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3rd DWI+ in Texas? Penalties, Jail Time, and How to Fight It

Ben Michael

A 3rd DWI in Texas can attract a decade-long jail term and up to $26,000 in fines from the court, state, and licensing office.

However, that humungous time and money loss is only a fraction of the story. Persons convicted of a third-time DWI offense would have a life-long felony record to their name.

Read on to discover how to secure your driving freedom within 15 days of arrest. And also, learn how Michael and Associates can help you get the most lenient judgment for your situation. 

What is a Third+ DWI?

Under Texas State law, a person would be committing a third-time DWI offense if they’ve had a first and second DWI offense to their name.

Typically, a 3rd+ DWI sentence requires two prior DWI convictions. However, having a deferred adjudication on the first DWI and conviction on the second DWI also qualifies a defendant accused of a third-time DWI for a 3rd DWI charge.

Also, it’s worth noting 3rd+ DWI law also covers 4th, 5th, 6th DWIs – basically any number 3 or hgiher.

A 3+ DWI conviction is a third-degree felony offense. So this felony offense attracts severe punishments, including a $10,000 fine, ten-year jail term, and two-year driver’s license revocation.

Unlike some US state laws, DWI offense records are inexpungible in Texas. So, Texas has no look-back period for a third-time DWI offense.

If a person has had two DWI convictions in the past, regardless of the time period—two, five, or even 30 years later—a 3rd+ DWI offense will hold against the defendant in Texas.

Criminal Penalties for a Third Offense DWI in Texas

People charged with a third-time DWI risk losing their money, time, and other freedoms.

A third-time DWI offender may face jail time, fines, probation, and potentially elevated charges for a third-time DWI offense.

Let’s examine the criminal penalties for a third offense DWI in Texas.

Jail Time

A person convicted of a 3rd+ DWI in Texas will receive a minimum jail sentence of two years or a maximum of ten years.

But according to Texas law, even if a convicted third-time+ DWI defendant gets probation, they must serve a compulsory ten-day jail term. Moreover, this mandatory jail sentence can’t be probated or waived.

Although the minimum DWI jail time for third-time offenders is two years, the court can probate most of that sentence. So a defendant has a chance of staying for less than the minimum time.

Consequently, if a defendant companies with their supervised release program and doesn’t cause any trouble, they may avoid serving the whole sentence. A plea bargain like this one is up to the judge to grant.


Convicted offenders of a 3rd+ DWI in Texas may be required to pay fines and still get a jail sentence. Although a judge will determine the exact penalty a defendant will pay, the maximum punishment for a third DWI offender is $10,000.

But a fine doesn’t include other case costs.

So, a defendant will have to cover costs like counseling fees, court charges, ignition interlock device (IID) cost, and all associated expenses.

Also, the Texas Department of Transport says the $10,000 fine doesn’t include a $3,000, $4,500, or $6,000 state fine that applies when a defendant receives a sentence. 

If the defendant has a child passenger, they will pay an additional $10,000 fine.

So, fines alone can quickly reach as high as $26,000 for a third DWI offense, apart from jail time, depending on a defendant’s situation and the judge’s decision.


Getting probation as part of a plea agreement doesn’t exonerate a convicted third DWI defendant from serving a minimum of ten days jail term. A third-time+ DWI defendant’s probation can last for as long as ten years.

However, judges consider the defendant’s criminal records when considering a plea bargain. The higher the criminal history a person has on record, the more likely they will get a stricter sentence and the less likely the judge will grant them probation.

If a defendant follows their community supervision terms and doesn’t cause more trouble, they might be off probation in a shorter time than their sentence requires.

Potential Elevated Charges for Third+ DWI

A 3rd DWI in Texas is a felony offense and carries weightier penalties than first and second DWI convictions, which are misdemeanor offenses.

But a DWI offense with a child on board the vehicle attracts increased charges. If the defendant drove with children under 15 years old, they’ll get a child endangerment charge in addition to their DWI charge.

In addition, convicted DWI offenders with children onboard their automobile would pay an additional $10,000 fine. They will also get an extra two-year jail sentence and lose their driver’s license for an extra 180-day period in addition to the two years of a typical 3rd DWI in Texas sentence.

Besides, defendants with an out-of-state DWI/DUI record will get an aggravated sentence. A charged person’s driver’s license suspension takes effect when charged, even before they get a conviction.

Also, a person can aggravate their charge to second-degree felony and jail term to 20 years if charged for a 3rd DWI in Texas while serving a previous state prison sentence.

Furthermore, defendants convicted of a 3rd DWI in Texas may lose their access to everyday freedoms like specific employment roles, possession of a firearm, and apartment rental.

Additional Third-Time DWI Complications

A 3rd DWI in Texas has grim consequences beyond the direct impact of a sentence. It has administrative, employment, lifestyle, and other implications.

Administrative Penalties

Defendants charged with a 3rd DWI in Texas will lose their driver’s license and face driving restrictions for up to two years.

And suppose they are on probation or gain access to a car during the trial period. In that case, they must install and blow into an ignition interlock device (IID) whenever they operate the vehicle. Plus, an IID must be present in all vehicles they drive.

An ignition interlock device (IID) is a deep lung breath analyzer for detecting alcohol content levels. If the IID reader reaches or exceeds the 0.08 threshold, it disables the car and makes it temporarily inoperable. 

In addition, penalties for a 3rd DWI in Texas are more severe for commercial vehicle operators. For example, a commercial driver’s license holder who transports hazardous materials will have their license suspended for up to three years if they commit a 3rd DWI in Texas.

A lenient judge might sentence an offender to only a 180-day driver’s license revocation. But that’s still a long six months without a driver’s license, even if the case doesn’t end in a jail term.

