Driving While Intoxicated (DWI)
The first item to clear up is that most states call this offense a DUI. DUI in Texas pertains to minors that have some trace of alcohol in their system but not enough to be arrested for Driving While Intoxicated. For example, a 20 year old is stopped and the officer smells alcohol on his breath. He finds the young man is not over the legal limit and charges him with DUI. If that person had been tested and had a blood alcohol level of .08 or above, he would be charged with the more serious offense of DWI.
If you receive a DWI it is important to contact an attorney no more than 2 or 3 days after the arrest. The reason for that, among other things, is that if you want a chance to keep your license from being suspended as a result of failing or refusing a blood or breath test, you must request a hearing to try to keep that from occurring. This hearing is termed an ALR hearing and that stands for Administrative License Revocation hearing. If the request for the hearing is not made timely, your license will surely be suspended. And this suspension is even before you go to court to address the DWI itself. The good news is that if your license is suspended we may be able to get you an occupational license to allow you to legally drive while your regular license is suspended. Call us and we can discuss that possibility.
As discussed below, a DWI offense can have a drastic effect on your life if not handled properly. After reading the below paragraphs, I am sure you will agree with me.
DWI has several levels of severity
- A DWI 1st is a class B misdemeanor if the blood alcohol level is between .08 and less then .15 and carries, among other things, up to 6 months in jail and a $2000 fine among many other unpleasantries. This offense will be covered more in detail in a later section.
- A DWI 1st is a class A misdemeanor if the blood alcohol is .15 or greater and carries, among other things, up to a year in jail and up to $4000 fine. On top of this, it is mandatory that you install an ignition interlock on your car while you are waiting to conclude your case and while you are on probation, if that occurs. This will be covered more in detail in a later section.
- A DWI 2nd is a class A misdemeanor and for all practical purposes is like a DWI 1st with a blood alcohol level of .15 or above. It may not always necessitate the installation of the ignition interlock device.
- A DWI 3rd is a third degree felony and carries from 2 to 10 years in the penitentiary. The 2 DWI's used to charge you with a DWI 3rd can be ones you picked up many years ago; maybe one that you picked up 25 years ago.
- A DWI 3rd with prior penitentiary time (the prior pen time can be for a DWI 3rd or some other felony) may cause the case to be enhanced up to a higher degree of punishment. If 2 consecutive prior trips to the pen, you may be looking at a minimum of 25 years.
- A DWI with a child under 15 years old, even for a first DWI, is a state jail felony and can carry from 6 months up to24 months in a state jail facility and up to a $10,000 fine.
- If an accident occurs while DWI and someone is killed, the driver can be charged with intoxication manslaughter, which is a second degree felony carrying 2 to 20 years in the pen. If someone is injured, the charge would be intoxication assault and is a third degree felony carrying 2 to 10 years in the pen.
Needless to say, if you are charged with a DWI at any level, call an attorney that is knowledgeable and experienced in the area. My firm has handled numerous, in the hundreds, DWI cases and know the ins and outs of working these cases. Call us at 972-722-0887 or text us at 972-814-7318 to setup a free phone consultation.
Driving While Intoxicated First Offense
If you have never had a prior DWI offense in this state or any other you will be charged with DWI 1st at the class B level if you are stopped and found to have a blood alcohol level of .08 or above and less than .15. If the blood alcohol level is .15 or greater, the charge is raised to a class A misdemeanor. The following possible penalties and consequences may occur:
- Up to 6 months in the county jail (12 months if a class A misdemeanor);Up to a $2000 fine ($4000 if a class A misdemeanor);
- If probation, up to 24 months (plus $60 each month to the probation officer);
- If probation, probably around 40 hours of community service;
- If probation, several courses which you have to pay for;
- Up to a one year driver's license suspension in addition to the ALR suspension;
- If you tested .15 or above on the breath or blood test, you will be required to install at your expense the ignition interlock device (around $150 to install and $50 monthly to keep on your car) during the period that you are on probation.
- If convicted and not put on probation, you may be subject to a "superfine" of $3000 over the regular fine which can be up to $2000.
- In addition, if you have a CDL license, it will be disqualified for one year.
- Lastly, your insurance rates will increase significantly for two or three years.
Needless to say at this point, getting a DWI can be very expensive. However, another way to look at it is if you had an accident and someone was hurt while DWI, you could be charged with Intoxication Assault. If someone was killed the charge would be Intoxication manslaughter.
The above being said, probably around 95% of DWI cases end up being plea bargained out. In case you are not familiar with that term, it means you plead guilty or no contest in return for an acceptable deal from the prosecutor.
Most people end up getting probation for a year to two years (2 max), a fine of about $800 and court costs of about $450, have to do some courses while on probation, report once a month to a probation officer, and be subject to random drug analysis. Not all that bad but enough to think serious about going to trial.
If a DWI 1st case is taken to trial and you lose, you will most likely still end up getting probation if you wish. If you win, then it all goes away and you can get the record expunged and every trace removed from the record. The cost of going to trial for a DWI 1st varies from attorney to attorney. It can cost from around $1000 up to $10,000 according to who you get and the complexities of your trial. Most charge around $5000 to $9000.
If you add up all the costs of what you pay if you plea bargain the case out, $5000 to $9000 is not a bad gamble.
Please also note that the legislature passed laws in the past few sessions allowing DWI convictions to be sealed and, in some cases, given deferred adjudication, which can be sealed quicker than a conviction. See section on sealing and expunging records for more information.
If you wish to read the law of this offense you can link to:
Driving While Intoxicated above the level of DWI 1st
As pointed out above, there are several levels of DWI's above a DWI 1st. This includes DWI 2nd, DWI 3rd or more, DWI with child, Intoxication assault, and intoxication manslaughter. Some can be very serious offenses and can have a devastating effect on your life. I could go on for many pages discussing these. If you have been charged with one of these, it is strongly suggested that you contact an attorney quickly and discuss your options. Feel free to call us at 972-722-0887 or text us at 972-814-7318 to setup a free phone consultation.