Though driving while intoxicated (DWI) is a fairly common offense, the punishments can be significant. A single mistake can alter a person’s entire future, especially if they are underage or are just entering the workforce. Regardless of your circumstances, it is important to understand what you are facing if you have been arrested for a DWI.
The charges and punishments for a DWI vary depending on the unique circumstances of your situation. You will face harsher punishments if your offense was particularly egregious or if you have several prior convictions on your record. You also can be charged with a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the details of the offense, making DWIs a “wobbler” charge.
Whether you are facing a DWI charge, have one on your record, or want to be informed about your responsibilities as a driver, it is essential to understand the details of DWI charges in Texas. Our firm is passionate about providing reliable, comprehensive information to empower our clients to make informed decisions about their cases. You can trust us to provide you with a reliable Houston DWI lawyer.
In most cases, DWI charges are misdemeanors. If you are facing your first or second charge, are not too far above the legal limit, and do not harm anyone, it is unlikely that you will be charged with a felony. However, being a first-time offender does not necessarily exempt you from felony charges.
A person will be charged with a felony DWI if:
In most other scenarios, offenders face simple misdemeanor charges. However, misdemeanors can still result in serious consequences.
The judge assigned to your case will assign punishments that are based on your personal situation. However, the court does follow some standards for DWI punishments, and it is important to know them.
For a first-time DWI, you face a potential sentence of three days to six months in a county jail. It is possible for a judge to allow alternative sentencing, such as community service for a first-time offender without aggravating circumstances. The fine for a first DUI is $3,000, which is much higher than in many other states. A first-time offender also faces suspension of their driver’s license for between 90 days and one year.
Second DWI offenses warrant between 30 days and one year in a Texas county jail. A judge may still opt for alternative sentencing for a second DWI without aggravating factors. A second DWI offender can expect to pay $4,500 in fines and have their license suspended between 180 days and two years.
A third DWI offense becomes a felony, which can result in between two days and ten years in a state prison rather than a county jail. There are no alternative sentencing options for third-time DWIs. The fines for third-time offenses spike to $10,000, and they accompany a license suspension between 180 days and two years.
For a fourth DWI, you will be charged with a fine of up to $20,000, and you can be incarcerated in a federal prison for up to 20 years. Similar charges will occur if you seriously harm or kill someone, regardless of the number of offenses on your record.
Texas is constantly updating its laws. DWI laws for 2023 involve increased fines for offenders, which is significant as Texas already has some of the highest DWI fines in the country. The state also added the potential for an ignition interlock device (IID) for DWI offenders. These machines will prevent a driver from starting their car if they have any alcohol in their system.
A DWI is a “wobbler” offense, so it can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony based on the unique circumstances of the case. A DWI will be charged as a felony if the offender has three or more DWIs on their record, killed or injured someone, had a blood alcohol concentration of .15% or higher, or had a child under 15 years of age in the car at the time. Most other DWIs are considered misdemeanors.
In some circumstances, you may be able to get your DWI expunged from your record. However, unlike some states, your DWI will not automatically “fall off” your record after a certain amount of time. If you wish to have it removed, you must petition to have your offense expunged or removed and have no other convictions on your record since the DWI charge. It is important to navigate this process with a DWI lawyer if you choose to explore it.
No, not generally. First-time DWI offenders do face possible jail time, but a judge may opt for alternative sentencing or other options. If the first-time offender seriously harmed or killed someone or has other aggravating factors in their situation, the judge may be required to assign jail time. However, in most cases, a first-time DWI does not automatically mean the offender will go to jail.
For many years, our team has been protecting the rights of those who have been accused or falsely accused of criminal activity. Regardless of what you have or have not done, we believe that everyone deserves reliable, high-quality criminal defense legal care. Our team has the privilege of fighting for our clients’ rights and ensuring the legal system works to protect everyone, not just a select few. We can help you to navigate your DWI case, regardless of the circumstances or challenges you may face.
For more information or to schedule a consultation, contact the Law Office of Joseph Ruiz, PLLC.