The court might also demand that a defendant take a mandatory alcohol education program to serve their 3rd DWI in Texas sentence.

Offenders serving their 3rd DWI in Texas may face maximum sentences for penalties that apply to a first or second DWI for which a judge would have been lenient. For example, a person who won an Administrative License Revocation (ALR) hearing during their 2nd DWI may lose this privilege if charged with a 3rd DWI in Texas.

Higher Auto Insurance

Persons convicted of a 3rd DWI in Texas would pay nearly two times higher auto insurance than persons without a criminal record. Auto insurance for persons with a DWI record is 93% higher.

One Nerdwallet report shows that Texas’s most affordable DWI auto insurance starts from $1,770. However, the average increase in insurance cost after a DWI sentence, including a 3rd DWI in Texas, goes up by over 54% to reach $2,178.

Although a DWI Texas insurance cost is lower than the US average of $2,556, it is still higher than the Lone Star State’s non-DUI auto insurance average of $1,415 by $762.

DWI convictions command a higher insurance premium than any individual road violation. It’s more expensive than reckless driving, at-fault accidents, and racing.


A 3rd DWI in Texas could impact a defendant’s career even if the incident didn’t happen on the job. For example, a school teacher may be asked to go on leave while a DWI case is in progress.

Texas is an at-will state. So employers can fire their staff for an offense like a 3rd DWI in Texas for any other reason or no reason.

An employee in the transportation sector, like a truck driver, will be directly influenced as they may not be able to practice their career while undergoing a DWI court case.

Another employment complication is employee background checks. While a DWI arrest stays on record for seven years under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, a DWI conviction is inexpungible. And most employees don’t want to hire someone with a criminal record.

So a 3rd DWI in Texas conviction lowers a defendant’s employment choices.

Child Adoption Restrictions

The Texas Controlled Substances Act restricts offenders from adopting children within ten years of serving their sentence for a 3rd DWI in Texas.

The Texas Health and Human Services System (HHSC) may consider the criminal records of a convicted spouse before approving a couple’s child adoption privileges. So a defendant’s DWI records can influence their significant other’s adoption chances.

What to Expect if Convicted of a Third DWI

Defendant charged and eventually convicted of a 3rd DWI in Texas will have to deal with consequences like these:

  1. A jail time of up to ten years or a minimum of two years
  2. DWI fine of up to $10,000
  3. State fine of $3,000, $4,500, or $6,000
  4. Driver’s license revocation for up to two to three years
  5. Possibility of a compulsory alcohol education course
  6. Vehicles must have a compulsory ignition interlock device (IID) installed
  7. Allowed to drive only in non-commercial, emergency cases
  8. A permanent, inexpungible criminal record
  9. Child adoption restricted for ten years
  10. Up to a 93% raise in DWI auto insurance
  11. Extra sentences for having alcohol or a child on board during DWI arrest
  12. Potential for aggravated sentences in future crimes
  13. Select government benefits ban
  14. Reputation damage
  15. Loss of rights to firearm possession

A 3rd DWI in Texas convict must pay a $1000 to $2,000 driver’s license surcharge every year for three years after their sentence.

The judge may request that a person convicted of a third-time DWI not consume alcoholic beverages unless a doctor’s prescription permits them. Also, the court may order a DWI felon to take periodic drug tests.

Fighting Your 3rd+ DWI

Defendants can fight their 3rd DWI in Texa regardless of the odds they think might be against them. Even if they served strict sentences under the first or second DWI charges, fighting their DWI for a third case can still end in a reduced sentence or case dismissal.

Should you Fight Your DWI Charge?

The short answer is yes. You should fight your DWI charge.

Secure your driver’s license by demanding an Administrative License Revocation (ALR) hearing within the first 15 days after your DWI charge.

Defendants will lose their driver’s license 40 days after an arrest if they don’t contest and win their license revocation under the ALR.

If a driver’s license is confiscated, defendants can apply through the Texas Department of Public Safety to get a new one. But if a license plea wasn’t granted or the 40 days period has passed, defendants who must drive for critical but non-commercial reasons can use an Occupational Driver’s License (ODL).

Breathalyzer Tests Are Not Always Accurate 

Even if someone blew above .08 in a breath analyzer test, it doesn’t mean the test was accurate and could be a way to get the charges off.

A study showed that blood alcohol readings could have as high as 15% error margins. And that nearly one in four breath analyzer tests showed higher numbers than the actual blood alcohol content of the tested person.

So, if your reading is above 0.08, it’s not the end of the road. You can still fight and win the case—reducing your sentence or eliminating the case altogether.

How to Get your DWI Dismissed or Reduced

Now a defendant might wonder if they have any chance of getting a reduced sentence or outright case dismissal.

Yes, a total dismissal or sentence reduction is possible.

Since a prosecuting officer must prove that an accused’s blood alcohol level passed the 0.08 limit, a person facing a 3rd DWI in Texas still has room to prove their innocence.

The court will dismiss the case if an officer can’t prove beyond reasonable doubt that a defendant was intoxicated at the point of arrest.

So you must prove the officer wrong and demonstrate that they have no legitimate grounds for an arrest. And even if the offer is able to prove that you are guilty as charged, you can enter a plea bargain to lower the charge.

That’s where you’ll need Michael and Associates.

We’ve won over 1,000 criminal defense cases with a 98% success rate. We rank in the top ten best DUI/DWI lawyers, according to the American Institute of DUI/DWI Attorneys. Also, our AVVO superb rating testifies to our positive case outcomes, client satisfaction, masterful litigation, and favorable peer endorsements.

Each case is unique, so contact us for a free case review.

Ben Michael

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.

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