DWI Penalties In Texas Can Be Life Changing

What penalties could I face for a first time DWI?

In Texas, a first time DWI charge would mean you face either a Class B or a Class A Misdemeanor.

What’s the difference between a Class B and a Class A Misdemeanor?

If convicted of a Class B Misdemeanor DWI, your sentence could be:

  • from 72 hours to 180 days in jail
  • up to a $2,000 fine.

If convicted of a Class A Misdemeanor, your sentence could be:

  • up to 1 year in jail
  • up to a $4,000 fine.

Why would the police charge me with a Class A Misdemeanor instead of a Class B Misdemeanor?

If the police obtain neither a sample of your breath nor your blood, you’ll be charged with a Class B Misdemeanor, unless you have a prior conviction for DWI.

If either the breath or blood sample show a concentration of below 0.150, then you’ll be charged with a Class B Misdemeanor unless you have a prior conviction for DWI, in which case you’ll be charged with a Class A Misdemeanor.

If either the breath or blood sample show a concentration of 0.150 or higher, then you’ll be charged with a Class A Misdemeanor.

This seems terribly unfair! How the heck am I supposed to know what my blood alcohol concentration is at any given time?

You can’t know that. It’s impossible. You can however estimate your BAC by using my ATX DWI mobile app available for download on iTunes, or Google Play. The app will also allow you to contact with me if you are arrested.

Since you cannot know what your breath or blood sample will read, you should not agree to blow or give blood. Make the police do their job and get a warrant.

Will I have to go to jail for a first time DWI?

Probably not. Most people who are out of jail while their case is pending are offered probation.

The terms of the probation you might be offered would be something like this: 180 days in the Travis County Jail; all of that jail time would be probated (meaning that you wouldn’t actually go to jail again) for 18 to 24 months.

The terms of the probation would likely include 60 hours of community service, restitution, evaluation by the Travis County Counseling and Education Services, and probably counseling, education, or therapy. You would be allowed to keep your driver’s license while on probation, so long as you maintain a valid vehicle insurance policy.

Do I have to be put on probation?

Some clients prefer to go to jail rather than deal with the expense and hassle of probation. It’s easy to get an alternative recommendation from the prosecutor for jail time.

“Here’s how I look at DWI defense: pretty much anybody with a pulse, a suit and a law license can get you probation in Austin. If you just want to take your lumps, enter a plea and be convicted, then don’t hire me. You can find a lawyer who will charge you less than I will if that is all you want.”

“If you want to see about fighting the charges against you, about getting out of the jam you’re in, about getting someone to look in every nook and cranny, under every rock and pebble for evidence that will favor you, then call me.”
Bill Mange, Esq.

What Are The Additional Costs And Consequences Of A DWI Conviction?

There are many additional penalties and costs to getting convicted.

One of the most obvious is that you will have a criminal record that will never go away, not even after you die.

Your record will be out there for all the world to see. Potential employers, lenders, and landlords will be able to look it up on the internet.

People will make assumptions about you, your values, and behaviors based on that DWI conviction for the rest of your life. They will assume you are an alcoholic, or at least that you have a drinking problem, and that you are irresponsible and negligent. They will conclude that you are undependable and will not show up for work on time or will show up hung over. They will assume that you are personally and financially unreliable.

This is the no-bull version of how a drunk driving conviction can change your life.

Collateral Consequences of a Texas driving while intoxicated (DWI) conviction. 

Will I have to pay surcharges?

If you are convicted, the Texas Department of Public Safety will require you to pay a surcharge of $1,000 to $2,000 per year for three years following your conviction to keep your license.

If you provided a sample of your breath or blood and the concentration of alcohol was equal to or more than 0.08 grams but less than 0.160 grams, you are “only” required to pay a $1,000 surcharge. It’s the same amount of surcharge you would pay if you had refused to blow.

On the other hand, if the concentration were 0.160 or more, you will pay $2,000 per year for three years.

That’s a lot of money for having a few drinks.

“Before you give in to the urge to shout that this surcharge is stupid, let me say it first: This surcharge is stupid.”
Bill Mange, Esq.

But here’s what happens if you don’t pay it.

The Texas DPS will suspend your drivers license. If you drive while your license is suspended, you’re committing a crime. If you are on probation and you commit another crime then the state will move to revoke your probation.

An additional cost of a DWI conviction is that once you’re on probation, you must obtain an SR-22 insurance policy for two years. An SR-22 policy differs from ordinary insurance in some important ways.

The premium is way more than what you would pay for an ordinary auto policy.

If you are pulled over, the law enforcement officer will ask to see your driver’s license and insurance. When you hand the officer an ordinary insurance card, the officer has no way of knowing whether you have been making your payments on time or if the policy has been canceled.

With a SR-22 policy, the insurance company is required to notify the Texas Department of Public Safety if your policy is canceled.

