If you’ve been charged with a DWI in Austin, Texas, you may be wondering where to turn for help. Driving while intoxicated is a serious crime in the state of Texas, and there is a range of possible penalties.

So what are the Texas DWI penalties? The answer varies based on individual circumstances. Penalties for a first-time offense will be less severe than a second or third-time offense. If someone is harmed because of the DWI, this could also increase the severity of the penalties.

The Law Office of Eric Harron has years of experience handling DWI cases in Texas. We’re here to answer all of your questions related to DWI penalties and can fight for your rights if you’ve been charged with a DWI. Check out our guide to learn more about the definition of a DWI, possible Texas DWI penalties, and more.


What Does a DWI Mean?

In Texas, it’s illegal to operate a vehicle while intoxicated by drugs or alcohol. A person who breaks this law may be charged with a DWI, which is an acronym that stands for “driving while intoxicated.” This offense is charged under the Texas Penal Code and is considered a more serious charge than a DUI, which deals with minors drinking and driving.

A person could be charged with a DWI if they are caught driving with a 0.08 blood alcohol concentration or higher, or if they are impaired while driving. Impaired means not having the normal use of your physical or mental facilities due to consuming alcohol or drugs.

This means, unfortunately, some Texas drivers may even be charged with a DWI without providing a breath or blood sample. A prosecutor only needs to make a case that the driver lacked the normal use of their mental or physical ability to drive safely due to consuming drugs, alcohol, or both.

If you have been wrongly charged with a DWI in Texas or hope to lessen the penalties for your DWI, a skilled DWI defense attorney can help. Only an experienced attorney will know the ins and outs of the courts and be able to gather the necessary evidence to help protect your rights.


What is the Difference Between a DUI and DWI in Texas?

Both DUIs and DWIs are offenses related to driving while impaired by drugs or alcohol. However, the penalties for a DWI and DUI vary drastically, so there are a few key differences to keep in mind.

A DUI is an offense issued only to minors (drivers under the age of 21), while DWIs are issued to minors and to those age 21 or older. And while a DWI is charged under the Texas Penal Code, a DUI is charged under the Alcoholic Beverage Code and is not as serious of an offense.

A minor could be charged with a DUI when driving with any amount of alcohol in their system—as long as it is under the legal limit of 0.08 blood alcohol content. DWIs are reserved for individuals driving with a blood alcohol content level over 0.08, or for those who are otherwise impaired, regardless if they are a minor or an adult.


How Bad Is a DWI?

A DWI is a much more serious charge in comparison to a DUI since it signifies that the driver had a higher blood alcohol content level while driving. DWI penalties can range from jail time to large fines, as well as driving suspensions and other consequences that could have a major effect on everyday life.

Those who face a felony DWI penalty could even go to prison, have a hard time finding housing, or—if divorced—lose custody of their children. In contrast, a first-time misdemeanor DWI could have a lesser consequence, involving a fine and potentially a few months in jail.


What Are the Penalties for a DWI in Texas?

Have you been convicted of operating a motor vehicle in a public place in Austin while intoxicated? If so, you’re likely looking for more information about Texas DWI penalties. These penalties depend on how many DWI offenses you already have and whether or not anyone was injured during your time on the road.Here are the penalties for a few common DWI charges in Texas.


Penalties for a First-Time Offender

An offender who has never been convicted of a DWI before may face any combination of the following penalties:

  • A fine up to $2,000
  • Jail time for 72 hours to six months
  • Probation for up to two years
  • Community service between 24 and 100 hours
  • Potentially required to go to addiction treatment, install a deep lung air device (an ignition interlock device) on a car, or pay restitution for damages


Penalties for a Second-Time Offender

An offender who has already been convicted of a DWI once before may face any combination of the following penalties:

  • A fine up to $4,000
  • Jail time for 72 hours to one year
  • Probation for up to two years
  • Community service between 80 and 200 hours
  • A deep air lung device installed on a car during probation
  • License suspension for between 180 days and 2 years


Penalties for a Third-Time Offender

A third-time or higher offender is charged with a third-degree felony and may face any combination of the following penalties:

  • A fine up to $10,000
  • Prison time for 2 to 10 years
  • Probation for up to 10 years
  • Community service between 160 to 600 hours
  • A deep air lung device installed on a car during probation
  • License suspension for between 180 days and 2 years


Penalties if Someone Is Harmed

Regardless of the number of DWIs you have had before, you will face more severe penalties if anyone is harmed while you were driving while intoxicated. Any sort of injury of someone else that is considered either serious, physically disfiguring or debilitating (scars on the face or a badly broken leg or foot) will result in the same penalties as a third-offense DWI. If someone dies as a result of a person operating a vehicle while intoxicated, the penalties are much more severe. A DWI with a fatality is known as Intoxication Manslaughter. Possible penalties include:

  • A fine up to $10,000
  • Prison time for 2 to 20 years
  • Up to 10 years probation
  • Community service for 250 to 800 hours


Can a DWI Be Dismissed in Texas?

