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Overview of Texas DWI Laws

According to the Texas Department of Transportation, someone is hurt or killed in a crash involving alcohol every 20 minutes in Texas. Under Texas law, a person commits a driving while intoxicated (DWI) offense when the person is intoxicated while operating a motor vehicle in a public place. What qualifies as "intoxicated" for purposes of the Texas DWI law? It means not having the normal use of mental or physical faculties due to the consumption of alcohol, drugs, or a combination of those substances, or having a .08 BAC (blood or breath alcohol concentration).

So, even if your BAC is not at the legal limit, you may be intoxicated if your mental or physical abilities are impaired due to alcohol or other drugs. An officer can determine impairment through a field sobriety test, in addition to a test that measures BAC in breath samples.

Texas DWI Laws at a Glance

Statute Texas Penal Code § 49.04, et seq.
BAC Limit

0.08 (.04 for commercial drivers)

Classification of the Offense

Class B misdemeanor

Penalties and Sentences
  • First offense: Fines of up to $2,000; 6 to 180 days in jail; license suspension of 90 days to 1 year; and an annual fee of up to $2,000 for 3 years to retain your driver's license.
  • Second offense: Fines of up to $4,000; 1 month to 1 year in jail; license suspension for at least 1 year; and annual fee of up to $2,000 for 3 years to retain your driver's license.
  • Third offense: $10,000 fine; 2 to 10 years in prison; license suspension for 1 to 2 years; and an annual fee of up to $2,000 for 3 years to retain your driver's license.

Note: Penalties also may include community service, DWI education and treatment programs, mandatory use of ignition interlock device (after 2 or more DWI convictions in 5 years), and increased auto insurance premiums.

Other Offenses
  • Refusal to submit to a sobriety test: License suspension for 180 days if first offense, 2 years if second offense (see No-Refusal DUI Enforcement for more general information)
  • DWI with child passenger (under 15): State jail felony; 180 days to 2 years in state jail and a fine of up to $10,000.
  • DWI with BAC of 0.15 or more: Class A misdemeanor; up to 1 year in jail and a fine of up to $4,000

Note: State laws are constantly changing - please contact a Texas criminal defense attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Defenses to DWI Charges

Defenses to a DWI charge may include: necessity, duress, or involuntary intoxication. A defense attorney may also attack the legitimacy of the traffic stop, the propriety of the administration or accuracy of any test performed, or other improper police conduct. In Texas, it’s not a defense that the defendant is entitled to use the alcohol or other drugs.

See Defenses to Drunk Driving for general information about defenses.

Related Resources

Facing DWI Charges? Talk to a Texas DWI Attorney

Just because drunk driving is among the most common criminal charges in Texas doesn't mean it's any less serious. In fact, you can face serious jail time, stiff fines, and loss of mobility upon conviction. With such high stakes, it makes sense to get help from a legal professional. Get started today by contacting an experienced Texas DWI attorney near you.

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