If you are pulled over, the officer will use your driver’s license to check to see if there are any active warrants for your arrest and whether your license has been suspended. He’ll also use your SR-22 insurance card to see whether your policy has been canceled.

If it has been canceled, the officer will issue you a ticket for “failure to maintain financial responsibility,” which is legislative-speak for “driving without insurance.”

A conviction for failure to maintain financial responsibility will bring additional surcharges.

“Now let’s say it together:
 This driving without paying the insurance surcharge is stupid, too.”
Bill Mange, Esq.

It is stupid and it amounts to a tax on people who can’t afford to pay the tax.

Good public policy would ensure that people buy insurance. But this law burdens people with a surcharge when they don’t have insurance. That makes it harder for those same people to buy insurance. That means all drivers are less protected.

What are the punishments for a 2nd DWI in Texas?

If you have one prior conviction for DWI, then your second charge will be a Class A Misdemeanor, regardless of what your blood alcohol concentration is.

If convicted of a Class A Misdemeanor, your sentence could be:

  • up to 1 year in jail
  • up to a $4,000 fine.

Will I have to go to jail for a second DWI in Texas?

If placed on probation for a Class A Misdemeanor (second offense), then you would serve a minimum of 72 hours in jail as a condition of probation.

How much jail time will I have to serve in Texas for a second DWI committed within five years of the first?

If placed on probation for a Class A Misdemeanor (second offense) AND your second offense was committed within five years of the date on which the most recent preceding offense was committed, then you would serve a minimum of five days in jail as a condition of probation.

What are the punishments for a 3rd DWI in Texas?

If you have two prior convictions for DWI, then your third charge will be a 3rd Degree Felony, regardless of what your blood alcohol concentration is.

If convicted of a 3rd Degree Felony, your sentence could be:

  • not less than 2 years, nor more than 10 years in prison, and
  • up to a $10,000 fine.

Will I have to go to jail for a third DWI in Texas?

If placed on probation for a 3rd Degree Felony DWI, then you would serve a minimum of 10 days in jail as a condition of probation.

What is the punishment in Texas for Driving While Intoxicated with a Child Passenger?

Regardless of whether it is your first or second time to be charged with DWI, if one of your passengers is younger than 15 years of age, then you will be charged with a State Jail Felony.

What is a State Jail Felony?

If convicted of a State Jail Felony, your sentence could be:

  • not less than 180 days, nor more than 2 years in a State Jail Facility, and
  • up to a $10,000 fine.

Can I get probation for a State Jail Felony DWI?

That depends on your prior criminal history. If you have no other convictions, then probably you can get probation. If you do have other convictions, well, let’s talk.

What is the punishment in Texas for Intoxication Assault?

First of all, a charge of “Intoxication Assault” means the police think that you drove while intoxicated, and by reason of that intoxication, by accident or mistake, caused serious bodily injury to someone.

What does “serious bodily injury” mean?

Serious bodily injury means an injury that creates a substantial risk of death or that causes serious permanent disfigurement or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ.

What level offense is an Intoxication Assault?

It is a 3rd Degree Felony.

If convicted of a 3rd Degree Felony, your sentence could be:

  • not less than 2 years, nor more than 10 years in prison, and
  • up to a $10,000 fine.

How much jail time would I have to serve for an Intoxication Assault?

If placed on probation, you would have to serve a minimum of 30 days in jail.

What if I’m accused of driving while intoxicated and by accident someone dies?

Then you will be charged with Intoxication Manslaughter.

What is the punishment for Intoxication Manslaughter in Texas?

Intoxication Manslaughter is a 2nd Degree Felony, the sentence for which could be:

  • not less than 2 years, nor more than 20 years in prison, and
  • up to a $10,000 fine.

What if I’m charged with my second felony DWI?

If you’re charged with your second felony DWI, then the punishment you face now depends on the punishment you received for your first felony DWI. If you went to prison, then got out, and were arrested and charged again for a different felony DWI, then you would face an enhanced penalty of a second Degree Felony.

A second Degree Felony is punishable by:

  • not less than 2 years, nor more than 20 years in prison, and
  • up to a $10,000 fine.

What if I’m charged with my third felony DWI?

If you’re charged with your third felony DWI, then the punishment you face now depends on the punishment you received for your first and second felony DWIs. If you went to prison, then got out, and were arrested and charged again for a different felony DWI, then went to prison, then got out, and were arrested and charged again for a different felony DWI, then you would face an enhanced penalty of a first Degree Felony.

A First Degree Felony is punishable by:

  • not less than 5 years, nor more than 99 years or life in prison, and
  • up to a $10,000 fine.

Drunk driving is a serious criminal offense in Texas. The costs and repercussions of a conviction are severe and expensive. Even a first-time conviction will give you a criminal record that remains for the rest of your life. So if you are facing driving while intoxicated charges, it’s extremely important that you hire the right lawyer to handle your case. Call today for your free consultation with Austin DWI attorney Bill Mange: 512-451-5885.