If you get convicted of a DWI in Texas, you will likely need to complete an alcohol program to comply with court orders.
This article explains the legal penalties you may face for a DWI offense, DWI treatment laws in Texas, and court-mandated treatment options (including alcohol programs) and how to find them.
We also cover what you can expect after completing DWI treatment, how a DWI can affect your employment opportunities, and how having the right lawyer can help keep a DWI off your criminal record and keep you driving.
Legal Penalties for DWI Offenses
“(A) not having the normal use of 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
(B) having an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more.”
A DWI is a Class B misdemeanor unless a blood, breath, or urine test shows that your blood alcohol level was greater than 0.15, in which case it increases to a Class A misdemeanor.
A DWI charge can get raised to a felony if the defendant meets any of the following criteria:
- Has a history of two or more DWI convictions
- The DWI resulted in injury to a firefighter, emergency services personnel, judge, or peace officer
- The DWI resulted in the death of another person
- They had a child passenger under the age of 15 in the vehicle when they were arrested
Ignition Interlock Device
A court may order you to install an ignition interlock device (IID) on your vehicle. An IID is a device that measures a driver’s breath alcohol content (BrAC). You must breathe into the device and pass a breath sample test in order to start your vehicle.
You are responsible for maintaining the IID on your vehicle for the period of time required by the court.
Texas has a minimum term of confinement of 72 hours for a DWI. If you have an open container of alcohol in the vehicle, you face a minimum of six days behind bars. The minimum term of confinement for repeat DWI offenders is 30 days.
If you get convicted of a DWI, you can face up to two years of jail time or ten years in prison, depending on your case.
Driver’s License Suspension
When you get arrested for a DWI, the officer will take your driver’s license and give you a notice of suspension, which functions as a temporary permit until your license gets suspended. A court may suspend your license 40 days after the date of your arrest, unless you have requested an Administrative License Revocation (ALR) Hearing.
Individuals convicted of a DWI may lose their driver’s license for up to two years.
DWIs can be costly, with offenders responsible for payment of fines of up to $10,000 (not including state fines, driver’s license reinstatement fees, legal fees, and alcohol program and insurance costs).
Increased Insurance Costs
Auto insurance costs tend to go up significantly after a DWI conviction. DWI offenders pay 50% more on average than those with a clean driving record.
If you are found guilty of a DWI, a court may require you to maintain a Financial Responsibility Insurance Certificate (SR-22) for two years from the date of conviction.
If a judge puts you on probation, you will likely be required to complete an Alcohol Education Program. You must submit evidence of completion of the program to the Texas Department of Public Safety within 180 days of your DWI conviction to avoid revocation of your driver’s license.
Mandatory Alcohol Assessment And Treatment Laws in Texas
Article 42A.402 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure states that individuals granted community supervision for a DWI must submit to a substance abuse evaluation to meet the conditions of their probation.
A substance abuse evaluation is a process that helps determine the extent to which alcohol or drugs are causing problems in an individual’s life, and what kind of treatment will be most effective.
Depending on the results of their alcohol assessment, a court may require DWI offenders to take part in an Alcohol Education Program or receive treatment at a substance abuse treatment facility.
Alcohol Education Programs
The Texas Code of Criminal Procedure requires individuals granted probation for a DWI to complete an Alcohol Education Program.
Similarly, Section 521.245 of the Texas Transportation Code requires anyone convicted of a DWI to attend an alcohol dependence counseling program.
Alcohol Education Programs for DWIs in Texas include a 12-hour DWI Intervention Program for first-time offenders and a 32-hour DWI Repeat Offender Program.
Substance Abuse Treatment Facilities
A judge may order a defendant to go to a substance abuse treatment facility, in which case the individual would need to complete an Alcohol Education Program while confined in the facility.
