Under the Penal Code, a first offense DWI in Texas is listed as a Class B misdemeanor, though certain factors can worsen the situation. Consequences of a DUI in Texas can vary from fines of up to $2,000 as well as a 180-day jail sentence, and that’s not taking into consideration administrative penalties.
From the moment you’re pulled over, through to anxiety-inducing roadside tests and getting booked, dealing with a DUI is downright frightening. Understanding the penalties and consequences involved with this offense will help you be more prepared to fight back.
What is a DWI?
DWI, or Driving While Intoxicated refers to operating a motor vehicle while you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Although in Texas you’re legally intoxicated if your blood alcohol concentration, or BAC, reaches 0.08%, according to the Penal Code, ‘intoxicated’ is defined as “not having the normal use of mental or physical faculties” due to alcohol or drug consumption.
In other words, if your ability to operate a vehicle safely is impaired by alcohol or drug consumption, it’s illegal to drive.
Penalties for a First Time DUI in Texas
In most cases (as long as your BAC registers less than 0.15), penalties for a 1st offense DWI in Texas will include a hefty fine, suspended license, and a few days in jail.
However, there are other costs you need to consider. Aside from the monetary implications of administrative penalties, being convicted of a DUI can have long-lasting negative consequences for other parts of your life, including your work, housing, insurance, and more.
The severity of the criminal penalties you face for a DUI in Texas will vary depending on several factors, for example, whether you have previous convictions, if the offense caused bodily harm or even death, and your blood alcohol level.
For a 1st DUI, you can expect to face:
- A fine of up to $2,000
- Between 3 and 180 days in county jail
If your Blood Alcohol Concentration at the time of the offense was 0.15 percent or higher,the offense would be considered a Class A misdemeanor, and penalties would include:
- A fine of up to $4,000
- Between 3 and 365 days in county jail
Furthermore, the Texas Department of Transportation state that “these fines do not include a state fine of $3,000, $4,500, or $6,000 assessed upon sentencing.”
If you are found to be in possession of an open container or bottle of alcohol in your vehicle, you could face an additional fine of up to $500.
In addition to hefty fines and possibly jail time, a DUI could mean losing your driver’s license for up to 2 years. If your license is suspended, you’ll need to pay a $100 reinstatement fee to get it back.
Depending on your individual case, you might also be ordered to attend a 12-hour DWI Intervention Program.
Aside from losing reputation amongst your peers and dealing with the consequent embarrassment and anxiety, a DUI conviction can negatively affect your job, your career prospects, not to mention your insurance premiums.
Employment and Housing
A DUI conviction would remain on your criminal record permanently, and unless steps are taken to try to remove it, the conviction would be publicly available to potential employers, landlords, banks, and other important people who are running background checks on you.
Landlords regularly check their potential tenants for criminal records, and a DUI can negatively impact their decision on whether they want to lease their property to you.
Many employers have a “no tolerance” policy on hiring employees with a DUI on their record, especially if the work involves the use of their company vehicle.
According to the insurance comparison site, The Zebra, on average, a DUI can bump your insurance premium up by $762, or an additional 54% to your insurance, every year.
If you’re amidst a custody battle, a DUI conviction can be used against you as an example of poor judgment and irresponsibility. It may even be used as a case against visitation rights, on the grounds that you might not be able to provide safe transportation for your kids.
Potential Elevated Charges for a DUI
Various factors can elevate your DUI charges from a Class A or B misdemeanor to a felony. These include:
- Driving While Intoxicated with a child passenger (state jail felony)
- Accidents that result in bodily injury (third-degree felony)
- Accidents that cause death (second-degree felony)
If you are carrying a passenger aged 15 or under, you will also be charged with child endangerment. The consequences include a fine of up to $10,000, jail for up to 2 years, and license loss for an additional 180 days.
What to Expect if Convicted
If convicted of a DUI in Texas, you can expect to pay a large fine and have your license taken away for a while. You can also expect to spend between 3 and 180 days in jail, but the consequences of the conviction will last beyond the jail sentence. With a permanent stain on your public records, you can expect to face many hardships over the years.
Fighting Your First Offense DUI
The best way to avoid the consequences of a DUI is to fight the charge. At best, the case will be dismissed, but even reducing the penalties as much as possible can make a huge difference to the number of days you spend behind bars.
Should you Fight Your DUI Charge?
Getting a DUI is scary, and a lot of drivers can be left feeling hopeless after being charged, especially if they’ve attempted and failed a field sobriety test, or a breathalyzer test. But, even with the failed sobriety tests, you should still fight your first DUI charge.
Fighting against your DUI charge can help to significantly reduce the impact of a conviction on the rest of your life. On the other hand, a failure to do so may leave you with regrets for a long time.
Breathalyzer Tests Are Not Always Accurate
As much as law enforcement officers would like you to believe that breathalyzers are a hundred percent accurate, the truth is, they’re not. Even if a driver blew above .08, there are many factors that could have potentially caused an inaccurate reading, including:
- Prescription medication that may have been present in the driver’s system
- An uncalibrated machine
- Improper administration of the test due to lack of training
- Illness, that prevented the driver from completing the test properly
How to Get your DWI Dismissed or Reduced
Despite how scary a 1st DWI charge can be, the truth is that they can be reduced, or even dismissed. But, to do so, you need a confident lawyer with DUI expertise. That’s what we specialize in.
Here at Michael and Associates, we have dealt with over 1000 DUI cases, and pride ourselves on an extremely high success rate. You don’t need to go through this alone. Every case is different, so contact us today for your free case review. It won’t cost you anything to get in touch, but it may save you a lot.
Ben has worked on thousands of cases ranging from DWIs to assault, drug possession, and many more. He has gotten hundreds of charges dismissed and pled down several hundred more. Among many other awards, one of the Top 10 Criminal Defense Attorneys in Texas and winner of Top 40 under 40.