Many states call drunk driving DUI, but Texas calls it “DWI”: driving while intoxicated. Penalties are stiff for a first offense and even stiffer for multiple offenses.
Texas DWI laws overview
A Texas driver who registers a blood alcohol content level above .08 on drugs or alcohol may get a DUI. The BAC limit is even lower for commercial drivers at .04, and drivers under 21 can not register any amount.
Many officers conduct field tests, such as the one-leg-stand, then administer a breathalyzer to measure BAC. Drivers are considered impaired regardless of BAC levels if they indicate a lack of physical and mental abilities. A driver can get a DUI, even if they are not driving, if the officer determines they have physical control of a vehicle.
Penalties for first and multiple offenses
A first DWI offense in Texas includes penalties of up to 180-days of jail, one-year license suspension and a $2,000 fine. Texas does not have a look-back period for repeat offenses, so how long ago a previous offense was won’t matter. The penalties increase for each conviction, and the defendant could face life in prison after multiple offenses.
A second DWI conviction carries penalties of up to a one-year license suspension, one-year jail term and a $4,000 fine. A third offense carries penalties of up to ten years of jail, two-year license suspension, and a $10,000 fine.
After a second offense, the driver must install an ignition interlock device, which measures BAC before the vehicle starts, for one year. Enhanced penalties often apply if a minor was in the vehicle, refusal to take chemical testing, or a high BAC.
The consequences for DWI can remain long after the sentence is complete. Drivers often must pay higher insurance rates and surcharges to keep their licenses. In some cases, the defense could work a plea to get the charges reduced to a wet reckless.