What are the penalties for DWI in Texas?
Most DWI convictions result in probation’s. From the citizens’ view, it is best to understand what probation means before specific penalties are considered.
“Probation” is defined as a suspension of a sentence of jail, a fine, or even a driver’s license suspension by the court. Said another way, upon conviction, the judge pronounces a punishment of a jail sentence, a fine sentence, and a driver’s license suspension.
Judge Justice says, “Mr. Defendant, your sentence is 180 days in jail, a $2,000.00 fine, and a year’s suspension of your driver’s license.”
DWI Defendant replies, “Holy cow, I can’t believe it, I’m going to jail” is the thought you have when all of the sudden the judge says, “however, I’m going to probate this sentence. Your jail is probated for one year, $1,500.00 of your fine is probated, and your driver’s license suspension is probated.”
In layman terms this means that you will not have to do the 180 days in jail if you behave for one year, that you will only pay $500.00 of the fine if you behave for one year, and your driver’s license will not be taken from you if you behave for one year.
“Wait,” you say, what does “behave” mean? It means that the judge has offered you a “deal” you can’t refuse. This “deal” is a contract between you and the court of which the contractual terms are simple: The judge promises not to put you in jail, not to make you pay the entire fine and not to take away your driver’s license.
In exchange, if you agree to the probation, you are agreeing generally to do the following:
- report once a month to a probation officer
- not to commit any further crimes during the term of probation;
- to pay a monthly supervisory fee to the probation office (approximately $40.00);
- to perform a specified number of community service hours during the term of your probation (approximately 24 to 80 hours) (community service is volunteer work to benefit the community);
- to attend DWI education classes dealing with the effects of alcohol or listening to victims of DWI related tragedies (VIP Program);
- to abstain from consuming alcohol for the term of your probation;
- to pay your non-probated fines and court costs;
- to submit to a breath test by law enforcement or court personnel upon request;
- to install an alcohol ignition interlock device on your car and only drive a car equipped with such as device (not always required);
- to make a small donation to M.A.D.D. and/or Crime Stoppers;
- to remain within the county of your residence unless given permission by the court to leave it;
- any other requirements the court sets for you.
Now, back to the specific penalties for intoxication offenses. A DWI punishment in Houston will not necessarily be the same punishment as other cities in Texas, but the range of punishment will be the same. Whether you case is a misdemeanor or a felony depends on the number of prior DWI convictions you have had.
Generally speaking, Texas DWI penalties are :
- A First-Offense conviction will less than a .15 BAC includes the possibility of a fine not to exceed $2,000.00 and/or a jail sentence from 3 days to 180 days, and a driver’s license suspension of 90 to 365 days. (Class B Misdemeanor). Where, however, there is a BAC .15 or more, the possibility of a fine increases to $4,000 and jail increases to one year (Class A misdemeanor).
- A Second Offense means the maximum fine increases to no more than $4,000.00 and/or jail from 30 days to one year, and a possible driver’s license suspension ranging from 180 days to 2 years (Class A Misdemeanor).
- For a Third Offense, you may receive a fine up to $10,000.00 and/or 2 to 10 years of imprisonment, and suspension of your driver’s license ranging from 180 days up to 2 years (3rd Degree Felony). Note that imprisonment is in a state-run penal institution whereas jail is a county-run institution. A felony conviction also disqualifies the person from voting and possessing a firearm.
- An open alcohol container increases the minimum jail penalty to six days in jail.
- Intoxication Assault is where an accident occurred with serious bodily injury resulted as a proximate cause of the intoxication. Upon conviction, you can be sentenced to a minimum of two years and up to a maximum of 10 years in prison. If a probated sentence is received, there is a 30-day minimum jail sentence. Additionally, you may be fined up to $10,000.00 (this is a 3rd Degree Felony). If the vehicle was driven in a way that made it a “deadly weapon”, then there is an additional penalty that prohibits good time credit in prison to be considered for early release until half of the sentence has been satisfied.
- Intoxication Manslaughter is a a DWI where a death occurred in an accident and where the intoxication was the proximate cause of the death. Upon conviction, you can be sentenced to pay a maximum fine of $10,000.00 and/or be imprisoned from two to 20 years (2nd Degree Felonies). Where probation is granted, there are still a requirement of a 120 day jail sentence. If the vehicle was driven in a way that made it a “deadly weapon”, then there is an additional penalty that prohibits good time credit in prison to be considered for early release until half of the sentence has been satisfied.
- DWI with a child passenger is where a person is DWI and there is another person in the vehicle who is under 15 years of age. Punishment is by confinement in a state jail for any term of not more than two years or less than 180 days and a fine not to exceed $10,000.00 (State Jail Felony).