What is a DUI and DWI?
Commonly, “DUI” is short for driving under the influence, and “DWI” is short for driving while intoxicated. Both terms are used in Texas to describe an individual who is operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated. An adult 21 years of age or older may be charged with a DWI if he or she operates a vehicle with a 0.08% blood or breath alcohol concentration(BAC) or is impaired by drugs. When a minor or person under the age of 21 years old is operating a vehicle and is found to have any alcohol in his or her system, this person may be charged with a DUI. This context is the only legal use of the term DUI in Texas.
What is Texas’ Zero Tolerance Law?
To combat drunk driving, Texas has enacted a zero-tolerance policy directed at minors. According to Texas law, a “minor” is anyone under 21 years of age. A minor may not consume, possess, purchase, or attempt to purchase an alcoholic beverage. When a minor has any detectable amount of alcohol in their system while operating a motor vehicle on a public street, it is a criminal offense of Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol by a minor. If a minor is found to have a BAC at or above the legal limit, the offense is then changed to Driving While Intoxicated.
What Happens When You Are Arrested For a DWI/DUI?
Once a person is arrested on suspicion of drunk driving or boating, he or she must submit to a breath or blood test made mandatory under the state’s implied consent laws. Refusal to take a blood or breath test or having a BAC of 0.08% or greater will automatically revoke driving rights under the Texas Administrative License Revocation Program. Refusal to take a BAC test will result in the immediate confiscation of the offender’s driver’s license and the issuing of a temporary driving permit. Afterward, the offender will have 15 days to request a hearing arguing against license suspension. If no hearing is requested, the suspension will go into effect 40 days after the served notice. If a BAC of 0.08% or higher was obtained during testing, a notice of license suspension will be received through the mail once the Texas Department of Public Safety obtains these results. From there, the offender will have 20 days to request a hearing. Otherwise, the suspension will go into effect 40 days after receipt of the notice. In addition to license suspension, there is a high likelihood of also being charged with a criminal offense and additional penalties if convicted.
How are DWI Charges Penalized?
Besides fines, license suspension, and possible jail time, Texas drivers with a DWI may also be required to attend drug and alcohol counseling, have an interlock device installed in their vehicle, or, in some cases, have additional charges brought against them. An example of an additional charge is if a child under 15 years of age was present in the vehicle when the driver received the charge. If this is found to be true, child endangerment charges could be added on. According to Texas law, child endangerment occurring while driving impaired can result in additional fines of up to $10,000, up to two years of jail time, and an additional 180 days of suspended licensure. Standard penalties for driving while intoxicated are as follows:
- First offense: fine up to $2,000, three to 180 days in jail, up to one year of license suspension
- Second offense: fine up to $4,000, one month to one year in jail, up to two years of license suspension
- Third offense: fine up to $10,000, two to ten years in jail, and up to two years of license suspension
How are DUI Charges Penalized?
Minors who have complied with blood or breath tests found to have any detectable amount of alcohol or controlled substance in their system while operating a boat or vehicle will result in the suspension of his or her driver’s license for:
- First offense: 60 days
- Second offense: 120 days
- Third and subsequent offenses: 180 days
- if the minor does not have a driver’s license, driving privileges are denied for the same period as the suspension
Minors who do not comply with blood or breath tests may be placed in jail and held until bond is posted or until they appear before a judge or magistrate. If the minor does not currently have a license, the privilege is denied. Driver’s license suspension for a minor refusing to test is as follows:
- First offense (refusal): 180 days
- Second and subsequent offenses (refusal): two years
Standard offenses and penalties for minor offenders are as follows:
- First offense: Class C misdemeanor, fine up to $500, 20 to 40 hours of community service, 60 days driver’s license suspension, attendance of an alcohol awareness class for minor and possibly the parent
Second offense: Class C misdemeanor, fine up to $500, 40 to 60 hours of community service, 120 days driver’s license suspension, attendance of an alcohol awareness class may be required
- Third offense (under 17 years of age): Class C misdemeanor, fine up to $500, 40 to 60 hours of community service, 180 days driver’s license suspension, attendance of an alcohol awareness class, or the case may be transferred to Juvenile Court as delinquent conduct
- Third offense (17 to 21 years of age): Class B misdemeanor, a fine of $500 to $2,000 or jail time not exceeding 180 days, 40 to 60 hours of community service, attendance of an alcohol awareness class, one-year driving suspension or 90 days with a judge’s order to install an ignition interlock device
Do I Need an Attorney?
Whether the charge is DUI or DWI, they both come with harsh penalties and can have lasting impacts. Do not face this alone. Contact Flanary Law Firm, PLLC, today at 210-738-8383 or fill out our contact form for a free consultation.