The state of Texas uses the driving while intoxicated (DWI) label when charging drunk or impaired drivers. Drivers 21 or older can receive the charge if their blood alcohol concentration is measured at .08 percent or higher. If the driver is under 21, a BAC of any detectable amount results in a DWI charge. Commercial drivers have a BAC limit of .04 percent and can have their CDL disqualified for one year (or three years if they’re driving a commercial vehicle placarded for hazardous materials).
Texas DWI Laws follow implied consent, which means a driver has automatically implied consent to a chemical test by simply being behind the wheel of a vehicle. An officer can enforce a chemical test if they suspect a driver to be drunk or otherwise impaired. A refusal to submit can result in a license suspension between 90 days and two years for adults and 180 days for minors for a first offense and two years for subsequent offenses.
DWI Penalties For Adults
A first-offense DWI results in a fine up to a $2,000 and jail time between three days and 180 days. Drivers will have their license suspended for up to two years and have to pay an annual surcharge of up to $2,000 for three years to keep their license. They will also have to participate in a DWI intervention or education program. An ignition interlock device is also a possibility if a judge deems it necessary.
Second offense results in up to a $4,000 fine, jail time between one month and one year, and license suspension up to two years. The annual surcharge to keep their license remains a requirement, as well as participation in a DWI intervention or education program and the possibility of an ignition interlock device.
Fines for a third offense are up to $10,000 and drivers face between two years and 10 years in state prison. License suspension penalties and the annual surcharge remain, as well as participation in a DWI intervention or education program. An ignition interlock device also remains a possibility.
Intoxicated drivers with a passenger younger than 15 in their vehicle can face a fine up to a $10,000, jail time up to two years and a license suspension for 180 days.
DWI Penalties for Minors
The Zero Tolerance Law in Texas means that drivers under 21 cannot have any detectable amount of drugs or alcohol in their system while operating a motor vehicle. A first-time offense DWI for a minor will result in a suspension of license not to exceed two years and a fine of up to $500. Minors must also participate in an alcohol education program for at least 12 hours, and they face an additional 180 days of license suspension if they don’t complete the program. If the judge gives the minor community service, they will only have 90 days of license suspension and an ignition interlock device.
Recent Changes to Texas DWI Laws in 2011
As of 2011, first-time Texas DWI offenders who register a .15 BAC or higher are subject to a Class A misdemeanor. Offenders can receive fines up to $4,000 and one year in jail. These are harsher penalties than under the previous law, which classified this offense as a Class B misdemeanor. Texas also increased the penalties for DWIs that lead to serious brain injury in the victim. These offenders can now get charged with a second-degree felony, which is punishable by a fine of up to $10,000 and up to 20 years in prison.
What Is The Legal Alcohol Limit In Texas?
All states in the U.S., including Texas, enforce an alcohol limit of .08 percent. A motorist’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC), however, need not reach that level in order for Texas law enforcement authorities to file charges for driving while intoxicated (DWI). Rather, state law allows police officers to arrest motorists simply “not having the normal use of mental or physical faculties” due to alcohol consumption.
Not all Texas drivers are subject to the same alcohol limits and penalties. For example:
- While most motorists over age 21 face a legal limit of .08 percent, CDL drivers can be charged with DWI having a BAC of .04 percent or greater.
- Texas is a zero tolerance state, meaning that people under age 21 can be prosecuted for alcohol-related offenses with any trace of alcohol in the blood.
- People arrested while driving with a BAC of .15 percent or higher are subject to aggravated DWI charges and more severe punishments.
- Felony DWI charges can be brought against individuals with two previous offenses as well as those who have driven with minors under age 15 or caused an accident that resulted in another person’s harm.
Texas DWI laws are very complex, and additional nuances can influence charges brought against a person accused of driving while intoxicated.
Ignition Interlock Requirements In Texas
Texas doesn’t usually require people convicted of a first DWI offense to have an ignition interlock device (IID) installed unless there was a BAC of .15 percent or higher. A second conviction typically does require IID installation.
Some important things to keep in mind about ignition interlock devices include:
- IIDs are installed and serviced at an individual’s expense.
- Failed breath tests can result in additional penalties.
- Tampering with a device can also lead to more punishments.
Texas regulations concerning IID installation are long and dense, making them difficult to understand. It is critical to understand these provisions, however, while making legal decisions concerning your DWI defense.
Texas DWI Penalties
Driving while intoxicated (DWI) in Texas is a serious criminal offense that can result in hefty fines, imprisonment, and loss of driving privileges upon conviction. Prior convictions can increase Texas DWI penalties and might include a court-ordered installation of an ignition interlock device that prevents a vehicle from being driven if it detects the presence of alcohol on the driver’s breath. Unlike some states where DWI convictions only remain on an individual’s driving record for 10 years, a DWI conviction in Texas is never removed.
DWI in Texas
A person may be arrested in Texas for driving while intoxicated if a breath or blood test show the individual’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to be .08 percent or higher. A person who refuses to submit to a chemical test to measure BAC can still be charged with driving while intoxicated based upon a police officer’s observations of the way he or she drove or acted when stopped. Drifting in and out of the lane of travel, driving at speeds well below the posted speed limit, slurred speech, glassy eyes, difficulty walking or standing or the smell of alcohol coming from the person can all be used to prove intoxication.
A motorist who is asked to submit to a blood or breath test by a police officer can be penalized for refusing to take the test. Texas is an “implied consent” state in which a motorist’s license to drive can be suspended for 180 days for refusing to take the test. According to the law, individuals have consented to a BAC just by operating their vehicle.
First Offense DWI Penalties
Texas DWI penalties for a first conviction are a fine up to $2,000, from three to 180 days in jail and suspension of driving privileges for up to one year. A convicted individual must also pay an annual administrative fee ranging from $1,000 to $2,000 for each of the three years following the restoration of the person’s license.
Second Offense DWI Penalties
A person who has a prior DWI conviction and is convicted of driving while intoxicated again faces fines up to $4,000, a minimum of one month in jail up to a maximum of 12 months, license suspension up to two years and an annual administrative fee of either $1,000, $1,500 or $2,000 for each of the three years from restoration of the person’s driving privileges. An additional consequence of incurring a two or more conviction in a five-year period is the mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device on any vehicle driven by the offender.
Third Offense DWI Penalties
A person charged with driving while intoxicated who already has two or more prior convictions faces serious Texas DWI penalties. A judge can sentence a convicted offender to pay a $10,000 fine in addition to imprisonment for two to 10 years, license suspension of two years and payment of an annual administrative fee of $1,000, $1,500 or $2,000 for each of three years once the person’s driving privileges are restored.