Texas DWI Defined

In Texas, driving while intoxicated (DWI) means you are over the legal limit of .08 or that you have lost the normal use of your physical and / or mental faculties. The state uses your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to determine whether you're too intoxicated to operate a motor vehicle.

Below are the state's BAC limits:

21 years old or older: 0.08%
Commercial drivers: 0.04%
Younger than 21 years old: Any detectable amount.
Alcohol can affect you based on the number of drinks you’ve had, your body weight, and even your gender. Check out the TX blood alcohol percentage charts to learn more.

Additional Drug and Alcohol Crimes

Mostly, DWI crimes are related to your BAC when operating a motor vehicle and certain other circumstances (as you’ll see below). However, officers can arrest you for other alcohol-related crimes involving your vehicle.

For example, it’s illegal to have an open container of alcohol in the passenger area of your vehicle if you’re driving or parked on a public highway (Texas defines the “passenger area” as the area designed for people to sit in while traveling).

A simple open container violation results in a maximum $500 fine and a Class C misdemeanor. However, if you’re arrested for DWI and open container, you’ll will potentially face Class B misdemeanor and a minimum of 6 days in jail.

For more information on other kinds of DWI laws, check out Title 10, Chapter 49 of the state’s penal code.

Understand Your DWI Penalties


TX DWI penalties are based on factors like age, license type, and other circumstances (such as having other passengers in the vehicle, or horrific events like death).

Common DWI penalties you can expect include:
Fines and surcharges (also tack on court costs and lawyer fees).

License suspension or revocation.
Community service.
Imprisonment (even for a first offense).
DWI education and intervention programs.
More expensive car insurance, depending on your provider.

Minors and Implied Consent


DWI Penalties: Minors
TX DWI laws distinguish anyone younger than 21 years old as a minor.
Driving on Texas roads implies you give law enforcement consent to check your breath or blood for the presence of alcohol or other drugs. The TX DMV will suspend your license if you refuse a breath or blood test.

  • First offense: 180 days
  • Second/subsequent offenses: 2 years

Don’t have a license yet? The DMV will delay your driving privileges the same number of days or years.

Minors and DWI


Like many states, Texas has a Zero Tolerance Law for minors and alcohol; this means drivers younger than 21 years old can’t operate motor vehicles with any amount of alcohol or drugs in their systems.

For a first offense, you face:

  • License suspension not to exceed 2 years. *
  • Up to a $500 fine.
  • An Alcohol Education Program at least 12 hours long (see below).
  • An additional 180 days of license suspension if you don’t complete the Alcohol Education program.
  • 90 days of license suspension if your judge gives you community service. This means you’ll also have an ignition interlock device (see below).

* Generally, a second DWI offense brings 120 days of license suspension, and a third offense gets you 180 days.

Expect to also pay fines, court costs, and legal fees, should your parents hire an attorney for you.

Minors and Other Alcohol Offenses


Pretty much any involvement you have with alcohol can affect your driving privileges in Texas―including non-driving alcohol offenses.

Examples of non-driving alcohol offenses include:

  • Purchasing or attempting to purchase alcohol.
  • Lying about your age in an attempt to obtain alcohol.
  • Presenting a falsified document stating that you’re 21 years old in an attempt to obtain alcohol.
  • Consuming alcohol.
  • Possessing alcohol.
  • Public intoxication.

Penalties for these offenses are as follows:

  • First offense: License suspension for 30 days.
  • Second offense: License suspension for 60 days.
  • Third offense: License suspension for 180 days.

Based on your situation (and possibly even your age), your judge also might order the Alcohol Education Program and community service.

DWI Penalties: Adults

Just like it does for minors, Texas assigns DWI penalties for drivers 21 years old or older according to the offense number and other situation-specific factors.

Offenses: DWI Alcohol or Drugs


First Offense
Up to a $2,000 fine.
Jail time between 3 days and 180 days.
License suspension for up to 2 years.
Annual surcharge up to $2,000 for 3 years to keep your license.
DWI intervention or education program (see below).
Possible ignition interlock device (see below).

Second Offense
Up to a $4,000 fine.
Jail time between 1 month and 1 year.
License suspension up to 2 years.
Annual surcharge of up to $2,000 for 3 years to keep your license.
DWI intervention or education program (see below).
Possible ignition interlock device (see below).

Third Offense
Up to a $10,000 fine.
State prison time between 2 years and 10 years.
License suspension up to 2 years.
Annual surcharge of up to $2,000 for 3 years to keep your license.
DWI intervention or education program (see below).
Possible ignition interlock device (see below).

DWI with a Child Passenger


If you’re drunk driving with a child younger than 15 years old in your vehicle, you face:

  • Up to a $10,000 fine.
  • Jail time up to 2 years.
  • License suspension for 180 days.

Extreme DWI Crimes
All DWI offenses are serious, but some are extremely grave, such as  intoxication assault  and  intoxication manslaughter.

 

Intoxication Assault

You can be charged with intoxication assault if, while drunk driving, you cause serious bodily injury to another person.

For these purposes, Texas considers serious bodily injury to be an injury that causes:

  • A significant risk of death.
  • Serious and permanent disfigurement or loss.
  • Damage that impairs function of a body part or organ.

If you’re convicted, you’ll have a 3rd degree felony.

Intoxication Manslaughter

As the name suggests, intoxication manslaughter involves killing another human being while you’re operating a motor vehicle under the influence.

If you’re convicted, you’ll have a 2nd degree felony.

Commercial Drivers and DWI


The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) states that any commercial driver operating a commercial vehicle with a BAC of 0.04% or higher is considered to be driving under the influence.

If you’re a CDL holder and you either refuse a chemical test or take one and have a BAC of―

  • 0.04% in your commercial vehicle
  • 0.08% or higher in any vehicle

Your CDL is disqualified for 1 year. If you drive a commercial vehicle placarded for hazardous materials, the penalty is 3 years.

If all this sounds complicated, it often is, call 936-756-5744 to schedule your free criminal law consultation.

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