Consequences of Driving Under the Influence in Texas

The consequences of driving under the influence in Texas range from fines to jail time, depending on the severity of the crime. Driving Under the Influence, or DUI—which is reserved for minors in Texas—is different from Driving While Intoxicated. Minors can be charged with both DUI and DWI simultaneously.

In this article, we’ll cover all the potential consequences of DUI and DWI convictions in Texas.

What Is a DWI (DUI) in Texas?

Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) in Texas refers to the offense of operating a vehicle in a public place while a person is considered legally drunk—or intoxicated. It’s not the same as Driving Under the Influence

We explore the differences between the two charges in detail below. For now, it’s essential to understand that Texas has a zero-tolerance policy, making it illegal for minors to operate a vehicle or watercraft while having any detectable amount of alcohol in their system. In simple terms, a minor doesn’t have to be drunk to face DUI charges.

Texas DWI vs. DUI Charges

In Texas, the elements constituting a DWI differ from those of a DUI. Minors who drink and then drive can face harsher consequences than adults. Let’s look at each offense separately.

DWI in the Texas Penal Code

“A person commits an offense if the person is intoxicated while operating a motor vehicle in a public place.”

Sec. 49.04 Texas Penal Code

For a successful DWI conviction, the following elements must be proven in court:

  • You were legally intoxicated,
  • While operating a vehicle,
  • In a public place.

The Penal Code defines “intoxicated” as:

“(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.”

If you appear and behave sober, and your BAC limit remains below 0.08%, you are not considered legally intoxicated, even if you’ve had a few drinks.

DUI in the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code

DUIs are reserved for drivers under the age of 21 since—under most circumstances—it is illegal for minors to consume alcohol in Texas. Here’s what the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code says about DUI:

“A minor commits an offense if the minor operates a motor vehicle in a public place, or a watercraft, while having any detectable amount of alcohol in the minor’s system.”

Sec. 106.041 Alcoholic Beverage Code  

For a successful DUI conviction, the following elements must be proven in court:

  • Minor
  • Operating a watercraft, or
  • Operating a vehicle (in a public place)
  • Any amount of detectable alcohol

The State does not have to prove that the minor was intoxicated in DUI cases, only that they had consumed alcohol.

If a driver (under 21) is found legally intoxicated, they can face a DWI in addition to DUI charges.

The Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) Limit in Texas 

If you are over 21, you are legally intoxicated when your blood alcohol content reaches 0.08%. A DWI offense with a BAC of 0.15% or greater will result in more severe charges—typically a Class A misdemeanor—and harsher penalties.

Even if your BAC registers below 0.08%, you can still be arrested and charged if you behave in a way that suggests your ability to drive safely has been impaired due to alcohol or drug use. Though controlled substances (drugs) will not affect a Breathalyzer, they will show up in blood and urine tests, which police may request if they believe you are driving under the influence.

Unlike the adult 0.08% limit or physical signs of impairment, there is no legal BAC limit for minors in Texas. Police do not have to prove that a minor is drunk, only that they have some alcohol in their system.

The Legal Implications of DWI in Texas

A DWI conviction comes with both legal and collateral consequences. Multiple factors affect the severity of the charges and, therefore, the penalties. Intoxication assault and intoxication manslaughter, for example, will result in harsher penalties than a first-time DWI offense where no one was hurt. The charges and penalties for Driving While Intoxicated increase with each subsequent offense.

Furthermore, if a passenger under the age of 15 is in your car at the time of the offense, you can expect to face harsher penalties. Other aggravating factors include a BAC of 0.15% or greater and the presence of open containers of alcohol in your vehicle at the time of the offense.

Assuming there are no aggravating factors, the criminal penalties of a DWI are as follows:

First Offense

A first-time DWI in Texas is a Class B misdemeanor. Penalties include:

  • A fine of up to $2,000
  • Between 3 and 180 days in jail
  • Loss of driver’s license for up to 1 year

Second Offense

A second DWI in Texas is a Class A misdemeanor. Penalties include:

  • A fine of up to $4,000
  • Between 30 days and one year in jail
  • Loss of driver’s license for up to two years

Third Offense

Third and subsequent DWI offenses are categorized as third-degree felonies. Penalties include:

  • A fine of up to $10,000
  • Between two and 10 years in prison
  • Loss of driver’s license for up to two years

DWI Penalties for Minors in Texas

Minors aged between 17 and 21 can be charged as adults for Driving While Intoxicated—they face the same penalties as adult offenders.

