You can be convicted of driving while intoxicated (DWI) in Texas if you operate a motor vehicle in a public place while intoxicated. “Intoxicated” means you either:
“lack the normal use of mental or physical faculties” because you ingested alcohol, drug or any other substance, or
This article discusses some of the administrative and criminal penalties for a Texas second-offense DWI.
If you’re lawfully arrested in Texas for DWI within ten years of a previous alcohol or drug-related “enforcement contact” (like a prior DWI or refusal to submit to chemical testing) the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) can impose enhanced driver's license suspensions and fees—regardless of whether you’re ultimately convicted of a DWI. When you fail or refuse a chemical test (see below), the arresting agency will confiscate your license, and you have 15 days from the date of arrest to contest the suspension. If you don’t notify the DMV within this timeframe that you want to contest the suspension, your license will remain suspended for 12 months starting the 41st day after your arrest.
If you fail a chemical test (have a BAC of .08% or more), your suspension will be for one year. If, on the other hand, you refuse a test in violation of Texas's implied consent laws, the DMV will suspend your license for two years. The DMV suspension will be set aside only if you are ultimately acquitted of DWI in criminal court.
As a condition of release from jail, the judge will make you install an ignition interlock device (IID) on any vehicle you drive. During your administrative license suspension, you can immediately obtain an “occupational license” if you have not received any previous alcohol-related license suspensions within the preceding five years. An occupation license is for driving only to and from places like work, school, and places necessary to accomplish essential household duties. If you have received a license suspension within the preceding five years for a drug or alcohol-related contact with law enforcement, there’s an initial 90 day “hard suspension” period during which you won’t be able to drive at all. And if your law enforcement contact was within the preceding five years, your hard suspension increases to 180 days. Additionally, an occupational license is only available once in a 10-year period.
Texas also imposes an annual DMV license surcharge of $1,500 per year for three years. The annual fee increases to $2,000 if your BAC was measured at .16% or more.
A second DWI in Texas is a class A misdemeanor. The penalties generally include 30 days to one year in jail. There is no “lookback period” which means that any prior DWI or BWI (boating while intoxicated) conviction, no matter how old, will count as a prior conviction.
Fines cannot exceed $4,000, but a variety of fees and “penalty assessments” will significantly increase the amount you actually pay. Convicted motorists also face up to two years of probation and having to complete a DWI education class, a substance abuse evaluation and/or rehabilitation program, 80 to 200 hours of community service, and possibly having to attend a DWI Impact Panel. You will be required to put an IID on your vehicle while your charges are pending and will not be allowed to drive any vehicle without an IID for one year following the reinstatement of your license.
HOW MUCH TIME WOULD YOU ACTUALLY SPEND IN JAIL?
Sentencing law is complex. For example, a statute might list a “minimum” jail sentence that’s longer than the actual amount of time (if any) a defendant will have to spend behind bars. All kinds of factors can affect actual punishment, including credits for good in-custody behavior, “suspended” sentences, and jail-alternative work programs.
If you face criminal charges, consult an experienced criminal defense lawyer. An attorney with command of the rules in your jurisdiction will be able to explain the law as it applies to your situation.
The DWI laws in Texas are complicated, and the facts of each case are different. If you’ve been arrested or charged for DWI, you should contact an experienced criminal defense attorney in your area who can help you decide how best to proceed with your case.