Texas Drunk Driving Laws

Texas DWI Resource Center

The term DUI (Driving Under the Influence) is often used interchangeably with DWI (Driving While Intoxicated). In Texas, a DUI is a charge specifically for drunk drivers under the age of 21. On the other hand, a DWI is the primary impaired driving law which is applied when a driver’s blood alcohol content is at or above 0.08 grams. A driver may also be charged with DWI if an officer shows that the driver is simply not safe to drive due to the consumption of alcohol or drugs. Read more on Texas DWI vs. DUI.

The state’s case will often be based on observations of the arresting officer and field sobriety tests. These tests and observations are subjective and their interpretation varies. Blood and breath tests can be disputed as well. A highly trained DWI lawyer knows the way around them in court.

Texas DWI Basics

In the state of Texas driving while intoxicated charges are considered Class B Misdemeanor offenses. This kind of misdemeanor is given only when an individual is convicted of a first or second offense. According to Texas law, driving while intoxicated charges are only given when an individual operates a motor vehicle in a public area while he or she is intoxicated.

All drunken driving cases are handled by jury trials; however, an individual may request a judge at his or her discretion. For driving while intoxicated charge to withstand, the prosecuting attorney must prove to the jury that the individual was guilty of all portions of the charge.

In Texas for an individual to be convicted he or she must have committed all three portions of a driving while intoxicated charge. These include the operation of a motor vehicle, doing so in a public area, and certain counties while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Public areas include parking lots, highways, beaches, and streets.

Texas law also defines intoxication as not having full capabilities of the body — physically, mentally, or both — while under the influence of substances — alcohol, drugs, or both. Intoxication also can include having a blood alcohol content that is above the legal limit of 0.08 percent or being intoxicated by a prescribed substance.

DWI and the Texas Penal Code

Under Texas law, a DWI conviction carries serious penalties. A guilty verdict may result in jail time, hefty fines, probation, and suspension of your Texas driver’s license. These penalties are increased if a child under the age of 15 was riding in the vehicle at the time of the arrest.

To learn more about Texas DWI law, please visit:

For more information on DWI charges and the penalties that you may face if convicted:


When an individual obtains a driver’s license, he or she gives common consent to submit to chemical testing when requested by a police officer. If an individual refuses to submit to chemical testing, he or she will automatically have his or her driver’s license suspended. This kind of suspension will withstand even if the individual is not convicted of driving while intoxicated.


Driving under the influence of convictions is based on the number of prior offenses. The more offenses an individual has on his or her record, the more severe his or her punishment will become. A first offense can earn up to seventy-two hours in jail, a fine of up to two thousand dollars along with any fees, conditional driver’s license suspension, mandatory attendance to a twelve-hour DWI education program, probation, and twenty-four hours of mandatory community service or up to one hundred hours.

A second driving while intoxicated offense is considered a Class A Misdemeanor, while a third driving while intoxicated offense is considered a felony in the third degree. Fines increase to four thousand dollars along with incarceration of up to ten years. An individual’s driver’s license will thus be suspended for up to two years and community service will increase to no more than two hundred hours.

Driver’s License Suspension and DPS Surcharges

In addition to any court-ordered penalties that you may face, the Texas Department of Public Safety may also penalize you with its own set of penalties. In effect, when you are charged with a DWI you must defend against two different cases: preventing your license from being suspended and defending against a DWI conviction in criminal court.

To prevent your license from being automatically suspended after your arrest, you must schedule a hearing within 15 days of your arrest. Otherwise, you may face many months of license suspension that can greatly affect your daily life. In addition, the DPS may tack on a yearly surcharge of $1,000 or more for three years following your conviction.

The following resource provides information on DPS penalties associated with a DWI conviction:

Penalties for a DWI in Texas

Often, many people want to just plead guilty to a DWI because they feel defenseless and just want to put it behind them. If you don’t fight it, you will be subject to some severe penalties including the following:

  • A permanent criminal record
  • Jail time & Community Service
  • Expensive fines and high insurance rates
  • License Suspension
  • Interlock devices on your vehicle
  • Frequent alcohol & drug testing and counseling

A DWI charge is taken very seriously in Texas and the overall consequences will be devastating if you don’t have a Texas DWI lawyer in your corner. Aside from the mandatory penalties involved, a DWI conviction can be embarrassing and negatively affect employment. Additionally, many courts require expensive alcohol or drug evaluations, DWI education classes, and probation. The following are other possible penalties for a DWI conviction in Texas:

  • Fines up to $2,000
  • 72 hours to 6 months incarceration
  • 24 to 100 hours of community service

A second conviction will result in steeper penalties that include interlock devices and driver’s license suspension. A third and subsequent conviction will be treated as a third-degree felony and the penalties become even harsher.

