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The Law on DWI in Texas

In Texas, a person is legally intoxicated and may be arrested and charged with DWI with a .08 BAC (blood or breath alcohol concentration). However, a person is also intoxicated if impaired due to alcohol or other drugs regardless of BAC. Whether you’re the driver or the passenger, you can be fined up to $500 for having an open alcohol container in a vehicle.

DWI with a Child Passenger
You can be charged with child endangerment for driving while intoxicated if you’re carrying passengers younger than 15 years old. DWI with a child passenger is punishable by:

  • a fine of up to $10,000,
  • up to two years in a state jail, and
  • loss of your driver license for 180 days.

What Happens if You’re Stopped ?
If you’re stopped, be ready to show your driver license, proof of insurance and vehicle registration. If you refuse to take a blood or breath test, your driver license will be automatically suspended for 180 days.

Punishment for DWI varies depending on the number of convictions:

First Offense 
A fine of up to $2,000
Three days to 180 days in jail
Loss of driver license up to a year
Annual fee of $1,000 or $2,000 for three years to retain driver license

Second Offense*
A fine of up to $4,000
One month to a year in jail
Loss of driver license up to two years
Annual fee of $1,000, $1,500 or $2,000 for three years to retain driver license

Third Offense*
A $10,000 fine
Two to 10 years in prison
Loss of driver license up to two years
Annual fee of $1,000, $1,500, or $2,000 for three years to retain driver license

*After two or more DWI convictions in five years, you must install a special ignition switch that prevents your vehicle from being operated if you’ve been drinking.

What Happens When You Get Stopped for Drunk Driving?
Getting stopped for drunk driving (commonly referred to as “dwi” – driving while intoxicated or “dui” – driving under the influence) is a serious offense and can have different consequences depending upon where you live. All 50 states have per se laws defining it as a crime to drive with a blood alcohol content (BAC) level at or above 0.08 percent. However, some states have enacted zero tolerance laws that lower that level for underage drivers and high BAC laws that impose harsher penalties for those caught with levels of .16 to .20. Getting stopped. When you’re stopped for drunk driving (or for something else and a police officer has reason to believe you’ve been drinking), you will generally be required to take a sobriety test (blood, breath or urine) to determine your BAC level. Most states have implied consent laws which means that you must comply with a test or face fines and/or license suspension – sometimes right on the spot – for refusing to take the test.

What happens next?

If you refuse the test or are found to have a BAC over the state limit, chances are you’ll be taken into custody and brought to a police station where you’ll be held until someone can pick you up. In addition, your license may be temporarily suspended and your vehicle may be impounded for a period of time after the incident.

Going to court. Aside from a possible administrative hearing that reviews the circumstances surrounding your arrest, you must generally go to court where a judge will decide your fate. In many cases, it is strictly based on your blood alcohol level or refusal to submit to a breath test.

If you’re found guilty, most courts will:

  • – impose fines (and some add on an additional driver responsibility tax)
  • – suspend or revoke your license
  • – require participation in a drunk driver education program
  • – add points to your license (and your insurance will most likely increase)
  • – require community service work
  • – put you on parole

In addition, some judges may require you to participate in alcohol or drug treatment programs as part of a parole program or have an ignition interlock device installed on your vehicle.

Getting your license back
Some states allow for provisional, conditional, hardship or temporary licenses. This varies greatly by state, judge and circumstances and is often granted only with participation in an education program or by showing a family hardship.

More than one arrest. Nearly all states have laws that impose higher penalties and fines if you’ve already been convicted of drunk driving within the last the last 5 to 10 years.

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