In Texas, a person with a blood or breath alcohol concentration of .08% or higher is legally intoxicated and may be arrested and charged with Driving While Intoxicated (DWI). DWI and intoxication criminal offenses are among the most common crimes committed in Texas. These offenses have received significant media attention and are treated very seriously by law enforcement and state officials. As such, the penalties for DWI and intoxication offenses can be severe with lasting negative impacts to convicted defendants.

What are the different types of DWI offenses and penalties?

Types of DWI and intoxication offenses can differ based on factors such prior convictions, circumstances surrounded the arrest, and the particulars of each individual case. Multiple DWI convictions result in progressively more severe penalties, elevating misdemeanor charges to felonies.

1st DWI offense: Prior to September 1, 2019

A 1st DWI offense is a class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to a $2,000 fine, between 72 hours and 180 days in jail, and/or a 1 year driver’s license suspension, if your DWI is before September 2019. 

However, if an individual’s blood alcohol content is found to be at .15% or higher, the 1st offense will be treated as a class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to a $4,000 fine, 30 days to 1 year in county jail, and/or loss of license for 2 years if the offense happened before September 1st, 2019. 

2nd offense: A 2nd DWI offense is a class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to a $4,000 fine, 30 days to 1 year in county jail, and/or loss of license for 2 years. A 2nd DWI conviction will result in a DPS license renewal surcharge for 3 years at an annual fee of $1,000 to $2,000.

3rd offense: Two prior convictions, regardless of how long ago they were, automatically make a 3rd DWI a 3rd degree felony charge. A 3rd DWI offense is a felony, punishable by up to a $10,000 fine, between 2 to 10 years in prison, and loss of license for 2 years. 3rd DWI convictions will result in a DPS license renewal surcharge for 3 years at an annual fee of $2,000.

4th offense: Assuming at least 2 prior felony DWI convictions, a 4th offense or more is a 2nd degree felony, punishable by up to a $20,000 fine, 2-10 years in prison, and loss of license for 2 years. 4th DWI convictions will result in a DPS license renewal surcharge for 3 years at an annual fee of $2,000.

If an individual has already had 2 prior convictions resulting in TDCJ prison trips, subsequent DWI’s will become enhanced felonies, punishable by 25 years to life in prison.

New DWI laws: After September 1, 2019

There is some good news and some not so great news about DWIs based on statutes passed by the Texas legislature that go into effect after September 1, 2019. The good news is that DWI first offenses are now eligible for deferred probation and a potential non-disclosure (sealing of records) given a specific set of conditions. With the new law, 

  1. (1) a DWI first conviction comes with a $3,000 fine;
  2. (2) a subsequent DWI conviction comes with a fine of $4,500; 
  3. (3) Whether a first or second DWI, a blood alcohol score over a 0.15 comes with a  $6,000. 

DWI with child passenger: Driving while intoxicated with a passenger under the age of 15 is a state jail felony, punishable by 6 months to 2 years in jail, and a fine not to exceed $10,000.

Intoxication Assault: A form of extreme DWI, a defendant that by accident or mistake, and by reason of intoxication, causes serious bodily injury to another will be charged with a 3rd degree felony, regardless of prior convictions. This felony charge is punishable by 2 to 10 years in prison.

Intoxication Manslaughter: Another form of extreme DWI, a defendant involved in and suspected of causing an accident that resulted in the death of another person while intoxicated will receive a 2nd degree felony DWI elevated to intoxication manslaughter, regardless of prior convictions or the lack thereof; this charge is punishable by 2 to 10 years in prison.

I didn’t drink any alcohol. Can I still get a DWI?

While the legal definition of intoxication is having an alcohol content of .08% or more, individuals may also be charged with driving while intoxicated if they have lost the normal use of their mental or physical faculties due to other conditions, such as taking controlled substances, medications, or drugs. Unlike cases involving alcohol, there is no legal limit for drugs or prescriptions in a DWI case. As a result, drug DWI cases may become very complicated, and it is important to consult with a Texas criminal defense attorney if you are facing such charges.

What substances can result in a Drug DWI?

While it is certainly not exhaustive, other substances aside from alcohol may result in intoxication, including:

Prescription Medications:

  • Ambien
  • Hydrocodone
  • Codeine
  • Oxycontin
  • Percocet
  • Morphine
  • Darvocet
  • Vicodin
  • Lortab
  • Xanax

Illegal Narcotics

  • Marijuana
  • Psilocybin or Magic Mushrooms
  • PCP
  • Opium
  • Ecstasy
  • Methamphetamines
  • LSD or Acid
  • GHB
  • Heroin
  • Cocaine

Is there a difference between DWI and DUI?

While both terms are sometimes used interchangeably, they do not share the same practical or legal meanings. While DUI offenses are class C misdemeanors, DWI offenses are class B misdemeanors. A DUI is typically the charge given to any person under the age of 21 that has any alcohol in his/her system while operating a vehicle. Although DWI is the more serious crime, DUI offenses have a lower threshold to establish intoxication, because under the Texas Zero Tolerance Policy, any person under the age of 21 that has alcohol in their system may be charged.

Additionally, minors found suspected of driving under the influence may be charged with a DUI, punishable on the first offense with a fine of up to $500, a 60-day driver license suspension, 20 to 40 community service, and mandatory alcohol awareness classes. As with DWI offenses, subsequent offenses will result in increased penalties.

What are the consequences of a DWI/Intoxication conviction?

The entire process of fighting a DWI or Intoxication charge can be a costly, stressful, and time-consuming endeavor. Your freedom and financial security are on the line, and your actions will be under intense scrutiny. If convicted, punishments can be severe, resulting in thousands of dollars in fines and/or years in jail or prison.

Aside from imprisonment and fines associated that may result from a conviction, a DWI conviction can be devastating in all other aspects of your life, affecting things such as your ability to maintain or seek employment, maintain professional certifications, gain eligibility for loans, and operate a vehicle without intrusive ignition interlock devices and other restrictions. Additionally, a DWI conviction may strip you of certain freedoms and rights, complicating areas of your life such as your rights to vote or own firearms, any child custody issues you may have, and your ability to maintain a Texas Driver’s License. Furthermore, significant time and monies may be spent on court costs, approved drug education programs, DWI school, and/or community service and supervision.

From the time you are suspecting of driving while intoxicated to the time your legal issue is resolved, your life is on the line. If you are being charged with a DWI, it is important that you act as soon as possible and reach out to a criminal defense attorney.

How can a Texas Criminal Defense Attorney help me?

Navigating the criminal justice system is no easy feat, so it is important that you have a lawyer on your side to fight for you. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help you challenge evidence brought to court, prepare possible defenses, challenge Administrative Licenses Revocations, and counsel you as to the possible consequences you may facing. Above all, speaking with a seasoned criminal defense attorney early in the process can increase your chances of reaching a favorable outcome. Many factors in DWI cases are time sensitive; the earlier you have an attorney fighting for you, the better your chances are.

If you are being charged with a DWI, it is important to act as soon as possible!

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I highly recommend Ms. Adwoa Asante. She was very nice and easy to talk to. She went above and beyond what I expected and was able to get my DWI case dismissed. My case took over two years to resolve and she stayed very focused and persistent throughout the whole process…I would 100% recommend her to anyone that needs help defending themselves in a court of law. If I could give 10 stars, that still would not be enough to acknowledge my appreciation to Ms. Asante’s representation of my case.


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