Minors aged between 15 and 17 can be charged with DUI. The penalties are as follows:

First Offense DUI

First-time DUIs are charged as Class C misdemeanors. Penalties include:

  • A fine of up to $500
  • 20–40 hours of community service
  • Driver’s license suspension for 60–180 days
  • Mandatory Alcohol Awareness course

Second Offense DUI

Second DUI offenses are charged as Class C misdemeanors. Penalties include:

  • A fine of up to $500
  • 40–60 hours of community service
  • Driver’s license suspension for 120 days to two years
  • Mandatory Alcohol Awareness course

Third Offense DUI

First-time DUIs are charged as Delinquent Conduct by a Minor. Penalties include:

  • A fine of up to $500
  • 40–60 hours of community service
  • Driver’s license suspension for 180 days to two years

Collateral Consequences for a DWI Conviction

Aside from criminal penalties and State fines, DWI convictions come with various challenges—collateral consequences that can negatively affect your life. DWI convictions remain on your record permanently, popping up whenever someone runs a background check on you. A criminal record may prevent you from applying for certain professional licenses or qualifications.

Common collateral consequences of a DWI conviction include, but are not limited to:

  • Higher insurance premiums: A DWI can significantly increase your insurance premiums. In some cases, an SR-22 requirement increases costs even further.
  • Ignition Interlock Device: You may be required to fit an ignition interlock device into your vehicle.
  • College application: A criminal record can hinder your chances of getting into college.
  • Employment: A DWI can make it difficult to secure employment, with most employees preferring to choose a candidate with a clean record.
  • Accommodation: A landlord may reject an application for accommodation on the basis that someone with a DWI may be irresponsible or at least less favorable than a tenant with a clean record.
  • CDL disqualification: If you hold a commercial driver’s license, your CDL will be disqualified.

The Lifespan of a DWI Record

In Texas, a DWI conviction will remain on your record forever unless you get it sealed. A sealed record will not remove your convictions—they will still be visible to authorities. However, it will prevent the conviction from showing on most background checks. 

Unfortunately, not all DWIs are eligible for non-disclosure. To get a DWI sealed, the following conditions must be met:

  • It’s your first offense
  • There are no aggravating factors
  • Your BAC was under 0.15%
  • You’ve served your full sentence and paid all of the fines, fees, and costs incurred
  • You have not committed any offenses since the DWI
  • Two or five years (depending on the case) have passed since the completion of your sentencing.

A second or subsequent DWI offense, Class A misdemeanor, a BAC of 0.15 or higher, and other aggravating factors render a conviction ineligible for non-disclosure.

In some cases, you may be able to have DWI charges expunged. However, this can only happen if you receive an acquittal, the case against you is dismissed, or the charges against you are dropped due to insufficient evidence or improper arrest procedure.

If you get convicted of a DWI, expunction is not an option. If you are facing DWI charges, it’s essential that you speak to a skilled criminal defense attorney so you can start working on a solid defense case.

The Process of Regaining a Texas Driver’s License After a DWI

To get your driver’s license back after a DWI, you may need to meet one or more of the following requirements:

  • Complete an Alcohol Education Program
  • Serve a Driver’s license suspension period
  • Pay a $100 reinstatement fee
  • Obtain a Financial Responsibility Insurance Certificate (SR-22)
  • Install an ignition interlock device on your vehicle

The Best Strategy if Charged With DWI in Texas

If you have been charged with DWI in Texas, it is crucial that you find a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Not all criminal defense attorneys are suitable, however. Look for a lawyer with a track record of success in DWI cases, and speak to them to ensure you get along.

Here at Michael & Associates, we have extensive experience dealing with DWI cases. We fight for the best possible outcome, maybe even dismissal. However, every case is unique, which is why we offer a free case review. Call Michael & Associates today to find out how we can help.

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