by Chuck Lanehart and Fred Stangl
Getting Arrested for DWI is Serious
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. Even if you aren’t a repeat offender and it is a first time DWI offense, there are harsh consequences. Every effort must be made to aggressively defend your reputation 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. A first offender whose blood alcohol concentration tested higher than .15 can expect an enhanced penalty range of up to a year in jail. Mandatory fines range from $3,000 to $6,000 for persons convicted of DWI.
While most DWI first time 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 deep-lung 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
Update as of September 1, 2019: the Driver Responsibility Program is no longer part of the process after a DWI. You may still see references online to “surcharges” if you are convicted of a DWI in Texas. These annual fees were ended by Governor Gregg Abbott around Labor Day of 2019. However, other consequences still exist.
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, 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, but under certain circumstances a person with only one DWI conviction may be eligible to have that record sealed.
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.