For many drivers, facing these penalties may be demoralizing and they often give in to the state’s initial plea agreement without any negotiation. Before relinquishing your rights, consult with an experienced DWI attorney. Texas DWI lawyers are well-versed in the many defense strategies that can be used to combat the state’s evidence.

The state’s case will often be based on observations of the arresting officer and field sobriety tests. These tests and observations are subjective and their interpretation varies. Blood and breath tests can be disputed as well. A highly trained DWI lawyer knows the way around them in court. A DWI attorney can protect your rights and force the state to carry its burden.

There are six categories of DWI penalties to this effect:

  1. License suspension
  2. Fines
  3. Prison time
  4. Ignition interlock devices
  5. Probation

We’ll take a brief look into each of these penalties and show their finer points.

License Suspension

There’s an almost absolute chance that if you are arrested for driving drunk in Texas, you will lose your license for some time. Sometimes, the officer requires you to surrender the license upon arrest. You can keep your license in a situation like this only if you agree to provide a specimen of blood for the state to test your BAC (Blood Alcohol Level). If you are positive, the Department of Public Safety sends a suspension notice and temporary permit to drive. When this happens, it is so very important that you contact an attorney. The attorney will guide you to understand the procedures and take the necessary steps.

The ensuing hearing doesn’t change the fact that your license would be suspended, but the presence of a lawyer would improve your chances of reducing the duration of the suspension. Your blood alcohol level at the time of your arrest and your DWI history heavily determine your suspension period. In the case that you refused to provide a specimen of breath or blood, your suspension time will be different depending on your history.


In Texas Law, the fines for DWI violations are very high. The license suspension rules are also similarly applied here; your fines marginally increase as a repeat offender or with a higher BAC. The fines can be as high as $3,000 for a first DWI offense, even higher (up to $6,000) for second offenders, or 0.15 BAC. There have also been some legislative reforms that have repealed the compulsory surcharge assessment for a person convicted of DWI. This is great news for Texans all around and another reason to contact your lawyer for much-needed advice.

Prison Terms

From a maximum of six months to 72 hours of jail time, a first conviction for DWI in Texas can land an offender jail time. Likewise, second-time offenders face jail time ranging up to two years.

If your driving infraction led to an accident or serious harm, you would be charged with Intoxication assault. If someone is killed, you are charged with intoxication manslaughter. The first one is a third-degree felony and the latter, a second-degree felony.

It becomes very much more likely you will spend time in prison if you are found guilty of either of these charges.

Ignition Interlock Devices

The second time you are convicted of a DWI, the state would require that you put an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) on your vehicle. With this device installed in your vehicle, you’ll need to pass a test (similar to the breathalyzer test) before it starts. These devices are costly to maintain and cannot be tampered with. Only through court orders can you legally remove these devices once installed. Violations involving the IID can lead to the permanent revocation of your license.


DWI probation has many associated tasks and costs that do not seem apparent in the name. in a DWI probation. You’ll be required to do certain things, pay certain fines, attend certain programs, participate in DWI education courses, etc.; all these depend on the level of offense (Misdemeanor or Felony).

Suffice to say, probation is a lot harder than most people think and can cost a decent person a lot to stay out of jail.

Blood Alcohol Concentration

One of the primary factors used by police to determine if a driver is intoxicated is to use a Breathalyzer test. A Breathalyzer is used to determine the driver’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC). The reason that BAC is used as a reason for an arrest is that studies have shown a positive correlation between BAC levels and the likelihood of causing an accident. The more you have been drinking, the higher your BAC, and therefore, the greater the risk you pose on the road.

To learn more about how BAC and its relationship to crash risk:

  • BAC and Crash Risk

Texas Felony DWI & Felony DUI

If you have been charged with DWI (Driving While Intoxicated) in Texas, you may be unaware that what you assumed was a simple misdemeanor charge can quickly become a felony under the right set of circumstances. One of the most common scenarios that result in a Felony DWI is the accumulation of several lifetimes of Driving While Intoxicated charges. Other DWI-related felonies involve causing bodily harm in an accident and drunk driving while transporting a child. It can be terrifying to find yourself in one of these situations. An experienced felony DWI attorney will safeguard you against legal pitfalls that could follow you for the rest of your life.

The main difference between a felony and a misdemeanor DWI is can be determined by how severe the penalties are upon conviction. Simply put, a misdemeanor charge can result in spending a year or less in jail as well as the corresponding fines. Felony DWI/DUI convictions are accompanied by much larger fines and the possibility of being incarcerated for a year or longer. A person convicted of a felony in Texas can have difficulty finding employment, be denied voting privileges and will be prohibited from possessing firearms.

