With malls closed, concerts canceled, and people being arrested for going to parks, a lot of people are resorting to just staying home.
While many people are opting for Netflix, many more around the country are taking the opportunity to kick back and enjoy some drinking. The Texas Alcoholic Beverages Commission has loosened rules around alcohol sales.
If you’re one of the millions of people who finds themselves drinking a bit more than usual lately, remember that felony DUI laws are still in effect. Police around the state of Texas are on high alert for offenders. Knowing what constitutes felony DUI can help to keep you safe and out of jail.
What are the DUI Laws in Texas?
There are two primary laws concerning driving and alcohol in the state of Texas, driving under the influence (DUI) and driving while intoxicated (DWI). Many people incorrectly assume that these two terms are interchangeable, however in the state of Texas these crimes deal with two different age groups.
DUI in the state of Texas is used to charge minors who are found driving with any level of alcohol present in their system. On the other hand, DWI deals with adults who are found to be driving with a blood-alcohol level over the legally permissible 0.08%, or who are impaired regardless of their blood-alcohol level or what other substances they have consumed.
Driving while intoxicated is considered to be a Class B misdemeanor for first-time offenders. If your blood alcohol level is above 0.15%, then a first-time offense becomes a Class A misdemeanor.
The punishment for a DWI charge in the state of Texas depends on the number of prior convictions. For a first time offender, the charge is a fine of up to $2,000, between 3 and 180 days in jail, and loss of your driver’s license for up to one year.
How Will Looser Rules Impact Texas Felony DUI Rates
With more people drinking and the rise in availability of drive-up alcohol sales, there is expected to be an uptick in the rate of DUI. Two scenarios specifically are expected to rise as a side effect of the loosening in regulations:
DUI With Kids in Car
DUI in Texas can become a felony when there are kids under the age of 15 present in a vehicle driven by an adult of legal drinking age who is over the legal limit. This tacks on an extra child endangerment charge, which elevates the DWI charge to a state jail felony.
This specific charge is expected to increase during the coronavirus shutdown, as more children are at home and may be present in a vehicle driven by an adult under the influence. The loosening of restrictions on to-go alcohol sales may further increase the opportunity for children to be present during a DWI incident.
Alcohol-Related Traffic Accidents
Also expected to be on the rise is the number of traffic accidents that occur directly as a result of alcohol. DWI-related accidents were already a problem before the coronavirus situation. Now that more people are drinking, the number of accidents is also expected to increase.
If you cause an accident in conjunction with a DWI, you can be charged with a felony-level offense. The actual punishment will depend on a variety of factors such as whether a person was injured or property was damaged in the accident.
These are serious offenses and can lead to years in prison on top of tens of thousands of dollars in fines. Depending on the severity of the crime, it is also possible to have your driver’s license suspended for a year or more.
About the Author:
Brandon Fulgham has an in-depth understanding of both Texas law and Texans themselves. Before practicing law here, he received his undergraduate degree from TCU, and his law degree from South Texas College of Law in Houston. After graduation, he worked in District Attorneys’ offices as a prosecutor, building cases designed to put people behind bars. Now, he uses that knowledge to protect the rights of people in and around Fort Worth. He has been recognized for his work by Expertise (Best Criminal Defense Lawyers in Forth Worth and Best DUI Lawyers in Fort Worth, both 2020), The National Trial Lawyers, Fort Worth Magazine, and others.