TEXAS DWI / DUI PENALTIES

The repercussions of a Texas drunk driving arrest are extremely serious – the accused motorist faces a permanent criminal record, large fines, long license suspensions, community service, and even a jail sentence. However, a Texas drinking and driving arrest doesn’t necessarily equal a conviction. It is possible to fight and win against a driving while intoxicated charge. Fort Bend DWI / DUI defense lawyer David Hunter has the skills and experience needed to aggressively fight a drunk driving charge and minimize or even eliminate the consequences of a driving under the influence arrest.

There are two elements to the charge of driving while intoxicated in Texas – the first is the allegation that the driver’s alcohol and/or drug use caused impairment that prevented the safe operation of a motor vehicle. The second element is violation of the state’s “per se” law, meaning that the driver is alleged to have a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08 percent or greater – now the legal limit in all 50 states. Unfortunately, the prosecutor must prove only one of these elements in order to convict the driver of DWI / DUI.

The punishment meted out after a Texas drunk driving conviction depends on several factors, including whether the offense was charged as a misdemeanor or a felony, the number of DUI / DWI convictions in the driver’s past, the motorist’s age when arrested, and whether or not an accident or injury was involved.

First offense Texas drunk driving arrests are generally charged as Class B misdemeanors punishable by 72 hours to 180 days in jail and a fine of up to $2,000. The driver also faces a license suspension of up to one year, 24 to 100 hours of community service, and a license surcharge of $1,000 to $2,000 per year for three years. The driver may be able to obtain an occupational license to drive to work.

A second Texas DUI / DWI offense will be charged as a Class A misdemeanor punishable by 72 hours to 365 days in jail and a fine of up to $4,000. The driver also faces a license suspension of 180 days to two years and 80 to 200 hours of community service. The driver also faces a license surcharge of $1,500 to $2,000 per year for three years. An occupational driver’s license may be available if the driver can demonstrate essential need.

A third or subsequent drunk driving offense is treated extremely seriously – it will be charged as a third-degree felony. The driver faces two to 10 years in prison, a fine of up to $10,000, and 160 to 600 hours of community service. The driver will also have his or her Texas driver’s license suspended for 180 days to two years and must pay a license surcharge of $1,500 to $2,000 per year for three years.

Drivers arrested for driving while intoxicated or driving under the influence in Ft Bend who are under the legal drinking age of 21 face special challenges. Drivers under 21, or under 18 for that matter, found to have a blood alcohol content of .08 percent or greater will face the same punishment as any other motorist convicted of drunk driving.

However, drivers under the legal drinking age who don’t exceed the legal limit of .08 percent BAC can still face charges and repercussions. A driver under 21 who has any detectable amount of alcohol in his or her system can be charged with a Class C misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $500. The driver also faces 20 to 40 hours of community service, a 60-day license suspension, and a mandatory alcohol-awareness class. Drivers who are under 21 who are merely in possession of alcohol can also be charged with a Class C misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $500, eight to 12 hours of community service, a 30-day license suspension and a mandatory alcohol-awareness class.

Ft. Bend drivers arrested for DUI / DWI who are under 18 also face special circumstances. Drivers under 18 who are found to have any detectable amount of alcohol in their system must be accompanied to every court appearance by a parent or guardian. Again, a driver under 18 who exceeds the legal limit of .08 percent BAC will face the same penalties as an adult. Individuals under 18 who drive under the influence of any detectable amount of alcohol face a fine of up to $500 and 20 to 40 hours of community service related to alcohol education or alcohol abuse prevention.

In addition, drivers under 18 will be required to attend an Alcohol Awareness Program sponsored by the Texas Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse within 90 days of conviction. The driver’s parents or guardian may be required to attend the program as well. If the driver doesn’t successfully complete the Alcohol Awareness Program within 90 days of conviction, the court can suspend driving privileges for an additional six months.

Drivers under 21 who are arrested for their first offense may be eligible for deferred adjudication. However, deferred adjudication is still considered a conviction. Drivers under 21 with only one DUI / DWI conviction may have the offense expunged from their records after their 21st birthdays.

In addition to the repercussions listed above, Texas DUI / DWI law allows for certain sentencing enhancements that can increase the penalties if additional allegations are proven. For example, if a motorist convicted of drunk driving in Fort Bend had an open container of alcohol in the vehicle, the minimum jail time will be increased from 72 hours to six days.

Driving drunk with a child under 15 in the car, even as a first offense, is considered a very serious crime in Texas. The accused DUI / DWI driver will be charged with a felony punishable by 180 days to 10 years in state jail and a fine of up to $10,000.

Drivers involved in an injury accident or death while driving under the influence face extremely serious charges. The charge of DUI / DWI causing serious bodily injury, also called intoxication assault, is a third-degree felony punishable by two to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. DWI causing death, also called intoxication manslaughter, is a second-degree felony punishable by two to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

The consequences of a Texas driving while intoxicated arrest can be severe, but the good news is that a conviction isn’t inevitable. David Hunter is an experienced Fort Bend DUI / DWI defense lawyer who will craft an individualized strategy to fight any drunk driving case and protect the accused driver’s rights.