Driving Under the Influence & Driving While Intoxicated
In casual conversation, DUI and DWI are used interchangeably, but in Texas, they’re two separate crimes with different legal consequences. A DUI is when someone under the age of 21 drives with any amount of alcohol in their system, and a DWI is when someone 21 and older drives with a BAC of .08% or over or with a loss of normal mental or physical faculties. There are several important things to remember when getting pulled over by the police:
- Use your right to remain silent. Be polite, but don’t answer any questions about where you’ve been and what you’ve been doing. As far as you and the police are concerned, you haven’t done anything wrong, but speaking freely may give them cause to look further into a situation.
- Do not consent to a search, BAC test, or “field sobriety test.” Police must obtain a warrant before searching your car or requiring you to perform any tests. Police may attempt to intimidate you or convince you to consent to a test, but they need some kind of probable cause to be granted a warrant. Field sobriety tests are also designed to be physically challenging, and even sober people are at risk of failing it.
- Keep your driver’s license and insurance with you whenever you drive. In Texas, you may not be required to perform tests or consent to a search, but you are required to have these documents prepared during a stop. Keeping these documents up to date will improve your chances of a positive police interaction.
Driving Under the Influence (DUI)
Texas is a zero-tolerance state when it comes to underage drinking. That means that there is no Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) that is considered acceptable for anyone under the age of 21. If you’re under 21 and are pulled over, you do not automatically have the right to refuse BAC testing. Texas has “implied consent laws” for any minor arrested while operating a motor vehicle or watercraft. If there is any “detectable” amount of alcohol in their system, they automatically “consent” to blood tests or a breathalyzer to determine their BAC. The consequences for a conviction depends on the exact age of the accused and the circumstances of their alcohol consumption.
Under the Age of 17: Your parent is required to attend all court appearances and may be required to commit to attending Alcohol Awareness courses along with their minor child. Just like a DWI, the penalties depend on the number of previous convictions and whether they refused a BAC test.
- First Offense: BAC test refusal is an automatic license suspension for at least 180 days. A fine of up to $500, 20 to 40 hours of community service, a driver’s license suspension for 60-180 days, and attending an Alcohol Awareness Course
- Second Offense: BAC test refusal is an automatic license suspension for at least two years. A fine of up to $500, 40 to 60 hours of community service, a driver’s license suspension for 120 days to 2 years, and attending an Alcohol Awareness Course.
- Third Offense: BAC test refusal is an automatic license suspension for at least two years. A fine of up to $500, 40 to 60 hours of community service, and a driver’s license suspension for 180 days to 2 years.
Between the Ages of 17 and 21: Defendants in this age group are considered adults and are tried as such. The potential legal consequences are the same as a DWI and are more severe than a DUI for someone under 17 years old. The penalties are listed with the DWI penalties below.
Driving While Intoxicated (DWI)
Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) is considered any time someone over 21 years old gets behind the wheel of a vehicle with a BAC over .08% or with any loss in normal physical or mental faculties. The exact words can be misleading because you don’t actually have to be “driving” to be charged with a DWI. Depending on the officer, prosecutor, or judge, doing the “right thing” by sleeping it off in your car can still get you in legal trouble. Whether or not it leads to a conviction depends on a number of factors, which is why following the advice listed above is so important for a positive outcome. Here are the penalties for a DWI conviction:
- First Offense: A “Class B” Misdemeanor that includes a fine up to $2,000, up to 180 days in jail, and a driver’s license suspension for 90 days to a year.
- Second Offense: A “Class A” Misdemeanor that includes a fine up to $4,000, 30 days to a year in jail, and a driver’s license suspension from 180 days to two years.
- Three or More Offenses: A Felony charge which includes a fine up to $10,000, two to ten years in prison, and a driver’s license suspension for 180 days to two years.
These compounding penalties mean that it’s essential for you to have the right legal team on your side, with years of experience fighting DUI and DWI cases. If you have questions regarding your case or previous convictions, call our office at (806) 372-5711 to discuss possible options.