As a Texas resident, you should be aware that the Lone Star State has some of the harshest drunk driving penalties in the nation, ranking 13th overall.
This information comes from a new report by WalletHub, which finds that, while Texas ranks behind other conservative states such as Arizona, Oklahoma, and Kansas, our drunk driving penalties are still quite severe.
This means that you should exercise an abundance of caution when drinking, and make arrangements beforehand when you’re headed out for a night of carousing with friends.
However, sometimes things happen despite your best efforts. A DWI conviction can be life-changing, with severe penalties, long probationary periods and a criminal record that can affect employment and housing applications. If you are facing a drunk driving charge, be proactive early in the process by consulting a Fort Worth DWI attorney with a proven track record of success.
How Texas Measures Up to Other States in Terms of Intoxicated Driving
Why are our penalties so serious? Perhaps they are meant to serve as a deterrent to alleviate a very real problem in our state. We have:
- The 14th-highest rate of alcohol-impaired driving in the nation.
- The 15th highest drunk driving fatalities per capita.
- More drunk driving fatalities than any other state in the nation, with nearly 1000 fatalities (and many more injuries) occurring annually due to drunk driving.
In fact, 40% of all traffic fatalities in Texas are alcohol-related.
So, What Exactly Are the DWI penalties in Texas?
Most states, Texas included, can automatically suspend the license of someone arrested for a DUI, prior to any court date. Further, 88% of states require offenders to equip their vehicles with ignition interlock devices after a DUI, which is both costly and embarrassing when carrying other passengers.
However, in Texas – and only four other states – a DUI conviction remains on your criminal record for life, permanently affecting employment prospects, and imposing potential restrictions on car insurance or rental. This is perhaps one of the most severe consequences of drunk driving in Texas, as a single lapse of judgement can have lifelong consequences.
The severity of offense level and sentencing for a Texas DWI conviction depends upon a number of factors, including prior offenses, blood alcohol content at the time of the arrest, whether the incident resulted in an accident, injury or fatality, and whether children were present in the vehicle.
In Texas, your first DWI offense is charged as a Class B Misdemeanor, with a fine of up to $2000 and jail time ranging from 72 hours to 180 days. Your license will be suspended 90-365 days, after which you will have a mandatory ignition interlock device installed in your vehicle and face a long probationary period. Also, as mentioned above, the conviction will remain on your criminal record for life.
If you have an open container present in your vehicle at the time of the arrest, you will be sentenced to 6-180 days in the county jail in addition to the above.
If your blood alcohol concentration meets or exceeds 0.15, your charge is upgraded to a Class A misdemeanor, and you may be fined up to $4000 and face up to one year in the county jail.
A second DWI conviction is charged as a Class A Misdemeanor, with increased fines of up to $4000, 30-365 days in jail, and license suspension of 180 days-2 years.
A third DWI conviction may be charged as a 3rd degree felony, and carries much more severe consequences. A third offense is subject to increased penalties, such as a fine of up to $10000, 2-10 years imprisonment in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ), and license suspension of 180 days to two years.
Third or more DWI with prior TDCJ imprisonment
If you are facing your third or higher DWI conviction with one prior TDCJ imprisonment, you may be charged with a 2nd degree felony, and face 2-20 years TDCJ imprisonment.
If you have previously been imprisoned twice by the TDCJ, you are subject to enhanced felony punishment and may face 25 years to life imprisonment in the TDCJ. Life sentences are rare, but can and do happen.
If you cause serious bodily injury to another party while driving under the influence, this is considered to be intoxication assault, which is charged as a 3rd degree felony, even as a first DWI offense. This carries a possible jail sentence of 2-10 years in the TDCJ, and license suspension of 180 days to two years.
If driving under the influence results in the death of another, this may be charged as intoxication manslaughter, which is a 2nd degree felony. You will face a fine of up to $10000, 2-10 years imprisonment in the TDCJ, and license suspension of 180 days to two years.
DWI with child passenger
If you have a child passenger younger than 15 years, you will be charged with a state jail felony, and may be sentenced to 6 months to two years in a State Jail Facility. You also face a fine of up to $10000 and license suspension of 90 days to two years.
Don’t take your charges lightly. Fight back by retaining an experienced Texas DWI lawyer as soon as possible.
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, making sure they receive the strongest possible defense when they find themselves on the wrong side of the law. He has been recognized for his work by The National Trial Lawyers, Fort Worth Magazine, and others.