Texas DWI Laws
Driving under the influence is a serious charge. A DWI conviction will follow you for years. With a conviction on your criminal record, you may lose job opportunities, have trouble getting professional licenses, and lose college scholarships. Texas drunk and drugged driving convictions are no different. With one person dying in alcohol-related accidents every 39 minutes, Texas takes DWIs very seriously. The state does not allow for expungement of DWI convictions.
In Texas, driving while intoxicated (DWI) by alcohol or illicit and prescription drugs can earn you jail time, even as a first offense. You will lose your driving privileges upon arrest. The ordeal will cost you a lot of time and money.
Learn more about the DWI laws in Texas below.
Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) Limits and Implied Consent
|"Per Se" BAC Limit
|Zero Tolerance (Underage) BAC Limit
|Enhanced Penalty (Aggravated) BAC Limit
|Implied Consent to Submit to BAC Test?
|Minimum License Suspension or Revocation (1st, 2nd, 3rd offense)
|90 days, 180 days, 180 days
|Mandatory Alcohol Education or Assessment and Treatment
|Vehicle Confiscation Possible?
|Ignition Interlock Device Possible?
Note: State laws constantly change through legislative, judicial, or other means. While FindLaw works hard to ensure the accuracy of its legal resources, it's a good idea to thoroughly research the law or check with an attorney to ensure you have the most recent information.
Texas DWI Laws
Texas Penal Code prohibits anyone from operating a motor vehicle in a public place while impaired by alcohol, controlled substances, dangerous drugs, or a combination of these substances. Intoxication is further defined as not having the normal use of your mental and physical faculties because of the ingestion of alcohol or intoxicating substances.
Texas law also prohibits operating the following while intoxicated:
- Assembling and operating amusement rides
Per Se DWI
You are legally intoxicated if your blood alcohol content (BAC) measures at 0.08% or more. If you are operating a commercial vehicle, the BAC legal limit is 0.04%. This legal BAC limit is a "per se law." If chemical tests, such as blood or a breath test, prove your BAC is at or above 0.08%, you will face a DWI charge. This applies even if you are driving well and don't seem intoxicated. Per se means "by itself." Proof of your BAC at or above the legal limit is all a police officer needs to charge you with drunk driving.
When a law enforcement officer suspects that you're intoxicated while driving, flying, boating, or operating an amusement ride, they will ask you to submit to a series of tests. Often, these include a preliminary breathalyzer or breath test and field sobriety tests. After a DWI arrest, law enforcement will ask you to submit to chemical tests to confirm your BAC or look for the presence of intoxicating substances.
Under Texas' implied consent law, you have given consent for chemical testing by driving within the state. You may refuse to cooperate with a preliminary breath test without facing additional consequences.
This is not true for chemical tests. While you're within your right to decline chemical tests, the officer will explain that you face immediate penalties. For a first refusal, the Texas Department of Public Safety suspends your driver's license for 180 days. If it's your second refusal, you lose your license for two years.
Enhanced DWI Charge
If you have a child passenger age 15 or younger at the time of your arrest, you will face enhanced penalties upon conviction. This charge is a state jail felony. If convicted, the court can fine you up to $10,000, in addition to a 180-day driver's license suspension and up to a two-year jail sentence.
Law enforcement will charge you with a Class A misdemeanor if your BAC is 0.15% or more. You face a minimum of 30 days up to one year in jail. The judge will fine you up to $4,000, order community service hours, and you can lose your license for up to two years.
If your DWI resulted in an accident, you may face intoxication assault charges if you caused serious bodily injuries to another. This is a third-degree felony and carries a $10,000 fine and two to 10 years in jail. Your charges are further enhanced if emergency personnel receive serious injuries while assisting with your DWI accident.
If your DWI caused the death of another person, law enforcement will charge you with intoxication manslaughter. This is a second-degree felony. A judge can sentence you to two to 20 years in jail and a $10,000 fine.
Criminal penalties increase in severity depending on your charges.
A first-time DWI with a BAC under 0.15% is a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by:
- Minimum mandatory 72 hours in jail with 180 days possible
- Minimum six days in jail if you had an open container in your vehicle
- Fines up to $2,000
- Driver's license suspension of 90 days to one year
- Community service hours
- Possible DWI probation
- Complete a DWI Education program
A second offense is a Class A misdemeanor that carries the following penalties:
- One month to one year in jail
- Fines up to $4,000
- Driver's license suspension of up to two years
- Mandatory ignition interlock device
- Complete a DWI Intervention program
A third offense is a felony charge with a $10,000 fine and up to 10 years in prison, among other penalties.
Administrative License Revocation
In addition to criminal penalties, you must manage administrative penalties involving your driver's license. The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) suspends your driving privileges based on your offense. Administrative license revocation is separate from your criminal charge.
If this is your first DWI charge and you have no drug or alcohol-related charges in your criminal history, DPS will suspend your license for 90 days.
If this is your first DWI, but you do have prior drug or alcohol-related charges, DPS will give you a 180-day suspension.
A second DWI charge will cost you the use of your driving privileges for one year. The judge will order you to install an ignition interlock device in your vehicle for one year.
Revocation periods begin 40 days after your arrest. If you challenge your license suspension, you have 15 days to request a hearing.
Driver Responsibility Program Surcharge
Effective September 1, 1019, Texas repealed the annual license surcharge assessed to DWI convictions. You are still responsible for other reinstatement fees and court costs.
If you are under 21, it's illegal for you to drink or possess alcohol. Texas drugged and drunk driving laws prohibit anyone under 21 from operating a motor vehicle or watercraft with any detectable amount of alcohol or drugs in their system. This is Texas' zero-tolerance law. For minors, it's driving under the influence (DUI) instead of the adult DWI.
If convicted, you face a $500 to $2,000 fine and a driver's license suspension of up to one year. The judge will also sentence you to complete 20 to 40 hours of community service and mandatory 12-hour alcohol education classes. If you fail to complete the alcohol education class, DPS will add 180 days to your driver's license suspension.
However, if you are at least 17 and your BAC is 0.08% or more at the time of your arrest, your penalties increase to a $2,000 fine, three to 180 days of jail time, and your license suspension is for 90 days up to one year.
Texas DWI Resources
- DWI Statutes: Driving While Intoxicated (Tex. Pen. Code § 49.04); Enhanced DWI Penalties (Tex. Pen. Code § 49.09); Minor Driving Under the Influence (Tex. Alco. Bev § 106.041); Administrative Drivers License Suspensions (Tex. Trans. Code § 524.022); Ignition Interlock Requirements (Tex. Trans. Code § 521.246)
- Impaired Driving and Penalties: A breakdown of penalties for DWI and DUI convictions (Tex. Dept. of Transportation)
- Texas Alcohol, DWI, and Drug Education Programs: Locate a course provider near you (Tex. Dept. of Licensing and Regulation)
- DUI Law: Collection of articles and resources to help you understand impaired driving law, how to defend against charges, working with an attorney, and more (FindLaw)
Get Legal Help With Your DWI Case in Texas
Figuring out your next steps after getting charged with a DWI can be confusing and stressful. The best way to prepare for your DWI case is to contact a local criminal defense attorney who specializes in DWI cases. A DWI attorney will examine the strength of the evidence against you and advocate for the best possible outcome.
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