Navigate Your First DWI in Texas with a DWI Lawyer
In the state of Texas, drinking and driving is a serious offense. With a DWI in Texas, you face severe penalties regardless of whether it’s your first, second, or third DWI. Your first DWI in Texas is a class B or A misdemeanor. If the court convicts you, it can cost you thousands of dollars in fines and up to one year in the county jail. However, these are still the lesser of the punishments you could face when your situation is more complex.
A Houston DWI defense attorney can help you navigate the proceedings and advocate to reduce or dismiss your charges.
Houston’s Rise of DWI Cases
As Texas began to reopen earlier this summer, we saw an increase in DWI cases in Texas. According to the Harris County District Attorney’s Office, 278 people were charged with DWI over the course of the Memorial Holiday weekend. This is just 43 cases fewer than the same long weekend in 2019.
“As things began to open up and restrictions ease, you saw a gradual increase (in DWIs),” Sean Teare, head of the Vehicular Crimes Division of the Harris County DA’s Office was quoted saying. “We’re in the middle of a pandemic, we have bars and restaurants open at 25 percent capacity, and we see no drops as in years past. My concern is as we open up, you’re going to see more people try to make up for a lost time, so to speak.”
Typically, when the police arrest someone for a crime in Texas, they don’t receive any penalties until they receive a conviction from the court. However, this is not true for drunk driving in Texas.
A first-time DWI offender is likely to face administrative penalties before they go to court. Should they go to court and receive a conviction, they may face criminal penalties.
Your First Penalty: Suspension of Your License
When you fail or refuse to take a chemical test, Texas law allows the officer to seize your license. Then, you receive a “Notice of Suspension” from them. This notice allows you to drive, functioning as a temporary driving permit.
You have 15 days to request a hearing to save your license. Otherwise, you can continue to drive on the temporary permit for 40 days. However, it is important to know that when you do not contest the decision, your license will be automatically suspended anywhere from 90-180 days.
The good news is that if your driving privileges get suspended, you can apply for an occupational license. This license restricts all your driving privileges except the allowance to drive to school, work, and essential locations.
To obtain an occupational license, you must agree to an ignition interlock device and provide evidence of an SR-22.
The Second Penalty: Potential Criminal Penalties
Oftentimes, a first conviction is a class B misdemeanor. There are exceptions to this, though, which include a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .15 percent. The legal limit in Texas is .08 percent. When you hit or exceed .15 percent, it becomes a class A misdemeanor.
Upon conviction of a DWI in Texas, you receive a fine, a jail sentence, or both. The maximum penalties are $2,000 for class B and $4,000 for class A. Your potential jail sentence could range from 72 hours to 6 months (or a year for class A).
These fines and sentences are standard. However, even for a first-time DWI in Texas, there’s more.
- DWI Education
- Community Service
- Further License Suspension
When the suspension of your license ends, you may also have to pay an annual surcharge for three years. This surcharge is often between $1,000 and $2,000.
Potential Additional Penalties for DWI in Texas
While the penalties above cover the DWI in Texas, the situation may call for additional penalties. For instance, when you are caught drunk driving with a minor in the car, you face escalated penalties. DWI with someone under 15 in the vehicle is a felony, and your fine can increase up to $10,000. You may also face up to two years of State jail time.
If you get in an accident where someone dies, the charge can include Intoxication Manslaughter, which is a second-degree felony. This crime can give an offender 2-20 years in the Texas Department of Corrections
Examples of DWI Defense Plans
While a DWI in Texas is incredibly serious, you have legal arguments when pulled over while intoxicated but have a good reason. Oftentimes, it is not possible to argue that you weren’t intoxicated unless the tests prove it. Instead, some DWI defense plans include:
- Drove because an officer told you to
- Drove drunk out of necessity
- Was not intoxicated at the time of the arrest
In other cases, you may be able to argue a technicality.
- Improper or unlawful traffic stops
- Chain of custody issues for blood tests
- Inaccurate field sobriety tests
You may refuse a blood test or chemical test.
You Need a DWI Lawyer
A DWI in Texas is one of the most common crimes. Sometimes, drivers do not take DWIs as seriously as they should. However, treating them as inevitable is a mistake because the state takes them quite seriously.
Have you been arrested for a DWI in Texas? Call on our DWI defense attorneys to stay in control of what happens next.