties consisting of a jail term, fines, surcharges, and a possible suspended license. Texas Penal Code Title 10, Chapter 49 defines the term “intoxicated” as:
- Not having the normal use of your mental and physical faculties due to the consumption of drugs or alcohol; and/or
- Having a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 percent or more.
Take note that for certain classes of drivers such as for drivers under the age of 21, the BAC limit is lower.
Arresting Offenders Of A DWI In Texas
Before arresting or taking in someone who is suspected of intoxication, law enforcement officers first have to establish probable cause to make the traffic stop. They then have to gather evidence to prove than the person is in fact intoxicated.
Some of the things law enforcement officers look for to establish probable cause are:
- Whether or not the driver behaves oddly
- Whether or not there is the presence of alcohol or odor of alcohol
- Whether or not the driver’s performance passes on a variety of field sobriety tests.
When investigating a driver suspected of driving while intoxicated, a variety of methods can be administered to get evidence of intoxication or impairment.
One method is to measure the person’s blood, breath, or urine in order to determine a driver’s blood alcohol content or BAC. In Texas, a BAC above the legal limit is unnecessary to legally accuse someone of DWI. Probable cause is enough for an officer to make an arrest.
It is also important to know the difference between a DUI vs a DWI.
Offenses Under The DWI Texas Laws
On the first offense, DWI is a Class B misdemeanor, which is punishable by 3 to 180 days in a county jail and/or a fine of not more than $2,000.
Take note though that in some circumstances, the charge differs.
- DWI with a minor – Driving while intoxicated when you have a child under the age of 15 in the vehicle is a state jail felony, punishable by 180 days to 2 years in a state jail and/or a fine of not more than $10,000.
- DWI assault – Seriously injuring another person while driving drunk is a third-degree felony, punishable by 2 to 10 years in a state prison and/or a fine of not more than $10,000.
- DWI manslaughter – Killing another person while drunk driving is a second-degree felony, punishable by 2 to 20 years in a state prison and/or a fine of not more than $10,000.
The offenses mentioned above are governed by different code sections in Texas DWI laws. They also expose offenders to much more serious consequences.
Additionally, there are other “enhanced offenses” as defined by the law. These offenses include injuring a firefighter, peace officer, or other emergency medical personnel. Causing a traumatic brain injury that results in a persistent vegetative state is also considered an "enhanced offense".
Penalties Of Getting A DWI In Texas
According to the Texas DWI Laws, a first offense conviction entails a punishment of at least the mandatory three days in jail unless given probation. If you are found with an open container, then three days of jail will increase to six.
Aside from some jail time, the judge has the choice of giving community service as part of a plea deal or trial conviction. In some cases, the jury can sentence the offender to community service.
Community service on DWI charges can also come with several additional stipulations, such as:
- Rehab evaluation
This is an evaluation from a state-approved drug and alcohol counselor to determine if the offender suffers from addiction and if treatment is necessary.
- DWI education program
This program is a 12-hour course on alcohol and drunk driving within 180 days of receiving probation. A condition that can be imposed with regard to the program is that failure to take the class can be grounds for revocation of your drivers license.
- Ignition interlock device
Under Texas DWI Laws, an offender with a BAC of.15 or more will be required to put a device on their vehicle that will test their breath each time the vehicle is started. The good thing about this device is that it will not allow the vehicle to start if it detects alcohol. A law passed in 2015 now gives a person prohibited from driving a way to do so by agreeing to install an ignition interlock device in their car. The law states that anyone with a DWI conviction with a BAC under .15 can do this and avoid a hard suspension.
Multiple Offenses Equals Harsher Penalties
A second offense is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by 30 days to 1 year in a jail and/or a fine of not more than $4,000. While the DWI third offense is a third-degree felony, with a sentence of 2 to 10 years in a state prison and/or a fine of not more than $10,000.
Aside from the criminal penalties, the law also imposes civil liabilities on the offender upon conviction. The civil liabilities are often more expensive than the criminal penalties and they are imposed independently from the criminal ones. Therefore, even if the offender is given minimum criminal penalties, the civil liabilities are not affected.
Considering all the trouble you can get yourself into with these Texas DWI laws there should be no excuse to get behind the wheel while intoxicated. There are many alternatives that are much cheaper and will not impede upon your personal freedom. When all else fails, you always have the option to walk home.