There is a lot of misinformation floating around online and in popular media about what happens when someone gets arrested for driving while intoxicated (DWI). Each state has its own approach and its own unique penalties, although driving while impaired by alcohol or drugs remains illegal regardless of which state someone is in at the time of their arrest.
All those different laws and penalties contribute to the confusion people feel when they wind up facing charges. In Texas, the penalties you face after an arrest for a DWI will vary based on the circumstances at the time of the arrest and your previous criminal and driving history.
If this is your first DWI offense, you will face lesser penalties than those with previous convictions. Knowing those penalties can help you make more informed decisions about your defense strategy.
What factors change the penalties you face?
If you get stopped for an alleged DWI with a passenger in your vehicle under the age of 15, you will face increased penalties, which include a fine of up to $10,000 and up to two years in jail. Anyone who causes a crash that results in injury or property damage will face aggravated DWI charges, as will those who turn out to have a very high blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.15% or more.
Those who get caught with open bottles of alcohol in their vehicle or alcohol in cups or bottles can face an additional fine for having an open intoxicant.
Potential penalties include fines, jail time and the loss of your license
If police establish that your BAC is 0.08% or higher or if you fail a field sobriety test, you could find yourself arrested for a DWI and facing criminal charges. If you plead guilty or get convicted to a first-time DWI, you could face a fine of up to $2,000 and anywhere between three and 180 days in jail.
Additionally, you will lose your license for three years and have to pay an annual fee to retain your license after that. The fee could be either $1,000 or $2,000. You will also have to deal with the impact of your conviction and loss of license on your professional and personal life, to say nothing of how the criminal record could impact your career and educational prospects.
Even those facing first-time DWI offenses may find that defending against the charges is their best option in order to avoid the negative impacts of a DWI on their life.