Driving while intoxicated (DWI) is a serious allegation in the state of Texas. Drivers who have been charged with a DWI or another offense related to alcohol could face severe penalties, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety. If you would like to challenge the charges or seek the most favorable outcome in your case, consider contacting an experienced Texas DWI lawyer at Jason S. English Law, PLLC, by calling (512) 454-7548 to learn more about your legal rights. When a driver is charged with driving while intoxicated, there may be many unanswered questions. Therefore, the following DWI FAQ can help answer several of the most commonly asked questions regarding DWI charges in Texas.
What Is the Penalty for DWI in Texas?
According to the Texas Impaired Driving Task Force, the penalties for a DWI in Texas can vary widely depending on whether the accused is a first-time offender or if there are aggravating or mitigating factors.
Generally, the criminal penalties associated with a first-time DWI offense include:
- Fines as high as $2,000
- A one-year driver's license suspension
- Up to 180 days in a Texas county jail
Multiple DWI Convictions
If a driver has subsequent DWI convictions, the penalties may be more severe. A second DWI conviction can mean the following penalties:
- Fines as high as $4,000
- License suspension for up to two years
- Up to one year in county jail
If a driver receives a third DWI conviction, the potential penalties include:
- Fines as high as $10,000
- License suspension for up to two years or revocation
- Up to 10 years in a Texas state prison
The above potential penalties do not include the collateral consequences that a driver may face if found guilty of DWI. Some of the ways a person's life could be affected after a DWI conviction include:
- Difficulty with immigration or citizenship and risk of deportation
- Trouble finding safe or affordable housing or being passed over for housing opportunities
- Difficulty maintaining gainful employment, finding a job, or being passed over for promotions or career opportunities
- Loss of child custody or visitation rights
- Suspension or revocation of professional licenses
- Order to complete a drug or alcohol treatment program
- Order to attend mental health counseling or group therapy
- Order to complete a minimum number of community service hours
- Order to abstain from drug or alcohol use
- Loss of firearm rights
- Disqualification from federal student aid opportunities
Do You Lose Your License Immediately After a DWI in Texas?
If a driver is charged with DWI in Texas, his or her license will be automatically suspended about 40 days after the arrest. Therefore, the question is not will your license be suspended, but for how long will your license be suspended? Typically, the more DWI convictions a person has on his or her record, the longer the license suspension will last. Generally, license suspension can last from three months to two years, depending on the case. However, habitual offenders may be at risk for having their driver's license revoked altogether.
How Can I Get Out of a DWI in Texas?
If a driver has been accused of DWI in Texas, he or she may have several options for challenging the charge. Criminal defense attorneys, such as Jason S. English Law, PLLC, may be able to work with the prosecuting attorney to reach a plea agreement or have their client enrolled in a pretrial diversion program.
Pretrial Diversion Program
A pretrial diversion program can be like probation based on the specific requirements of the program. The accused driver should expect to meet with a probation officer, adhere to a curfew, complete community service hours, abstain from alcohol, complete a driver retraining and alcohol abuse program, and meet other requirements depending on his or her case.
Once the terms of the program have been met, the charges may be reduced or dismissed based on the agreement with the prosecuting attorney. However, pretrial diversion programs are generally only available to first-time and non-violent offenders. If you do not qualify for a diversion program, you may need to prepare a strong defense for trial.
Potential Defenses for a DWI Charge
Common potential defenses that people use to get out of DWI charges in Texas include:
- Mistake of fact
- Illegal search and seizure
- Constitutional rights violations
- Issues with handling the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) test results
- Police misconduct
- Laboratory mistakes or misconduct
Can I Refuse To Submit to a Breathalyzer Test in Texas?
Under certain circumstances, drivers do have the right to refuse to submit to a breathalyzer or chemical blood alcohol test in the state of Texas. However, if they refuse to agree to a breathalyzer or blood test, they can expect their driver's license to be suspended. This is true whether or not the driver is convicted. In addition, due to the state's implied consent laws, a driver who was lawfully stopped and arrested on suspicion of drunk driving will be required to submit to a breathalyzer test.
Can a DWI Be Reduced in Texas?
A DWI may be reduced in Texas in certain situations. Before the trial date, the attorney for the accused can negotiate with the prosecuting attorney or petition the court to lessen the charges or the penalties or even to dismiss the case entirely.
If a person is found not guilty or the charges are dismissed, the DWI arrest could be expunged from his or her record. If an expungement is approved, when asked about arrests, the person can truthfully answer in the negative. However, DWI convictions are not eligible for expungement in Texas.
What Effect Will a DWI Conviction in Texas Have on My Car Insurance?
Drivers who are convicted of DWI in Texas can expect their car insurance premiums to increase significantly. A driver's insurance company will consider him or her to be a high-risk driver after a conviction for driving while intoxicated. Some insurance companies will even cancel policies immediately or refuse to renew a policy when it expires if the driver has a DWI conviction.
Contact a Texas DWI Lawyer for Help Today
Being arrested for driving while intoxicated in Texas can begin a stressful time of dealing with the complex processes related to the criminal charge. As these DWI FAQs have explained, there may be options available, especially for first-time offenders. To learn more about the defense options that may be suited to your case, consider contacting a Texas DWI lawyer at Jason S. English Law, PLLC, by calling (512) 454-7548 to schedule a consultation today.