Texas takes drunk and drugged driving seriously, with minimum mandatory DWI jail time and fines imposed for first offenses, meaning if you are convicted, you’ll usually face at least some time behind bars and have to pay at least some money. You also face additional penalties and will have to deal with the stigma of having a conviction on your record. Driving while intoxicated (DWI, which is just another way of saying driving under the influence, or DUI) puts both your life and that of others at risk, and Texas wants to be sure that if you do drive while intoxicated, you’ll be much less likely to do it again.
But not everyone charged with a DWI is actually guilty, and proving that, while potentially difficult, is not impossible. Anyone who is facing DWI charges needs to seek legal counsel immediately to start building a case for their defense. Even if someone charged with a DWI is guilty, that person will still need legal help. Penalties should be commensurate with the circumstances surrounding the charge, and any paperwork for the court has to be completed properly; someone in a panic about possibly facing jail time could easily miss a deadline. If you or a loved one are facing jail time for a DWI charge, get expert legal counsel now because your and your family’s future are at stake. Here’s what you need to know about DWIs, penalties, and their effects in Texas.
Minimum BAC and Apparent Intoxication in Texas
A blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or more is the minimum for a “per se” charge of DWI. This means you can be charged even if you didn’t appear to be intoxicated. However, Texas also allows you to be charged with a DWI even if your BAC was low if you show apparent signs of intoxication. Texas law enforcement officers may use reasonable suspicion to stop you and probable cause to arrest you if they smell alcohol on your breath and think you’re acting intoxicated, for example.
Texas Has Mandatory DWI Jail Time and Fines for the First Conviction
In Texas, if you’re convicted of DWI, you face a mandatory jail sentence of at least three days and up to 180 days, plus fines of up to $2,000 and driver’s license suspension of up to one year. This is in addition to a potential state fine that will be between $3,000 and $6,000. You face additional charges of child endangerment if a child under the age of 15 was with you, and those penalties include an additional fine that may be up to $10,000 (this is on top of the $2,000 and the state fine), additional jail time of up to two years, and additional license suspension of up to six months.
Having an open container of alcohol is also grounds for a charge, as is being in a position to potentially drive even if you aren’t actually driving. In other words, if you’re intoxicated and in your car, seatbelt on and engine running, you could be charged with DWI even if the car isn’t moving. Texas wants people to take intoxicated driving seriously and allows for some harsh penalties in an attempt to get you to make that time the one and only time you ever get near a steering wheel when drunk or drugged.
The Penalties for DWIs Increase With Each Successive Occurrence
Unfortunately, many who drive while intoxicated don’t stop doing so despite being convicted once already. Texas increases the penalties for additional instances of DWI. A second conviction sees that $2,000 fine increased to $4,000, with DWI jail time between one month and one year. You could lose your license for up to a year. A third conviction carries penalties that are very scary: $10,000 fine, two to 10 years in prison – not jail, but prison – and you could lose your license for up to two years. A third conviction also transforms the charges into felony charges.
Note that in Texas, a DWI conviction is permanent. There’s nothing akin to a statute of limitations that erases the charge from your record. So, if you’re convicted of DWI once and then convicted a second time 30 years from now, you’ll face the penalties for a second conviction.
Is Jail Time Mandatory?
Technically, Texas has a mandatory minimum jail stay of three days for a first conviction. You could potentially be granted probation or community supervision instead, and have to perform community service as a result. That would no doubt be preferable to DWI jail time. But convincing the court to sentence you to probation or community supervision is not easy to do on your own. You need expert legal representation by an attorney who knows what evidence is needed to show the court that these alternative penalties are more appropriate than time in jail.
Make Sure You Get Seasoned Legal Counsel
The situation surrounding DWI charges is not always cut and dried, with a high BAC and obviously intoxicated driving. For example, conditions such as hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia associated with diabetes can often present many of the same symptoms as alcohol intoxication. You may know that the medical condition was responsible for your behavior, but you might not realize what evidence is needed to show the court that you’re not just making an excuse.
And, even if you are guilty of DWI, you’ll want to lessen the effects of the charges and sentencing on your family, who may depend on your income and who can’t afford to have you taken away to jail.
The process of going through the court and state motor vehicle system to fight these charges and save your license from suspension is also fraught with obstacles, from deadlines that come up too quickly to paperwork that you might not realize is necessary. Good legal counsel in Texas can help you put your case together. Contact the attornies at Stephen T. Bowling, for a case analysis today.