The state of Texas takes DWI offenses extremely seriously, and the financial penalties are severe, even for first time offenders. DWIs are the most commonly committed crimes in the United States, but most of the time they are committed by average ‘non-criminal’ citizens. But make no mistake, if you are charged with a DWI, even if it is your first offense, you will be treated and prosecuted like a criminal.
This is why you need to arm yourself with the facts and be absolutely clear about what you’re up against.
Charges and Penalties for 1st Offense DWI in Texas
First offense DWIs are deemed to be Class “B” misdemeanors by the state of Texas. This means that if you are convicted, you will most likely be looking at a fine of up to $2,000, as well as up to 180 days in county jail.
However, it is crucial to understand that this is the minimum charge that can be leveled against you. DWI law is incredibly nuanced and can get complicated quickly, so it is essential you understand the details of your particular case.
For instance, what can complicate your situation with a first offense DWI – and escalate the penalties, fees and jail time – is if you happen to be involved in any of the following:
- DWI .15 and above – If you submit to a blood or breath test and the results come back with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .15 or over, your charge could be escalated to a Class “A” misdemeanor. The fine for this charge is up to $4,000, and carries with it the possibility of up to 1 year in county jail. Under Texas law, if you are convicted of this category of DWI, you may even have to submit to having an Ignition Interlock Device (essentially a breathalyzer for your car, which prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver is intoxicated) installed in your vehicle.
- DWI with a passenger under the age of 15 – If you happen to be stopped and found to be intoxicated with a minor in your car (even if it is your own child), your first offense DWI immediately escalates to a felony. This charge carries a fine of up to $10,000, with a possible 180 days to 2 years in a state jail.
- Intoxication assault – If you seriously injure another person while intoxicated, the charge is classed as a third-degree felony, which carries a penalty of between 2 and 10 years in state jails and a fine of up to $10,000.
- Intoxication manslaughter – If someone dies as a result of an intoxicated driver, it is a second-degree felony, punishable by 2 to 20 years in a state prison and/or a fine of not more than $10,000.
What to Expect from Sentencing for at 1st Offense DWI
If you do end up being convicted for a 1st offense DWI in Texas, unless you are granted probation, you are probably looking at the mandatory three days in county jail. The other possibility is community supervision, which usually means you will sentenced to some form of community service.
Depending on the judge’s ruling, you may be required to submit to further conditions, such as attending a state-approved rehab facility (if you are deemed to have a problem with alcohol, you may have to go through a full rehab program). You may also have to attend DWI “school,” a 12-hour course you must take within 180 days of receiving probation. If you fail to attend the course, it will result in your license being revoked until you complete the course.
Probably the worst thing about being convicted of a first offense DWI in Texas are the civil consequences. If you are convicted, your driver’s license could be suspended. Your license can also be suspended without you being convicted – up to 180 days if you refuse to take either a blood or breath test, or for up to 90 days if the results of your test are above .08. This is because of the “implied consent” laws in Texas, which state that by driving on the roads you automatically consent to sobriety tests. If you refuse the tests, your license is automatically suspended.
Administrative License Revocation (ALR) will begin 40 days after you have received a “Notice of Suspension,” and once you do, you have 15 days to request a hearing. You will also have to pay a reinstatement fee of $125 to get your license renewed or reissued.
Finally, there is the DWI surcharge from the Texas Department of Transportation. If you are convicted of a DWI-1st offense you will have to pay an annual fee of $1,000 for a period of three years.
Getting Help with Your DWI 1st Offense Case
From the above, it should be clear that being convicted with a DWI 1st offense is not a fun time. The effects on your personal and professional life can be devastating: it can impact your reputation in your community and can put you under serious financial pressure.
However, despite the harsh consequences of being charged with a DWI 1st offense, don’t assume all hope is lost. Police officers have to establish probable cause and provide evidence of an actual DWI offense in order to make an arrest. They are also bound by law to follow proper procedures when administering field sobriety tests.
If you retain competent legal counsel – and when facing DWI charges we recommend you should – you give yourself a fighting chance to have your charges reduced, at the very least, if not dismissed completely. DWI law is extremely nuanced, and your case is unique, which means there is no reason to think that you can’t win simply because the evidence seems to be stacked against you. If you do decide to hire legal counsel, you should try and retain the services of an attorney who specializes in DWI law.
At Scheiner Law Group, P.C., we have a wealth of experience handling DWI cases successfully and have even had instances where our clients won cases when their blood or breath tests were over the legal limit. Every citizen has the right to defend themselves by all legal means to keep their record clean and their reputation intact, so believe us when we say you case is worth fighting.
To discuss the details of your case with a professional Houston DWI lawyer, contact Scheiner Law Group, P.C. today via this form or phone at (713) 783-8998. If you are unsure of how to choose your DWI attorney in Houston, be sure to read our comprehensive guide.