Facing Your First DWI in Texas

February 15, 2024 | By Fulgham Hampton Criminal Defense Attorneys
Facing Your First DWI in Texas

What to Expect When You Are Charged With a DWI First Offense in Texas

If you are like most Texans who are facing their first Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) arrest, you may have no prior criminal history or experience with the criminal court system. Before you make any decisions, it’s crucial to understand that a first offense DWI in Texas can result in serious penalties and life-changing consequences if you are convicted.

You may be worried about what to expect during your first DWI in Texas and what options you have to resolve the pending charges. Keep in mind that Texas DWI laws are strict, and most prosecutors and judges are not sympathetic, even to first-time offenders. 

However, when you partner with an experienced Texas DWI defense lawyer, you have a better chance of receiving a reduced charge or possibly even a dismissal. The first thing to do right now is find an aggressive Texas DWI attorney near you to protect your legal rights in the coming months.

How is a First Offense DWI in Texas Charged?

Most first-offense DWIs are charged as Class B misdemeanors in Texas. This is a lesser charge than a Class A misdemeanor or felony offense and will carry lighter penalties upon a conviction

Texas DWI laws also allow a first DWI charge to be enhanced under certain circumstances. For example, factors that could enhance your DWI charges include:

  • A DWI arrest with a passenger under the age of 15 in the vehicle
  • A blood alcohol concentration (BAC) measuring 0.15% or higher
  • Intoxication assault – when someone was injured as a result of your intoxicated driving 
  • Intoxication manslaughter – when someone was killed because of your intoxicated driving

Depending on the circumstances surrounding the arrest, a first DWI in Texas could be charged as a Class A misdemeanor or even a felony DWI. These enhanced charges come with more severe penalties and life-altering consequences.

What are the Possible Penalties for a DWI in Texas – First Offense? 

If you are convicted of DWI in Texas, even with no prior criminal record, you could face a lengthy jail sentence, expensive fines, and a permanent criminal record. A knowledgeable DWI criminal defense attorney can help sort through your unique circumstances, investigate the situation, and explain all your options. But it’s imperative to reach out to a skilled Texas DWI lawyer near you before you make any decisions.

Potential DWI First Offense Charges and Criminal Penalties 

In general, Texas DWI laws are extremely nuanced and complicated. Even first-time offenders can face serious repercussions depending on the facts surrounding the specific situation and how the charges are eventually resolved.

A Texas DWI has two forms of penalty – criminal and civil. A conviction of the most lenient DWI charge, a Class B misdemeanor, can impose harsh results, including:

  • A fine of up to $2,000
  • A sentence ranging from a minimum of three days to a maximum of 180 days in the county jail
  • Your license may be suspended for up to two years, and you’ll have to pay a fee to have it reinstated

Class A misdemeanors and felony DWI convictions can impose more severe penalties. For example, a second-degree felony charge of Intoxication Manslaughter could lead to:

  • 20 years in state prison
  • A fine of up to $10,000

Keep in mind that these potential outcomes are related to a criminal conviction. If your tenacious DWI attorney can negotiate a reduced charge, have your case dismissed, or win an acquittal at trial, your outcome will be very different.

Civil penalties for DWI in Texas

In addition to the criminal punishment determined by the judge, you may receive civil penalties outside the court system related to your DWI charge.

If the court determines that you have an alcohol-related problem, you could be required to attend a court-ordered alcohol rehabilitation program and/or a DWI course within 180 days of the entry of a conviction. You must pay for these courses. Failure to attend and complete these programs can lead to additional charges or penalties in addition to your original sentence.

License Suspension

Texas has an administrative process that affects anyone arrested for DWI in Texas. The Administrative License Revocation process begins 40 days after your arrest. You will receive a Notice of Suspension, which gives you 15 days to request a hearing to prevent the license suspension. If you do not request this hearing, your license will automatically be suspended, and you cannot drive. 

Also, even without a DWI conviction, your license can be suspended if you refuse to take a breath or blood alcohol test at the time of your arrest. This suspension may last up to 180 days when it is based on a test refusal. If you submit to a BAC test and the results are more than 0.08%, your license will be suspended for up to 90 days.

You may qualify for an ignition interlock device that allows you to drive after providing a breath sample that is free from any amount of alcohol. Ask your defense lawyer if you qualify and how these devices work. Of course, you will be responsible for the costs of installing and ongoing monitoring of an interlock device.

Texas Civil DWI Fee Structure

Lastly, Texas has a civil DWI fee structure where someone who is convicted of a DWI in Texas first offense must pay a $1,000 annual fee for three years for a total of $3,000. If that person receives another DWI conviction in that 36-month period the civil fee goes up to $4,500. If the driver’s BAC test results were 0.15% or more, the fee is increased to $6,000.

As you can imagine, the criminal and civil implications that follow a conviction for DWI in Texas can have a devastating impact on your life. The stigma surrounding a DWI conviction can damage your personal and professional reputation, you might lose your job if you can’t drive, and you might face serious financial pressure to comply with all court-ordered requirements.

How to Reduce the Potential Penalties Associated With a DWI First Offense in Texas

As a DWI first offender, you may have several options to avoid the serious consequences described above. To fully understand your legal options, consult a dedicated Texas DWI lawyer as soon as possible. Depending on your particular circumstances, you may be eligible to pursue one or more of these options:

Challenge the DWI Arrest

To fight your pending DWI charges, your attorney may be able to argue that the arresting officer did not have probable cause to pull you over at the very start. Your lawyer may also present evidence to show how the field sobriety tests were not properly administered or that the breathalyzer results were not accurate. 

