Need to know Texas DWI Laws



The state of Texas uses the driving while intoxicated (DWI) label when charging drunk or impaired drivers. Drivers 21 or older can receive the charge if their blood alcohol concentration is measured at .08 percent or higher. If the driver is under 21, a BAC of any detectable amount results in a DWI charge. Commercial drivers have a BAC limit of .04 percent and can have their CDL disqualified for one year (or three years if they’re driving a commercial vehicle placarded for hazardous materials).

Implied Consent

Texas DWI Laws follow implied consent, which means a driver has automatically implied consent to a chemical test by simply being behind the wheel of a vehicle. An officer can enforce a chemical test if they suspect a driver to be drunk or otherwise impaired. A refusal to submit can result in a license suspension between 90 days and two years for adults and 180 days for minors for a first offense and two years for subsequent offenses.

DWI Penalties For Adults

A first-offense DWI results in a fine up to a $2,000 and jail time between three days and 180 days. Drivers will have their license suspended for up to two years and have to pay an annual surcharge of up to $2,000 for three years to keep their license. They will also have to participate in a DWI intervention or education program. An ignition interlock device is also a possibility if a judge deems it necessary.

A second offense results in up to a $4,000 fine, jail time between one month and one year, and license suspension up to two years. The annual surcharge to keep their license remains a requirement, as well as participation in a DWI intervention or education program and the possibility of an ignition interlock device.

Fines for a third offense are up to $10,000 and drivers face between two years and 10 years in state prison. License suspension penalties and the annual surcharge remain, as well as participation in a DWI intervention or education program. An ignition interlock device also remains a possibility.

Intoxicated drivers with a passenger younger than 15 in their vehicle can face a fine up to a $10,000, jail time up to two years and a license suspension for 180 days.

DWI Penalties for Minors

The Zero Tolerance Law in Texas means that drivers under 21 cannot have any detectable amount of drugs or alcohol in their system while operating a motor vehicle. A first-time offense DWI for a minor results in a suspension of license not to exceed two years and a fine of up to $500. Minors must also participate in an alcohol education program for at least 12 hours, and they face an additional 180 days of license suspension if they don’t complete the program. If the judge gives the minor community service, they will only have 90 days of license suspension and an ignition interlock device.

Recent Changes to Texas DWI Laws in 2011

As of 2011, first-time Texas DWI offenders who register a .15 BAC or higher are subject to a Class A misdemeanor. Offenders can receive fines up to $4,000 and one year in jail. These are harsher penalties than under the previous law, which classified this offense as a Class B misdemeanor. Texas also increased the penalties for DWIs that lead to serious brain injury in the victim. These offenders can now get charged with second-degree felony, which is punishable by a fine of up to $10,000 and up to 20 years in prison.

What Is The Legal Alcohol Limit In Texas?

All states in the U.S., including Texas, enforce an alcohol limit of .08 percent. A motorist’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC), however, need not reach that level in order for Texas law enforcement authorities to file charges for driving while intoxicated (DWI). Rather, state law allows police officers to arrest motorists simply “not having the normal use of mental or physical faculties” due to alcohol consumption.

Not all Texas drivers are subject to the same alcohol limits and penalties. For example:

  • While most motorists over age 21 face a legal limit of .08 percent, CDL drivers can be charged with DWI having a BAC of .04 percent or greater.
  • Texas is a zero tolerance state, meaning that people under age 21 can be prosecuted for alcohol-related offenses with any trace of alcohol in the blood.
  • People arrested while driving with a BAC of .15 percent or higher are subject to aggravated DWI charges and more severe punishments.
  • Felony DWI charges can be brought against individuals with two previous offenses as well as those who have driven with minors under age 15 or caused an accident that resulted in another person’s harm.

Texas DWI laws are very complex, and additional nuances can influence charges brought against a person accused of driving while intoxicated.

Ignition Interlock Requirements In Texas

Texas doesn’t usually require people convicted of a first DWI offense to have an ignition interlock device (IID) installed unless there was a BAC of .15 percent or higher. A second conviction typically does require IID installation.

Some important things to keep in mind about ignition interlock devices include:

  • IIDs are installed and serviced at an individual’s expense.
  • Failed breath tests can result in additional penalties.
  • Tampering with a device can also lead to more punishments.

Texas regulations concerning IID installation are long and dense, making them difficult to understand. It is critical to understand these provisions, however, while making legal decisions concerning your DWI defense.

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