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Can You Go to Jail for a DWI in Texas?

Ben Michael

In Texas, DWI offenses are taken very seriously, and as such, you can face jail time for a DWI even if it is your first offense.

Aggravating factors such as previous convictions, a high BAC level, or accidents that cause bodily injury or property damage, make jail time more likely.

Can I Go to Jail for a DWI in Texas on My First Offense?

Most first-time DWIs in Texas are charged as a Class B Misdemeanor, which carries a maximum jail sentence of 180 days. Additionally, assuming there are no aggravating factors, you may also have to pay a fine of up to $2,000.

If there are aggravating factors, for example, your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) registered 0.15 or more, you will be charged with a Class A misdemeanor. Class A misdemeanors carry a jail sentence of up to 1 year. The maximum fine for a Class A misdemeanor is $4,000.

The punishments for a DWI increase exponentially with each subsequent offense. A second DWI will be treated as a repeat offense—a Class A misdemeanor with a minimum jail sentence of 3 days.

Third DWI offenses result in third-degree felony charges. For a felony of the third degree, you could be facing up to 10 years in prison.

New DWI Laws in Texas

In September 2019, the House Bill 35825 brought some changes to the eligibility for Deferred Adjudication for some first-time DWI offenders. Deferred adjudication allows some offenders to serve their sentence in the community (community supervision), but in return, they must meet certain strict conditions.

As long as the probation is completed successfully, it may be possible to then seal the criminal record through an Order of Nondisclosure.

To be eligible for deferred adjudication, the following conditions must be met:

  • This was your first-time DWI
  • You have no previous convictions
  • Your BAC level was below 0.15
  • There are no other aggravating factors, such as intoxication assault

If you are sentenced to community supervision, you will have to agree to install an ignition interlock device on your car and attend regular drug and alcohol testing with your probation officer. You may also need to attend classes and perform community service.

Texas DWI Statute

The Texas Penal Code §49.04 states the following:

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

(b) Except as provided by Subsections (c) and (d) and Section 49.09, an offense under this section is a Class B misdemeanor, with a minimum term of confinement of 72 hours.

(c) If it is shown on the trial of an offense under this section that at the time of the offense the person operating the motor vehicle had an open container of alcohol in the person’s immediate possession, the offense is a Class B misdemeanor, with a minimum term of confinement of six days.

(d) If it is shown on the trial of an offense under this section that an analysis of a specimen of the person’s blood, breath, or urine showed an alcohol concentration level of 0.15 or more at the time the analysis was performed, the offense is a Class A misdemeanor.

Is Jail Always Required for DWI in Texas?

Jail time is a possibility for anyone charged with a DWI in Texas, especially for repeat or habitual offenders, and for those who register a BAC level of 0.15 or higher.

However, for first-time DWI offenders, jail time is not a requirement for punishment, nor is it required if you get deferred adjudication (community supervision). Seeking legal representation from an experienced DWI attorney will improve your chances of a better outcome.

A Third or Subsequent DWI Offense Can Lead to Prison

While it may be possible to get away with no jail time for a first DWI, the consequences are still significant. Repercussions get worse with every subsequent DWI, however.

A third or subsequent DWI would be treated as a third-degree felony. For a third-degree felony, you will be facing a minimum of 2 years in prison. The maximum sentence for a third-degree felony is 10 years. You may still be eligible for probation in lieu of jail time though even if you are convicted.

DWI laws are exceptionally strict in Texas because there is no lookback period. This means that if you are convicted of a second DWI now, and another one in 30 years’ time, the old convictions will remain on your record and be considered in your punishment, even though there is a 30-year gap between them.

Intoxication Assault Is a Third-Degree Felony in Texas

Intoxication assault is when a person accidentally or mistakenly causes serious bodily injury to another person as a result of driving while intoxicated. In Texas, intoxication assault is classified as a third-degree felony.

For a felony of the third degree, you’ll be facing a maximum prison sentence of 10 years and a fine of up to $10,000, unless the injury was to a peace officer, firefighter, or emergency medical personnel, in which case the maximum prison sentence would be 20 years.

Intoxication assault will also result in a suspension of your driver’s license for up to one year, court costs, restitution fees, and a permanent criminal record.

DWI with a Child Passenger in Texas Is a Felony Offense

If at the time of your DWI offense, your vehicle was occupied by a passenger aged 15 or under, you could be charged with a state jail felony.

The punishments for a state jail felony include:

  • Between 180 days and 2 years in jail
  • A fine of up to $10,000

Intoxication Manslaughter Convictions Is a Second-Degree Felony

Accidentally causing the death of another person by driving while intoxicated will result in intoxication manslaughter charges—a second-degree felony.

Second-degree felonies are the third most serious convictions, topped only by first-degree felonies and capital felonies. If you are charged with a second-degree felony, you’ll be facing between 2 years and 20 years in prison, and a fine of up to $10,000.

Can a First DWI in Texas Be Dismissed?

First-time DWIs can be dismissed under the right circumstances, with the help of an experienced DWI attorney.

If a first-time DWI case is dismissed, the charge can be erased from your records, and you will not face any consequences. A knowledgeable DWI attorney will challenge the evidence used against you—for example, they may press the State prosecutors to prove that the police officer had probable cause for arresting you in the first place—without this evidence, the State is forced to throw out the case.

You’ll need to find a lawyer that is experienced in defending against DWIs. Instead of calling your nearest lawyer, seek help from a criminal defense lawyer who has a track record of successful DWI dismissals.

Can I Lose a License for DWI in Texas?

There are many consequences and penalties associated with a DWI conviction, including the suspension of your driver’s license.

  • For a first-time DWI, your driver’s license can be suspended for 90 days to 1 year.
  • For a second or subsequent DWI, your driver’s license can be suspended for 180 days to 2 years.
  • If you receive a conviction for DWI with a child passenger, your driver’s license can be suspended for 180 days.

You may have the option to apply for a temporary Texas Occupational Driver License. This restricted license will allow you to drive a non-commercial vehicle for work, performing household duties, or school-related activities.

Even with an occupational license, you may be required to use an ignition interlock device on your vehicle. This temporary license should cover the length of your license suspension.

The Best Strategy to Avoid Jail for DWI in Texas

If you are facing DWI charges in Texas, it is crucial that you get in touch with an experienced DWI attorney immediately to protect your freedom and your rights. Seeking legal counsel from the right lawyer can mean the difference between a dismissal and a lengthy jail sentence. Contact Michael & Associates today for a free case review and begin building your defense case.

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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