What are the Penalties for DWI in Texas?
The criminal & administrative penalties for a DWI in Texas are substantial, but what people often don’t realize is that to be convicted of DWI, a prosecutor only needs to convince a jury you are guilty of one of the following:
- You lacked the normal use of mental or physical faculties due to the introduction of alcohol, a controlled substance, a drug, a dangerous drug, a combination of two or more substances, or any other substance in the body; or
- You had a breath or blood alcohol concentration that exceeds the legal limit of .08 percent.
In other words, you can be convicted for driving while intoxicated from alcohol, drugs, or a combination of either and you can also be convicted of DWI with a BAC below .08 or without giving a breath sample at all. This is why it is so important to hire a experienced DWI attorney like Clyde Burleson to walk you through the entire DWI legal process and provide you with the best options for your DWI defense.
While these maximums are the worst case scenario, they are not out of the question even for a first offense depending on any number of factors including your driving record, past criminal history, or even the Judge’s mood at the time of sentencing. They also don’t take into account the full cost of a DWI in Houston.
DWI – First Offense
A first offense DWI conviction is a Class B misdemeanor. A conviction carries a maximum fine of $3,000, a jail sentence up to 180 days and a license suspension up to 1 year. A first offense can be elevated to a Class A misdemeanor if the blood alcohol content (BAC) at the time of arrest was .15 or greater. A Class A misdemeanor carries a maximum fine of $6,000 as well as a jail sentence of no more than one year. You will most likely be required to install an ignition interlock on your car.
DWI – Second Offense
A second DWI in Houston sees penalties increase up to $4,500 and one year in the county jail with a possible driver’s license suspension up to 2 years. (Class A Misdemeanor)
DWI – Third Offense
Penalties increases to up to $10,000 and 10 years of imprisonment and a suspension of your driver’s license up to 2 years. (3rd Degree Felony) A conviction for a third DWI is a felony, so imprisonment is in the federal state penitentiary rather than a county jail and also disqualifies the violator from voting and possessing a firearm.
DWI – Fourth Offense
You could receive a maximum penalty of a $20,000 fine & 20 years of imprisonment in the federal penitentiary system.
DWI with Accident (Intoxication Assault)
DWI with an accident where serious bodily injury occurred as a proximate cause of the intoxication is called Intoxication Assault and it is a 3rd degree felony. Upon conviction you may serve a minimum of 2 years up to a maximum of 10 years the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ). Additionally, you may be fined up to $10,000 and will lose your license from 180 days up to 2 years. The intoxication assault conviction may be raised to a 2nd degree felony under Section 49.09 if it is shown on the trial of the offense that the person caused serious bodily injury to a peace officer, a firefighter, or emergency medical services personnel while in the actual discharge of an official duty.
DWI with Death (Intoxication Manslaughter)
DWI where a death has occurred as a proximate cause of the intoxication is Intoxication Manslaughter. Upon conviction, you might have to pay a maximum fine of $10,000 and/or be imprisoned from 2 to 20 years. (2nd Degree Felony) This can be raised to a 1st degree felony under Section 49.09 if it is shown on the trial of the offense that the person caused the death of a peace officer, a firefighter, or emergency medical services personnel while in the actual discharge of an official duty.
DWI with Child Passenger
A person commits a State jail felony if driving while intoxicated and there is another person in the vehicle who is under 15 years of age. Punishment for a non-enhanced State jail felony is by confinement in a State jail for any term of not more than 2 years or less than 180 days and a fine not to exceed $10,000.
DWI with Commercial Driver’s License (CDL)
A first-time DWI with a commercial driver’s license (CDL) in Texas is a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by a jail term of up to 180 days, a fine up to $3,000 and suspension of your CDL for up to one year. If you were transferring hazardous materials at the time of the DWI arrest, you could lose your CDL for up to three years. For a second or a subsequent offense, you could lose your CDL for life.
Drag Racing with Prior DWI Conviction
A prior DWI conviction and a present drag-racing charge: Drag racing is a Class B Misdemeanor, however, it becomes a Class A Misdemeanor where the person had a prior drag-racing conviction, a DWI conviction, or while driving with an open alcohol container.
Is Probation an Alternative to DWI Penalties?
In some of the above minor classifications, you may be eligible for probation, but there is no guarantee that you will receive a probated jail sentence or fine. If you are convicted of Intoxication Assault and wish to receive probation, a minimum of 30 days in jail must be served as a condition of probation. Furthermore, to receive probation upon being convicted of Intoxication Manslaughter, you must serve a minimum of 120 days in jail. However, if you are convicted of Intoxication Assault or Intoxication Manslaughter and the Court or jury finds that you committed the offense with a deadly weapon, you may be ineligible to receive probation at all.
Past the legal and financial ramifications, there are collateral consequences to consider. These include:
- Losing Your Job & Future Job Opportunities
- Having Difficulty Finding Housing
- Losing Custodial Rights
- Losing a Professional License
- Losing Security Clearances
- Being Unable to Get a Loan
- Lose Your Gun or Right To Vote