The state of Texas takes DWI charges seriously. The financial penalties are severe, even if you are a first-time DWI offender. Despite DWIs being the most commonly committed crimes, they are often committed by citizens who have never been in legal trouble before. Make no mistake: If you are charged with a DWI in Texas, you will be treated and prosecuted like a criminal, even if it is your first criminal charge ever. Familiarizing yourself with Texas DWI laws and procedures can help you know what you are up against.
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Understanding First Offense DWI Charges in Texas
In Texas, a first-time DWI is classified as a Class B misdemeanor. If you are convicted, you will face a fine of up to $2,000 and up to 180 days in county jail. However, this is only the minimum charge that can be brought against you. If there are other aggravating factors in your case, the prosecutor may try to bring harsher charges against you. Texas DWI law is nuanced and can become complex quickly.
It is important you understand what crimes are being charged with and the penalties associated with that crime before making any decisions. For example, if any of the following factors are involved in your case, you could face enhanced penalties, fees, and jail time.
BAC of .15% or Higher
If you submitted a breath or blood test and the results returned with a blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) of .15 or over, your charge will be escalated to a Class A Misdemeanor. In Texas, a class A misdemeanor is more serious than a Class B misdemeanor. Class A misdemeanors carry a fine of up to $4,000 and the possibility of up to a year in county jail. If you are convicted of a Class A misdemeanor DWI, you may have to submit to installing an ignition interlock device on your vehicle. You will need to pass a breathalyzer test by blowing into this device before your car engine will turn on.
DWI With a Passenger Under 15
Additionally, the penalties will escalate if you are pulled over and arrested for a DWI with a minor in the car. Even if you are charged with a DWI with your child in the vehicle, your charges will escalate to a felony. You will be facing a fine of up to $10,000 and a jail sentence between 180 days to two years in state jail.
If you cause a collision or otherwise seriously injure someone else while driving under the influence of alcohol, you will face third-degree felony charges. These are serious charges that carry a jail sentence between two and 10 years and a fine of up to $10,000.
Finally, if someone dies due to your intoxicated driving, you will face second-degree felony charges for intoxication manslaughter. These charges are punishable by two to 20 years in state prison. You will also face a fine of up to $10,000.
What Happens If You are Convicted of a First Time DWI?
If you are convicted of a first-time DWI without any enhanced factors, as mentioned above, you will probably spend a mandatory three days in county jail. Your lawyer may be able to persuade the judge to give you community supervision instead of jail time. As a result, you would need to be sentenced to some form of community service.
The judge may require other types of conditions for your sentencing. For example, you may be required to complete a state-approved rehabilitation program. If the court determines that you have a problem with alcoholism, you may need to go through a full rehabilitation program. Typically, you will have to attend and pay for a DWI school, a 12-hour class you need to take within 180 days of probation. If you fail the DWI course, your license will be revoked until you finish it.
Civil Consequences for a First-Time DWI Charge
The civil consequences for a first-time DWI conviction in Texas can be the most impactful on your life. If you are convicted of a first-time DWI, your driver’s license may be suspended. Many people do not realize that their driver’s license could still be suspended even if they are not convicted of DWI.
For example, if you refuse to take a blood or breathalyzer test at the scene, your driver’s license could be suspended for up to 180 days. If the results of your blood breathalyzer tests are above .08%, Your driver’s license can be suspended for up to 90 days. Texas has implied consent laws that state that drivers automatically consent to drunk driving tests when they drive on the roads. By refusing the test, you could have your license automatically suspended.
Administrative License Revocation (ALR)
After you have been charged with a DWI, you will receive a notice of suspension. Once you receive that notice, you will have only 15 days to request a hearing. At the hearing, you will be able to request that the agency does not revoke your driver’s license. If you do not request a hearing, an administrative revocation of your driver’s license will begin 40 days after you receive the notice.
If you would like to get your driver’s license privileges back, you must pay a reinstatement fee of $125. You will also need to pay a DWI surcharge to the Texas Department of Transportation. If you are convicted of a DWI as a first-time offender, you will need to pay an annual $1,000 fee for three consecutive years.