by Chuck Lanehart and Fred Stangl
An arrest for the offense of Driving While Intoxicated can lead to many harsh consequences, some of which are quite unexpected by people who are accused of the crime. In order to avoid these harsh consequences, every effort must be made to aggressively defend the citizen accused of DWI and to avoid a DWI conviction.
Texas law provides that a person convicted of DWI faces a punishment range of up to 180 days in jail, with a minimum jail term of 72 hours, and a fine of up to $2,000. A first offender whose blood alcohol concentration tested higher than .15 can expect an enhanced penalty range of up to a year in jail, and a fine of up to $4,000.
While most first offenders can expect a plea offer involving probation, DWI terms of probation may include many unpleasant requirements. The following are just a few:
Multiple time-consuming, costly alcohol education programs and substance abuse evaluations.
Community service of up to 100 hours.
Court costs in the range of $300 to $500.
Probation fees in the range of $720 to $1440.
For certain offenders, a requirement to install a deeplung breath analysis mechanism (interlock device) in the offender’s vehicle.
Total abstinence from consumption of alcohol.
Curfews, travel restrictions, and rules against entering bars.
Drivers License Consequences
A person convicted of DWI is subject to a yearly “surcharge” up to $2000, effective for a period of three years: failure to pay will result in a drivers license suspension. A person under the age of 21 at the time of a DWI arrest is subject to a 90-day drivers license suspension if convicted. A person who possesses a commercial drivers license will lose the CDL for a period of time if convicted of DWI.
Miscellaneous Consequences of a DWI Conviction
A DWI conviction will result in higher auto insurance premiums for most offenders. Certain employment opportunities may be denied for persons convicted of DWI. Certain professional licenses (law, medicine, nursing, etc.) may be suspended, restricted, or denied because of a DWI conviction.
Long-term Consequences of a DWI Conviction
A DWI conviction will always remain on a person’s criminal history and driving record. A second DWI conviction carries a punishment range of up to a year in jail and up to a $4,000 fine, with mandatory jail time in the event probation is granted. A third DWI conviction is a felony offense which carries a punishment range of up to ten years in prison, a fine of up to $10,000, and loss of certain rights as a citizen, such as the right to vote and the right to possess a firearm.
No person convicted of DWI is eligible for an expunction of the arrest or conviction. No person convicted of DWI is eligible for an order of non-disclosure (sealing) of the arrest or conviction.
ALR Drivers License Suspension
Regardless of whether a DWI arrest results in a conviction, a person who refuses to provide law enforcement a blood or breath sample for testing or who fails such a test by providing a sample with a concentration of .08 or above will likely face a drivers license suspension of up to six months under the Texas Administrative License Revocation program.