The penalties you'll face for a DWI conviction in Texas depend mostly on how many prior convictions you have. This article covers the basics of Texas's DWI laws and the consequences of a second DWI conviction.
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:
In other words, you can be convicted based on actual impairment or BAC.
A DWI arrest can lead to license-related penalties administratively imposed by the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Administrative penalties are triggered by the arrest and don't require an actual DWI conviction.
If you're lawfully arrested in Texas for DWI, you're required to submit to a blood or breath test if requested to do so by law enforcement. If you fail one of these tests (with a BAC of .08% or more) or refuse testing (a violation of the state's implied consent law), you'll face license suspension.
At the time of your arrest, law enforcement 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 at least 12 months starting the 41st day after your arrest.
A test failure or refusal is considered a second offense if it occurs within ten years of a previous alcohol or drug-related "enforcement contact" (like a prior DWI or refusal to submit to chemical testing). For a second failure or refusal, you'll face a:
However, this administrative DMV suspension will be set aside if you are ultimately acquitted of DWI in criminal court.
But note below, a DWI conviction can lead to a separate period of license suspension of up to two years.
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.
A second DWI in Texas is a class A misdemeanor. Criminal penalties are those that are imposed by the court following a conviction.
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. In other words, a DWI is considered a second offense if you have ever been convicted of a DWI in the past.
A second DWI conviction generally carries:
However, 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.
A second DWI conviction will result in a license suspension of 180 days to two years.
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.
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.