Courts in Texas take DUI and DWI laws seriously because drunk drivers can cause harm to others. Texas had the highest number of fatal drunk driving accidents in 2016, which totaled over 1,400 and made up 38.1% of accidents. Texas applies the term DWI, or driving while under the influence, to driving impaired by alcohol.
Basics of DWI
Statistics show that alcohol-related accidents happen every 20 minutes in Texas. Most states set the BAC level at 0.08 for drivers and lower for teens and commercial drivers. State law considers drivers who cannot operate a vehicle normally intoxicated, even if the driver has a BAC lower than 0.08.
The law commonly reserves DUI charges for drivers under 21 regardless of BAC level, which falls under “zero tolerance” laws. A driver may also be charged with DWI even if they are not actively driving, which is known as operating under the influence.
Penalties for DWI
When an officer stops a driver, they may give them a breath test, an apparatus that measures BAC using the driver’s breath. The driver cannot legally refuse the test under implied consent laws, or they face a possible 180-day license suspension.
A first DWI for a BAC of 0.08 commonly counts as a Class B misdemeanor with possible penalties of 72 hours to 120 days in jail, a $2,000 fine or both, and a 90-day to 12-month license suspension. Other penalties may include community service, DWI education and interlocking devices, which measures a driver’s BAC before they start the vehicle.
A BAC of 0.15 or more counts as a Class A misdemeanor with penalties of a $4,000 fine and up to one year in jail. Penalties increase for each DWI offense as well as factors like being charged with a felony, getting caught near a school or having a minor child in the vehicle.
DWI charges can impact a driver’s independence and follow them around for years. With an experienced defense attorney, an individual may be able to get the charges reduced or dismissed.