The first time you ever face a DWI charge, you may not realize the severity of the penalties. Even if you have no prior record, the penalties are incredibly strict. Plus, they could increase depending on other factors of your arrest.
And there are plenty of cases of this nature in Texas with the Texas Department of Public Safety reporting that nearly 90,000 drivers were pulled over on suspicion of driving while intoxicated in 2021. Of those driving cases reported, nearly 12,000 were convicted of a crime, including more than 8,000 of DWI.
Your blood alcohol content (BAC) can affect the penalties for your first DWI in Texas. Having a minor in the car or causing injuries to others will also make the charges more serious, even for your first DWI.
What to Know About Your First DWI
A first offense for DWI in Texas is usually charged as a Class B misdemeanor. This could mean up to 180 days in jail with a mandatory minimum of 3 days and up to $2,000 in fines. You may be able to avoid the minimum jail time if you are granted probation.
As mentioned previously, aggravating factors can increase jail time and fines. If there is a minor under the age of 15 in the car during your DWI arrest, you will face felony charges. This means 180 days to 2 years in state jail plus up to $10,000 in fines.
People with a BAC of .15% or higher or who are charged with intoxication assault or intoxication manslaughter also face higher charges. These added factors can also come into play for second, third, and any subsequent DWI charges in Texas.
What to Know About Your Second DWI
Texas is a state that never forgives previous DWI charges. If you were ever charged with a DWI, your second DWI charge would involve harsher penalties. This means you’ll be facing a Class A misdemeanor. If convicted, you will spend 30 days in jail at minimum, unless probation is granted which reduces that minimum to 5 days.
You’ll also need to pay up to $4,000 in fines, your driver’s license will be suspended between 180 days and 2 years, you’ll have to pay a three-year annual fee of up to $2,000 to keep your driver’s license, and you must install an ignition interlock device on your vehicle.
What to Know About Your Third DWI
Your third DWI and any subsequent ones will be under the scrutiny of the Texas courts. No matter how long ago your previous DWI charges were, you will still receive the requisite penalties for a third DWI.
These charges are far more serious, and if convicted, you’ll face a third-degree felony charge. This means you could spend up to 10 years in prison. If probation is granted, you will spend a minimum of 10 days in jail.
For a third and any subsequent DWIs, you will pay up to $10,000 in fines, have your driver’s license suspended for up to 2 years after you get out of prison, pay a three-year surcharge for keeping your driver’s license, and have to install an ignition interlock device on your car.
What Happens with Probation After Multiple DWI Convictions?
Probation is a better punishment than being in prison. However, you must follow the rules and requirements. Failing to do so would result in more penalties. Probation sentences for DWI usually include completing a DWI intervention program and an alcohol or substance abuse evaluation and treatment program.
You will likely get community service and must not consume alcohol or drugs. You’ll be subjected to random drug and alcohol tests and need to pay all fines and fees. Reporting to your probation officer once per month is another requirement.
When you are placed on probation after a second DWI conviction, you may have to follow the program for up to 2 years. For a third or subsequent DWI, you could be looking at up to 10 years of probation.
Other Consequences of Being Convicted of DWI in Texas
Aside from the possibility of jail time, prison time, heavy fines, and other punishments, you will be dealing with the consequences of a DWI conviction in other parts of your life. Your auto insurance rates will increase, plus it may be difficult to get a job, get into college, or obtain scholarships and grants.
Depending on your career, you may now be ineligible for obtaining a professional license. You could also have problems with child custody or visitation. For those in the process of immigrating, their visa or permanent residency status could be impacted.
The consequences are even more far-reaching than you can imagine. If you were arrested for DWI, whether it’s your first time or not, you need a criminal defense attorney’s help to fight the charges and protect your future.
Source: Alan Cohen, Criminal Defense Attorney, TX