If you’ve been charged with a DWI, it’s easy to feel a sense of hopelessness. But before you accept that there’s no way out, it’s important to know that it is possible for a DWI charge to be dismissed in Texas.

There are a few different circumstances in which this may happen. For example, a police officer may charge someone with a DWI when their blood alcohol count is not over the legal limit. Or a prosecutor may not be able to sufficiently prove the driver is guilty of the charge. A DWI case could also be dismissed in Texas through a plea bargain.

Some defenses that could cause a DWI case to be dismissed include:

  • Violation of rights: A DWI could be dismissed if a Texas DWI defense attorney can show proof that the driver’s rights were violated during the DWI traffic stop. This type of evidence is sometimes found in a police report or in the video of the arrest.
  • Invalid reason for stopping: Another common reason that could lead to a DWI being dismissed is if it’s proven that the police officer did not have a valid reason for stopping the driver.
  • Incorrect administration of sobriety test: Sometimes, a DWI case may be dismissed if the video evidence shows proof that the police officer did not correctly administer the field sobriety tests.
  • Completion of a diversion program: Some counties have programs that if completed result in the dismissal of an otherwise unwinnable case.


Is Jail Time Mandatory for a First DWI in Texas?

Yes, jail time is mandatory for a first DWI in Texas. The minimum sentence is 3 days in jail even with probation. However, sometimes you can be given credit from the date you were originally arrested which can satisfy this sentence. Or, a work release can be another option to prevent you from physically going back to jail.


Will I Lose My Driver’s License?

There are really two ways to lose your license when you are accused of DWI. When you are accused of an alcohol offense you are also typically given a civil administrative suspension of your license. This can be contested, typically the deadline is 15 days from the date of your arrest. Your license can also be suspended from the criminal conviction of a DWI which could happen months after the arrest.


Does a DWI Stay on Your Record in Texas?

Yes, if you are convicted, a DWI does permanently stay on your record in Texas. This means the charge will show up anytime an employer, landlord, or other organization runs a criminal background check. This could make it far more difficult to find a job, or home, among many other things. Clearly, this type of Texas DWI penalty could have a lasting negative effect on a person’s life and livelihood.

However, there are some circumstances where the charge could be sealed (hidden from a criminal record). If the case was dismissed the arrest record could even be expunged (permanently erased from a criminal record). The right lawyer could help fight to get the DWI removed, meaning it would not show up during a background check. This is typically three to five years after the conviction, depending on the blood alcohol level of the case and whether or not an ignition interlock device was required on probation.


How Long Does a DWI Case Take in Texas?

Every DWI case includes a first appearance and announcement court settings. Depending on the pathway to a resolution that is taken, it may also have plea settings, pre-trial and trial dates. The timeline for each of these court settings varies depending on the situation, and the window of time between these court settings. Depending on the backlog of the court, the appearance dates could extend from a few weeks to a few months between settings. It varies highly from county to county and court to court.

A person charged with a misdemeanor DWI in Texas can expect to wait 20-40 days from the day of the arrest before being required to appear in court. In contrast, in some counties, a person charged with a felony may need to wait several months before getting a court date. Certain parts of the state do not set felonies for a court date until the case is presented to a grand jury which is usually after blood lab results are returned. This can take months.

From start to finish the common length is anywhere between three months to nine months before the case is resolved. However, it is not uncommon to have cases take longer than a year.


Contact Us Today

If you are charged with a DWI in Austin, a talented lawyer from the Law Office of Eric Harron can help you try to avoid being convicted and minimize the consequences to your criminal record. Eric Harron has years of experience fighting DWI and DUI cases, and he can increase your chances of getting a lesser penalty, or even dismissing the DWI altogether.

It’s crucial to have the right lawyer on your side when dealing with DWI penalties in Texas. Contact the Law Office of Eric Harron today for more information about how DWI penalties may affect you, and to find out how Eric Harron can help.