Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) - Driving, Flying, Boating, Assembling or Operating an Amusement Ride
In Texas, a person over 21 is considered to be driving while intoxicated (DWI) if he/she operates a motor vehicle while not having the normal use of his/her mental or physical faculties by reason of the introduction of alcohol, a controlled substance, a drug, a dangerous drug, a combination of two or more of those substances, or any other substance into the body; or while having an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more. The alcohol concentration limit is even lower for commercial drivers in a commercial vehicle (.04) and minors (.00)
DWI penalties are based on a number of factors including age, license type, prior history of DWI, etc.
- Class B DWI First Offense – punishable by 72 hours to 180 days in county jail, and up to a $2,000 fine. Possession of an open container while driving while intoxicated will raise the minimum confinement to 6 days.
- Class A DWI Second Offense or an Alcohol Concentration of .15 or higher – punishable by 30 days to 1 year in county jail, and up to a $4,000 fine.
Additional DWI convictions are generally prosecuted as felony offenses.
A person convicted of a DWI should also expect to receive additional penalties, including, but not limited to:
- Driver’s license suspension or revocation for up to 2 years
- An annual driver’s license surcharge of $1,000 - $2,000 per year for three years to keep your license
- Community service
- Imprisonment (even for a first offense)
- DWI education and intervention programs
- Possibility of placement of an ignition interlock device on the vehicle
- A dramatic increase in car insurance rates
In addition, refusal to submit a biological sample for a chemical test (often a blood or breath test), will result in an Administrative License Revocation (ALR). At a minimum the arresting officer will confiscate the person’s driver’s license and issue a temporary driving permit. The individual then has 15 days to request a hearing, after which any hearing request will be denied. If no hearing is requested, the driver’s license suspension begins automatically 40 days after arrest, and after the period is served the person must pay a $125 fee to reinstate the license.
Driving Under the Influence (minors)
Texas laws identifies anyone younger than 21 years old as a minor. Like many states, Texas has a “Zero Tolerance” law for minors and alcohol; this means drivers younger than 21 years old cannot operate motor vehicles with any amount of alcohol or drugs in their systems. Driving on Texas roads implies that a person gives law enforcement consent to check breath or blood for the presence of alcohol or other drugs. The Texas Department of Public Safety will suspend a person’s driver’s license for refusing to provide a blood or breath sample. These suspension periods are:
- First offense with refusal: 180 day driver’s license suspension
- Second/subsequent offenses with refusal: 2 year driver’s license suspension
- If a person does not yet have a driver’s license, the Department will suspend your privilege to secure a driver’s license for the same period of time.
In addition, for a first offense conviction, a person faces:
- Up to a $500 fine
- An Alcohol Education/Drug Education/Alcohol and Drug Education Program at least 12 hours long
- An additional 60-day license suspension
- Community service
- An ignition interlock device
Subsequent DUI convictions raise the community service and license suspension requirements.
It is also important to note that minors 17 years > 21 years may be charged as adults, and may face penalties that a person convicted of a DWI would face.
Minors and Other Alcohol Offenses
For minors, pretty much any contact with alcohol - including offenses not involving driving - can affect driving privileges in Texas. These penalties include:
- First offense: License suspension for 30 days.
- Second offense: License suspension for 60 days.
- Third offense: License suspension for 180 days.
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 (fake ID) stating that you’re 21 years old in an attempt to obtain alcohol
- Consuming alcohol
- Possessing alcohol
- Public intoxication
Based on a person’s individual situation, a judge may also order completion of an Alcohol Education Program and/or community service.