Driving while intoxicated (DWI) is a crime in Texas. DWI is punishable by a range of sentencing possibilities. The penalties depend upon whether the crime is charged as a misdemeanor or felony. The nature of the charges will depend upon the severity of the incident, whether there were previous convictions for DWI, or whether there were additional aggravating factors that allow the judge to “enhance” the offender’s sentence after a conviction. Both misdemeanors and felonies are further broken down by class, with each class having its own range of penalties.
The most common crime residents encounter is a first offense DWI. A first offense DWI is a “Class B Misdemeanor”. A Class B Misdemeanor is punishable by a fine not to exceed $2,000.00, a term in jail not to exceed 180 days, or both, with a minimum jail sentence of 72 hours. The minimum sentence increases to six days if there is an open container of alcohol in the vehicle. A defendant is eligible for probation in lieu of a jail sentence; however, the defendant must successfully complete a driver’s education class and perform community service. Additionally, there is a mandatory license loss for 90 to 365 days. A judge is required to compel the defendant to install an ignition interlock device for any conviction if the defendant’s blood alcohol content (BAC) exceeds .15. A driver whose BAC exceeds 0.15 will be guilty of a Class A Misdemeanor, subject to the penalties discussed for Second Offense DWI below.
A conviction for second offense DWI carries with it an enhanced penalty. There is no lookback provision in Texas, meaning there is no time limit between convictions. A defendant charged with second offense DWI will face pre-trial administrative penalties of license loss for one year. If convicted, the defendant will be guilty of a “Class A Misdemeanor”. A Class A Misdemeanor conviction for Second Offense DWI carries a maximum jail sentence of one year and a minimum jail sentence of 30 days. A fine not to exceed $4,000.00 may also be imposed. A defendant may receive probation and be compelled to attend a repeat offender’s class at DWI school.
A conviction upon a third offense DWI is a 3rd degree felony. Third degree felonies are punishable by a term of 2 to 10 years in the state penitentiary. A fine of $10,000.00 may also be imposed. The defendant’s driver’s license will also be suspended for 180 days to 2 years. Pre-trial administrative license loss may also be imposed.
Intoxicated Manslaughter, Intoxicated Driving with a Child Passenger, and Intoxication Assault are crimes commonly charged in Texas. Intoxication Manslaughter is a Second Degree felony. The penalty is 2 to 20 years incarceration in the state penitentiary but a defendant may receive probation. Intoxicated Driving with a Child Passenger is a felony punishable by incarceration in the state jail for not less than 180 days, not to exceed 2 years. Intoxicated assault is a 3rd degree felony, punishable by a term of 2 to 10 years in the state penitentiary.
The Texas Department of Public Safety can impose administrative penalties in addition to the criminal penalties after a conviction The Department of Public Safety may impose a surcharge between $1,000.00 to $2,000.00 per year for three years to keep your driver’s license.