What are the penalties for DWI in Texas?

The penalties for DWI in Texas are severe, far-reaching, and can have a major impact on the rest of your life.

It may seem unfair that a single mistake on the roads can impact your life decades later. However, that is the stark reality for people faced with a DWI charge.

What are the penalties for DWI in Texas?

In Texas, DWI is a criminal offense that is usually classified either as a Class A or Class B misdemeanor.

The severity of the penalties does largely depend on the circumstances of the DWI charge and the number of previous convictions, though.

Where there are repeated DWI offenses or bodily harm or death is caused to another person, the offense will be treated as a felony, which means that the penalties are even more severe.

Penalties for first-time DWI offenses

Most people facing a first-time DWI charge don’t know what to expect. 

The law is more lenient in these cases (Class B misdemeanor) but the consequences can still be severe.

According to the laws of the state of Texas, the penalties for a first-time offense for adults are:

  • A fine of up to $2,000
  • Three days to 180 days in county jail
  • Loss of driver’s license for up to a year
  • An annual fee of $1,000 or $2,000 for three years to retain the driver’s license

However, it’s not quite as simple as this.

In cases where the Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) is at or over .15 (as opposed to the standard .08 in a Class B misdemeanor), the offense is treated as a Class A misdemeanor.

The penalties then include:

  • A fine of up to $4,000 
  • Three days to 365 days in county jail
  • Loss of driver’s license for up to a year

Penalties for second DWI offenses

The penalties in Texas for a second DWI offense (Class A misdemeanor) are:

  • A fine of up to $4,000
  • One month to a year in county jail
  • Loss of driver’s license for up to two years
  • An annual fee of $1,000, $1,500 or $2,000 for three years to retain driver license

If you receive two or more DWI convictions in five years, you will be forced to install a special ignition switch in your vehicle. This prevents it from being operated if you’ve been drinking.

Penalties for other types of DWI offenses

Penalties escalate further in the case of third offenses or those involving bodily harm or death to another person. 

These offenses are usually considered felonies or enhanced felonies in the state of Texas.

Penalties include:

  • A fine up to $10,000
  • Jail time of two to 20 years with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ)
  • Loss of driver’s license for up to two years

There are other penalties mandated for DWI offenses where a child under the age of 15 is present in the vehicle.

This is considered a state jail felony and penalties may include:

  • A fine up to $10,000
  • Jail time of six months to two years in a state jail facility
  • Loss of license from 90 days to two years

Longer-term consequences of a conviction

As well as possible jail time, the immediate fines, and the loss of your license from a DWI conviction, there are potentially severe longer-term consequences that will last for the rest of your life.

Some of these include:

  • A negative impact on your career prospects
  • Restriction of job type you can apply for 
  • Reduced ability to earn income
  • A negative impact on your insurance premiums
  • An effect on your immigration status, if you’re not a U.S. citizen

In many cases, the longer-term negative impact on your life is harsher than the initial penalties you face from a DWI conviction in Texas.

The bottom line? If you’re faced with a DWI charge in Texas, fight it or face these consequences.

For more information, please refer to our DWI Consequences page.

What is your best chance of escaping DWI penalties?

A DWI charge is clearly serious and potentially life-altering.

With such severe penalties for DWI in Texas, the first thing you should do if you’re faced with charges is to hire an experienced lawyer who is familiar with defending DWI cases in your local area.

Remember that you’re innocent until proven guilty.

A good lawyer will carefully assess your case and examine all the evidence against you. They will look for ways to get the charges against you dismissed.

A case dismissal would mean that the harsh penalties never affect you and all details will be expunged from your legal record.

Even if the evidence against you appears to be compelling, law enforcement officers frequently make mistakes when gathering evidence and forming a DWI case. Your lawyer will look for cracks in their argument against you.

If their evidence is insufficient, inconsistent, or flawed, your case should be dismissed.

I’m an experienced DWI attorney based in San Antonio.

If you’re facing a DWI charge in Texas, call or text 210-920-1281 today for a free case evaluation with me or complete our online contact form.

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    Successful Cases

    CHARGES DISMISSED

    DRIVING WHILE INTOXICATED .15

    Driving facts involved failing to maintain a single lane and speeding. Client refused breath test and forced law enforcement to obtain search warrant for blood. Blood test result was not used after challenge from Defense, and State waived and abandoned charge.

    CHARGES DISMISSED

    DRIVING UNDER THE INFLUENCE

    Client was a college student, worried about the collateral consequences of an alcohol offense. After negotiation and review of the traffic stop, the case was dismissed. Client received no criminal conviction. The charge was later expunged and deleted from client’s record.

    CHARGES DISMISSED

    DRIVING WHILE INTOXICATED .15+

    Client was involved in minor accident. Client was at fault in accident. A young executive, client was concerned that a criminal conviction for DWI would result in termination. After review of the traffic stop, it was clear the officer lacked probable cause for arrest. State eventually dismissed DWI charge. Client received no criminal conviction.

    CHARGES DISMISSED

    DWI 2nd

    Client, a military veteran, was facing up to one year in jail. State could not prove intoxication by alcohol, and was prepared to proceed on loss of use by marijuana. After challenging the State to prove that marijuana was ingested at or near time of driving, and that marijuana impaired client’s driving, the State dismissed the case on the day of trial.

    CHARGES DISMISSED

    DRIVING UNDER THE INFLUENCE

    Driving facts involved a false claim by police that taillight was out. After challenging the reasonable suspicion for the traffic stop, the State was forced to dismiss the case when video did not match police report. Client has since expunged arrest, and has no criminal record.

    CHARGES DISMISSED

    DRIVING UNDER THE INFLUENCE

    Client is a public school teacher and faced immediate termination upon conviction. The facts of the case were bad. State was unwilling to budge in negotiation, and matter was set for trial – the last shot at avoiding a conviction and preserving client’s livelihood. State was forced to dismiss on day of trial. Client has no criminal record, and has since expunged the DWI arrest.

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