Substance abuse treatment facilities can include:
- Substance abuse felony punishment facilities
- Community corrections facilities
- Chemical dependency treatment facilities
Court-Mandated Treatment for DWI Offenders
Court-ordered DWI treatment options in Texas can include any of the following:
- Inpatient treatment: Treatment received within a rehab facility
- Outpatient treatment: In-office visits for counseling and case management
- Individual counseling: One-on-one therapy sessions
- Group counseling: Counseling in a group format with other individuals struggling with substance abuse
- DWI classes: DWI education courses
Court-Mandated Treatment Formats for DWI Offenders
The type of treatment options ordered by the court for DWI offenders depends on the individual’s past convictions.
For instance, a first-time offender might serve probation (including submitting to regular drug or alcohol tests), complete a 12-hour Alcohol Education Program, attend AA meetings, and pay a driver’s license reinstatement fee and increased auto insurance costs.
However, an individual with a felony DWI conviction may be required to participate in a substance use treatment program and take DWI classes while incarcerated. Once they are released, they may be ordered to stay in a transitional treatment center (TTC). Depending on the program, they may need to see a therapist or attend group counseling sessions as well.
Drug Court Programs
Benefits of drug court programs can include:
- A drug court program can incorporate other drug awareness programs, many of which are available online
- Participation in a drug court program can take the place of community service hours typically required by probation
- Participants of a drug court program may be eligible for an occupational driver’s license
What are DWI classes?
DWI classes are state-regulated programs that individuals convicted of a DWI are often required to take.
DWI classes in Texas for first-time offenders are 12 hours long and typically cover the following:
- The effects of alcohol and drugs on driving capabilities
- Risks associated with intoxicated driving
- How to reduce the probability of future DWIs
DWI classes for repeat offenders are 32 hours and typically cover:
- Lifestyle awareness
- Substance abuse treatment options
- Cognitive and behavioral skills
- Psychological and physiological effects of drugs and alcohol
- How substance abuse affects family members
- 12-step groups
- Relapse prevention
What to Anticipate After Concluding DWI Treatment?
There are a few steps you should take once you’ve completed mandatory DWI treatment, including:
- Individuals with two or more DWI offenses may have to purchase, install, and maintain an IID on their vehicle.
- If you are driving with an IID installed on your vehicle, you will need to apply for a restricted interlock driver’s license in order to drive. If your driving privileges have been suspended, you may be able to apply for an occupational driver’s license to drive to and from work.
- You may also be required to obtain an SR-22 and maintain it for at least two years from the date of your DWI conviction.
- You should continue treatment to prevent relapse or future DWIs.
What Types of Specific Alcohol Education and Treatment Programs Exist?
Several different alcohol education and treatment programs can provide information and support for people struggling with alcohol addiction. These programs include:
- Self-help groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)
- Support groups for people impacted by drunk driving, such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD)
- Medication-assisted treatment
- Transitional living facilities (halfway houses)
- Outpatient treatment
How Can a DWI Influence Employment Opportunities?
Getting a DWI can make it harder to find employment opportunities
If you have a job that requires a commercial driver’s license (CDL)–such as driving a semi-truck or bus–and are found guilty of a DWI, you may need to seek employment elsewhere. DWI convictions can temporarily or permanently disqualify your CDL, depending on your DWI history.
How Do I Find DWI Alcohol Programs in Texas?
The most effective way to find state-regulated Alcohol Education Programs for DWIs in Texas is through the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR). The TDLR website provides extensive information on where to find approved alcohol, DWI, and drug education courses.
Don’t Face a DWI Alone—Consult an Experienced Attorney
Hiring an experienced lawyer is your best shot at keeping a DWI off your criminal record and retaining your driving privileges.
At Michael & Associates, DWIs are our most common case type. Our goal is to get your DWI dismissed, and we have resolved 100% of our DWI cases without trial.Schedule a free case review with Michael & Associates today to discuss the best options for you.
Ben has vast experience in defending criminal cases ranging from DWIs to assault, drug possession, and many more. He has countless criminal charges dismissed and pled down. Among many other awards, one of the Top 10 Criminal Defense Attorneys in Texas and winner of Top 40 under 40.