In Texas, a third and subsequent DWI conviction becomes a felony. Also, if you are found to be at fault in an injury accident while driving impaired, you can be charged with the felony Intoxication Assault. Furthermore, intoxicated drivers who have a child under the age of 15 in the vehicle will be charged with Felony DWI w/ a Child Passenger.

Penalties for these charges include:

  • Fines up to $10,000
  • Incarceration from 2 to 10 years
  • License suspension or revocation
  • Mandatory ignition interlock devices

DUI in Texas

A DWI charge in Texas is not the same as a DUI charge. A DWI is a charge that a person of any age faces if they are found to be driving a vehicle with a blood alcohol level of 0.080 grams or higher, or if they are deemed to be a less-than-safe driver due to alcohol or drug use. A DUI is a charge that applies to drivers who are under the age of 21 and have consumed any amount of alcohol. An officer can charge an underage driver with DUI simply for having the odor of an alcoholic beverage on his or her breath.

Texas has a wide range of laws governing drinking and driving. Some of these laws can be perplexing, especially if you have recently been charged and are unsure where to turn. An experienced Texas DUI lawyer will guide you through the legal quagmire that is a Driving Under the Influence arrest.

DUI penalties can be severe. You will need the assistance of an attorney to fight for your rights. A DUI conviction carries a stigma that can lead to employment difficulties and other social or economic issues. If convicted, drivers accused of DUI face severe legal consequences. If the driver tested positive for alcohol but less than 0.08, the following penalties may apply after the first offense:

  • Fines up to $500.00
  • 20-40 hours of community service
  • Court-ordered alcohol awareness classes
  • License suspension up to 60 days.

Penalties for a second or third offense become more severe, and a driver’s license may be suspended for 180 days.

For an underage driver who has been found to be driving over the legal limit, the stakes become higher for the first-time offender, as shown below:

  • Fines up to $2000.00
  •  90 days to 1-year License suspension
  • 72 to 180 days of Jail time

Aggravated Circumstances

Driving while intoxicated offense can also heavily increase when certain circumstances are involved in the crime. Aggravating factors include having a minor in the motor vehicle, driving a commercial vehicle with a 0.04 percent blood alcohol content, being under the age of twenty-one, having an open container, causing another injury, and causing the death of another. When a minor is under the age of fifteen, an offense will increase from a misdemeanor offense to a felony offense automatically, even if it is the first offense.

A driver involved in a Texas fatality accident who is found to be impaired will be charged with Intoxication Manslaughter and could face a possible 20-year prison sentence in addition to the above-listed sanctions.

The serious penalties involved with a DWI-related felony are nothing to take lightly. The state will use everything in its legal arsenal to convict a driver charged with one of these crimes. A trained Texas Felony DWI lawyer knows what the prosecutor will present and can shine the light on common discrepancies that often result in a favorable plea bargain or a “not guilty” verdict. A felony can follow a driver for a lifetime.

DWI/DUI with Child Passenger

A DWI charge in Texas is a serious offense in and of itself. When a driver is charged with DWI and has a passenger under the age of 15, the stakes rise even higher because this behavior demonstrates an increased level of carelessness, which the court system strongly condemns. If you have been charged with DWI with a Child Passenger, you must consult a Texas DWI attorney who can properly investigate your case to protect your rights and reputation.

The State of Texas considers DWI with a Child Passenger to be a third-degree felony. This charge can be added to any DWI, even if your blood alcohol content is less than 0.08 grams. If the arresting officer determines that a driver is unsafe to operate a vehicle because of the use of alcohol or any other drug, the driver can be charged with DWI and then DWI with a Child Passenger.

Because a DWI with a Child Passenger is a felony, the penalties for this charge can be severe if not negotiated by a DWI attorney. Furthermore, because it is a separate charge, a conviction may result in increased penalties when combined with the attached DWI. People convicted of felonies have difficulty finding work, are frequently barred from voting or possessing a firearm, and face social humiliation. Offenses involving child endangerment may also result in an investigation by the Department of Family and Protective Services, which could jeopardize a driver’s parental rights.

Other penalties for a DWI with a Child Passenger in Texas include the following:

  • Fines up to $10,000
  • 180 days to 2 years Incarceration
  • License Suspension for 180 days

In light of such severe penalties, a driver accused of DWI with a Child Passenger cannot afford to face these charges alone. In Texas, a well-trained DWI lawyer knows how to mount a formidable defense against these very serious charges. Defending a DWI with a Child Passenger boils down to defeating the original DWI. A DWI attorney will challenge the officer’s observations and find any weaknesses in the state-administered chemical tests of blood or breath.

List of DWI-Related Texas Statutes

Since the Texas statutes that relate to DWI, license suspension, and occupational licenses are scattered throughout various provisions of the Penal Code and the Transportation Code, the purpose of this list is to provide a compilation of those statutes in one location.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.