There may be many ways to poke holes in the prosecution’s case against you. When you talk with an experienced DWI defense lawyer, they can explain the strengths of your case and build a strong defense to the State’s evidence.

Negotiate a Reduced Charge or Case Dismissal Without Entering a Conviction

If you don’t have the evidence or grounds to challenge the DWI charge in full, your defense lawyer might be able to negotiate a reasonable plea agreement with the prosecution to avoid a conviction on your criminal record. There may be several viable alternatives, depending on your attorney’s creativity and applicable Texas DWI law.

For example, the Texas Deferred Adjudication Laws allow some defendants to request deferred adjudication, a form of probation, to resolve their DWI charges. If deferred adjudication is granted by the court, the defendant enters a plea of guilty or no contest and agrees to comply with the conditions set by the judge for a specified period of time. 

If you receive deferred adjudication and successfully complete all terms as required, your DWI case is dismissed, and no conviction is entered on your record. You may also be able to seal your criminal record later so no one will know you were arrested for DWI.

Take Your Texas DWI Case to Trial

This is the riskiest alternative since no one can guarantee what a judge or jury will do at a full-blown trial. Before you decide to go to trial, it’s crucial that you discuss all potential outcomes with a seasoned DWI defense attorney to make your best decisions.

Even a first DWI offense in Texas can carry serious repercussions if not handled properly. The dedicated DWI lawyers at Fulgham Hampton Criminal Defense Attorneys understand what you’re facing, and we know how to help.

Call our team at 817-809-3039 or fill out our online contact form to speak with a knowledgeable DWI lawyer today. You can’t afford to treat a DWI first offense in Texas charge lightly. Reach out now.

Do You Have Questions About a DWI in Texas? Be Sure to Read These FAQs…

Is this your first DWI arrest? Are you worried about the consequences you might face when your DWI case is resolved? Below, we’ll answer a few frequently asked questions that you might also have. For more specific information about your particular case, reach out to an experienced DWI defense attorney today.

Is jail mandatory for a first DWI arrest in Texas? 

If you have experienced your first DWI arrest, a skilled and aggressive DWI lawyer could negotiate a resolution of your case so you can avoid jail time. 

However, your defense attorney must challenge the prosecution’s evidence, compare the police reports to the DWI videos, and establish reasonable doubt regarding the legal elements of a DWI charge, as stated under the Texas Penal Code. The more reasonable doubt that can be established by your attorney, the more leverage you will have to negotiate a favorable result for your DWI case.

How long does probation last for a first DWI in Texas? 

Under Texas law, the maximum term of probation for a first DWI in Texas is two years. However, if your defense lawyer skillfully negotiates with the prosecutor, even the worst of DWI cases may be negotiated for a much shorter term of probation than two years. 

Additionally, your DWI defense attorney can work to reduce the fines you might pay for a first DWI. Under Texas law, you can receive a fine of up to $2,000, not including court costs and probation fees.

Can a defense lawyer get a DWI dismissed in Texas? 

Although getting a DWI dismissed in Texas is possible, it is rare. Very few DWI cases are dismissed, and only for a few specific reasons. For example, a prosecutor may dismiss a DWI case after the death of a necessary witness, if there was an improper blood draw, or if the arresting police officer is subsequently arrested for a DWI offense or other felony offense. 

Although it is rare that a DWI is dismissed in Texas, there are other strategies your DWI attorney can use to achieve a similar result. If you can show that: 

  • Your DWI traffic stop was illegal, your defense lawyer can file a motion to suppress the evidence from the arrest, and the charges could be thrown out by the judge. 
  • Your blood draw was taken improperly, the test evidence is lost, or a search warrant affidavit was defective, your blood BAC evidence may be excluded. Without BAC evidence, the case may be dismissed. 
  • The Field Sobriety Tests were improperly administered, there may not be probable cause for a DWI arrest, and your criminal defense attorney may be able to file a motion challenging the arrest, which could result in your DWI being thrown out by a judge. 

These issues could lead to a much more favorable result that could also keep the DWI arrest off your criminal record. 

Does a DWI stay on your record in Texas? 

Until recently, a guilty plea to a DWI in Texas would always result in a conviction appearing on your criminal record. However, Texas DWI law now provides deferred adjudication as an alternative to straight probation under certain circumstances. 

Texas has also recently enacted DWI legislation that provides for the possibility of having a non-disclosure of all records if you resolve a first DWI case under a probation sentence. 

However, the rules for removing a DWI from your criminal record are complicated and require the attention of an experienced DWI lawyer who regularly handles these matters. For example, depending upon how you resolve your DWI case, there may be a two-year or five-year waiting period before you will be eligible to request a non-disclosure for a DWI case.

How long does a DWI case take in Texas? 

Each county in Texas has different procedures for handling DWI cases. Generally, larger counties in Texas have more cases and more crowded dockets. As a result, it can take significantly longer to resolve a DWI case in a large county than in a smaller county. 

For example, in Tarrant County, there are many pending DWI cases in the county criminal courts. The average timeframe to resolve a misdemeanor DWI in Tarrant County can range from six months to one year. On rare occasions, a DWI case can take up to two years to reach a favorable result. 

If you are charged with a felony DWI in Tarrant County, Texas, it is common that it could take 12 months to 18 months to resolve your case through the court system. This further emphasizes the importance of having an aggressive DWI attorney willing to push the prosecutor as far as necessary to ensure you receive a favorable result as quickly as possible.

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