The State of Texas has claimed the highest position when it comes to the number of accidents caused by driving while intoxicated in the United States for several years in a row. For this reason, I often get questions related to DUI and DWI charges, and I feel the need to address some of them.
Unlike some other states, Texas differentiates between DUI and DWI charges. While minors with any amount of blood alcohol content are commonly charged with a DUI, adult drivers who have failed a field sobriety test are sanctioned with a DWI. Even though the sanctions for DWI are significantly more rigorous, both stay on record and neither should be taken lightly.
What is a DUI?
DUI stands for driving under the influence of alcohol. There is a zero-tolerance policy for minors under Texas Traffic Code, and those over the age of 21 are legally allowed to have a blood alcohol content of up to 0.08%.
Is DUI a Felony?
While first-offenders are commonly charged with a misdemeanor, in certain cases they can also be charged with a felony.
Individuals who have prior DUI convictions on their record, drunk drivers who have caused severe injuries or death, as well as those who have significantly higher blood alcohol levels than allowed, could all be penalized with a felony.
First Offense DUI
Even though a first offense DUI is considered to be a Class B misdemeanor under Texas law, charges depend on circumstances under which this misdemeanor has occurred. Usually, penalties include a fine of up to $2,000, 3-180 days in county jail, or both.
Circumstances such as driving under the influence of alcohol with a minor, DUI manslaughter, as well as DUI assault are considered to be felonies of first, second, and third-degree, respectively. In addition, common charges include fines of up to $10,000 as well as between 180 days and 20 years of imprisonment.
How Long Does a DUI Stand on Your Record?
Generally, DUI stays on record indefinitely, except under special circumstances.
While people are entitled to request a driving record erasure three years after they were found guilty of DUI, in reality it is very difficult to drop these charges.
What Happens When You Get a DUI?
A person charged with a DUI for the first time will be held in jail for 3 or 6 days, depending on whether they had an open container in their car. Additionally, sanctions include a license suspension of up to 60 days, up to 40 days of community service, as well as a fine of up to $500. Alternatively, drivers found guilty may have to attend mandatory alcohol awareness classes.
What Does DWI Stand For?
DWI means driving while intoxicated and refers to the influence of drugs or alcohol, or both.
In Texas, DWI is considered to be a serious offense and is charged under the Texas Penal Code. While “DWI” refers to a legal definition of this crime, it is sometimes used conversely with “DUI”.
A person can be charged with DWI if a field sobriety test detects blood alcohol content of 0.08% or higher. In addition to the legal limit of alcohol content, drivers can be fined if they are obviously under the influence of drugs, or are driving while impaired.
Is DWI a Felony?
Similar to DUI and various other legal situations, the answer to this question depends on the circumstances.
If a person has been found to drive while intoxicated for the first time, they may only be charged with a misdemeanor.
However, the odds that the person will be charged with a felony are high and increase in cases that involve prior convictions, serious injuries, or death.
DWI in Texas – First Offense
First offense DWI is considered either class A or class B misdemeanor in Texas. Depending on the details of the particular case, it may also be charged as a felony.
As a first offender, a person may be penalized with suspension or administrative license revocation by the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), a fine of between $2,000 and $4,000, or 72 hours to six months in jail. Additionally, first offenders may face DWI education programs, probation, and community service.
How Long Does DWI Stay on Record in Texas?
A DWI conviction cannot be expunged in Texas and will permanently stay on a criminal record. However, the record can be sealed in situations in which the case has been dismissed or deferred, if a person has not been found guilty or if they have been arrested as a minor.
What Happens When You Get a DWI?
In a situation where an individual fails a blood or breath test, the policeman is entitled to suspend this person’s driver’s license and replace it with a temporary 40-day driving permit. Drivers found guilty of DWI are allowed to file a request for an administrative hearing and challenge the suspension of their driver’s license within 15 days after the arrest.
Which is Worse DUI or DWI?
When it comes to the severity of charges, the consequences of a DUI are not as rigorous as those of a DWI in Texas.
While DUIs are only charged to drivers under the age of 21 and in accordance with Texas Traffic Code, DWIs constitute a serious offense that is charged under the Texas Penal Code. However, it is important to remember that it is easier to be charged with a DUI due to a zero-tolerance policy for minors.
Get Legal Help for a DUI/DWI Case
Finally, the purpose of both DUI and DWI laws is to prevent dangerous situations whose consequences are significantly more harmful than paying a fine or going to jail would be. On average, every 20 minutes someone is injured or killed in a crash that has been caused by alcohol in Texas. These laws exist for the benefit of the health and safety of everyone involved.
The main takeaway is to altogether avoid driving when under the influence of alcohol or drugs, as this can impair judgment and driving abilities. Choose a designated driver who will remain sober, or otherwise opt for a rideshare, cab or public transportation.
In addition to wellbeing and safety, DUI and DWI charges and arrests may have serious consequences for the individual’s life. Circumstances of each case are different, and an experienced criminal attorney can guide you through the legal process or reduce the severity of sanctions.
Please contact us for a free consultation.
Blog posts and resources provide researched information and do not represent legal advise or official opinion from Ben Gergen.