In Texas, there’s a legal distinction between DWI and DUI that turns on the age of the driver at the time of his or her arrest. The law is different in each of these types of cases and the sentencing provisions are drastically different. Here’s how they’re distinguished from each other:
The Over 21 Arrest
If a person is over the age of 21 and operates a motor vehicle in the State of Texas with a blood alcohol content of .08 or above, he or she can be charged and found guilty of DWI. If the driver’s blood alcohol content is less than .15, a Class B misdemeanor will be charged. A conviction might also result if he or she was found to be impaired by drugs, whether they were legally prescribed or not.
The Under 21 Arrest
If a person under the age of 21 is pulled over and any amount of alcohol is determined to be in his or her system, the Texas DUI zero tolerance law is triggered, and there will be consequences. If a minor has a blood alcohol content of .08 or above, he or she could be charged with DWI.
Texas has some of the strictest drunk driving sentencing laws in the country. Even just a first-time conviction carries the following possible penalties:
- A minimum of 3 to 180 days in jail
- A fine of up to $2,000
- Installation of an interlock ignition program
- Completion of a DWI education program
Other penalties might apply if the person is placed on probation. A driver with a blood alcohol content of .15 or above can be charged with a Class A misdemeanor. If a person is convicted of a Class A misdemeanor DWI, expect the sentence to be harsher.
Administrative Penalties for DWI
Along with the criminal misdemeanor penalties for DWI there are also civil consequences from the Texas Department of Public Safety. A person can expect to have their driver’s license suspended from ninety days two years depending on the nature of the offense. He or she must pay a surcharge to the Department of Public Safety of at least $1,000 per year for three years following a conviction. An opportunity for a hearing on administrative penalties is available. That option must be exercised within 15 days of the date of arrest. It’s entirely possible that a person could have the DWI charged dismissed or be found not guilty, but still suffer administrative penalties.
Texas law classifies DUI as a Class C misdemeanor. A person who is under the age of 21 and found to be guilty of the Texas zero tolerance policy can expect to see a sentence of:
- A fine up to $500
- A 60-day driver’s license suspension
- 20 to 40 hours of community service
- Alcohol education classes
Experience and Confidence
In your selection of a DWI or DUI attorney to represent you in your case, you’ll want a lawyer who is respected by both the prosecutor and the judge. Sure, DWI and DUI cases can be pled, but you’ll want an attorney with considerable trial experience who will be able to deliver for you if a trial is in order.
Time is of the essence for you. Remember that you have two cases pending against you with only 15 days from the date of your arrest to exercise your option to contest the pending administrative penalties. If you’ve been pulled over after consuming alcoholic beverages, you might not want to perform any field sobriety tests. You’re only giving prosecutors more evidence to try to convict you with. If the police want a blood sample from you, they’ll need a search warrant or your consent. You can contact this firm by phone or email for a free consultation right after a DWI or DUI arrest. The objective is to have that arrest impact your life as little as possible or not at all. Don’t hesitate to call or email with your questions.