Texas DWI Laws

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2006 Texas had 1,400 alcohol-impaired driving fatalities, which was 39.6% of all the traffic fatalities for that year. Then in 2007 there were 1,292 alcohol-impaired fatalities, which was 38.4% of all traffic fatalities that year.  In both 2006 and 2007 Texas had more alcohol related traffic fatalities than any other state.

The state of Texas has many laws that relate to drinking and driving. In Texas, the legal limit for Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) is 0.08%, but if the driver is under 21 years old any amount of alcohol is a crime.

Driving While Intoxicated

DWI stands for Driving While Intoxicated, and it refers to any type of intoxication, whether its illegal drugs, prescription drugs or alcohol. DWI can apply to both minors and adults.

Only one of the following is required to prove DWI:

  • A Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) of 0.08% or higher
  • Loss of normal mental faculties
  • Loss of normal physical faculties

Loss of faculties is determined using field sobriety tests. BAC is determined by a blood or breath test. Drivers have a right to refuse a BAC or field sobriety test, but if they do their license is automatically suspended for 180 days because of implied consent laws. Implied consent means that when someone was given a driver’s license they automatically agreed to submit to field sobriety or BAC tests.

DWI Penalties in Texas

The severity of the penalties for DWI varies based on the number of times the person has been convicted of DWI in Texas. Additionally, if a driver’s license is suspended, upon having it reinstated there is a surcharge that ranges from $1,000 to $2,000 a year for 3 years to keep their driver’s license active. The surcharge is called a Driver Responsibility Tax.

First Offense:

  • Up to $2,000 fine
  • 90 days to 1 year suspension of driver’s license
  • The possibility of 72 hours to 180 days in jail

Second Offense:

  • Up to $4,000 fine
  • 180 days to 2 years suspension of driver’s license
  • The possibility of 30 days to 1 year in jail

Third Offense:

  • Up to $10,000 fine
  • 180 days to 2 years suspension of driver’s license
  • The possibility of 2 to 10 years in jail

In some instances even a first offense can be a felony. If someone is caught drinking and driving with a passenger that is under 15 years old it is an automatic felony. Also, if a drunk driver causes an accident that results in a fatality they are charged with intoxication manslaughter which is a 2nd degree felony.

Texas has more traffic fatalities that are related to alcohol than any other state. Because of this penalties are severe for first time offenders and become greater with each subsequent conviction.

This article is for informational purposes and does not constitute legal advice. Please contact an attorney in your local area for more information about Texas DWI Law.

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