“How many of you know the “Drink, Drive, Go to Jail” law?” When you ask potential jurors this question, most hands go up. That’s when you have to explain to them it is not the law, it’s an ad campaign.
The law does not criminalize drinking and driving. It does criminalize driving while intoxicated.
DWI/DUI is a serious offense in Texas. If you have been arrested for a DWI/DUI offense, you may be facing serious fines, a loss of your driving privileges, probation, and even potential jail time. Our attorneys have helped clients defeat DWI/DUI charges (pre-trial and during trial), negotiate reduced penalties, and obtain minimum penalties in the event of a conviction. Please see our DWI/DUI page for more information about these charges, and see our license suspension page for more information about retaining or regaining your driver’s license after an arrest.
A first offense DWI is typically a Class B misdemeanor carrying a punishment range of up to 180 days in the county jail and up to a $2,000.00 fine. You driver license may be suspended for 90-365 days. Jail time can be required in some instances, but probation is often an option. Probation includes monthly reporting, random urinalysis, DWI Offender Education Class, and drug and alcohol evaluation and treatment.
Even if a first offense, if a breath or blood test shows an alcohol concentration greater than 0.15, your offense is enhanced and becomes a Class A misdemeanor. This is the same category offense as a DWI 2nd offense.
A second offense DWI is a Class A misdemeanor and carries a punishment range of up to 1 year in the county jail and up to a $4,000.00 fine if convicted.
Even a first DWI can rise to the level of a felony if you have a child younger than 15 years of age as a passenger in the car.
A third offense DWI is a felony carrying a punishment range of not less than 2 years in prison and not more than 10 years in prison and up to a $10,000.00 fine.
If a person is intoxicated and by accident or mistake causes serious bodily injury to another, they may be charged with the felony of Intoxication Assault. This offense normally arises from a vehicle collision and if convicted the punishment range is not less than 2 years in prison and not more than 10 years in prison and up to a $10,000.00 fine.
If a person is intoxicated and by accident or mistake causes the death of another, they may be charged with the felony of Intoxication Manslaughter. Intoxication manslaughter normally arises out of a crash and if convicted the punishment range is not less than 2 years in prison and not more than 20 years in prison and up to a $10,000.00 fine.
While on bond for DWI >0.15, DWI 2nd offense, Intoxication Assault or Intoxication Manslaughter, you will be required to have an ignition interlock as a condition of your bond. This means you will have a device installed on your car that is designed to detect alcohol. If alcohol is detected, your device records a warning. If over a certain threshold, usually 0.02, your car will not start. Violations are reported to the Court and may result in your bond being raised and a warrant being issued for your arrest. If convicted of >0.15 or 2nd DWI and your receive probation, you will be required to have an interlock as a condition of probation.
The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) will be notified of the Court’s order that an interlock be installed. Once notified, you will receive a letter telling you that your license is cancelled until you obtain a new license ($10.00) with the “Ignition Interlock Required” restriction. This restriction alerts law enforcement that you may only operate a vehicle with the device. If you are stopped driving a vehicle without an interlock, you are subject to arrest. If the interlock is also a condition of your current bond, you will also be in violation of bond conditions and again, subject to arrest.
And while a driver license suspension may be probated for a first offense, if you are convicted of a DWI 2nd offense, and the first conviction was within the previous five years, your license will be suspended for two (2) years. The first year is known as a hard suspension. No occupational driver license may be issued during the first year; meaning no driving whatsoever. This is true even if you receive probation for the offense.
Always remember, probation is still a conviction. All convictions come with driver license surcharges.