Frequently Asked Questions on DWI

What is the Difference Between Driving Under the Influence and Driving While Intoxicated?

Best Dwi lawyers in Denton

Driving Under the Influence, or DUI, in Texas only applies to individuals who are under 21 years of age who have ANY detectable alcohol in their system while driving. The charge carries a low-level fine only ticket.

Driving While Intoxicated, or DWI, in Texas can carry harsh penalties. Under Texas State Laws, driving with a blood alcohol content, or BAC, or .08 or higher is considered intoxication. Clinically, intoxication is the loss of the normal use of the mental or physical faculties by reason of the introduction of alcohol, a drug, a dangerous drug or a controlled substance into the body.

Any driver under or over the age of 21 who has a BAC of .08 or higher can be charged with a DWI.

What Are the DWI Laws in Texas?

Like most states, DWI laws in Texas are imposed by levels of offense. Certainly, a second-time (or more) DWI offender will be more harshly charged than a first-time offender and the charges include heightened penalties when an injury occurs because of the driver’s intoxication.

First Offense for a DWI Charge in Texas: Class B Misdemeanor, Punishable by Up To:

  • 180 days in jail
  • $2,000 fine or probation

Second Offense for a DWI Charge in Texas: Class A Misdemeanor, Punishable by Up To:

  • 365 days in jail
  • $4,000 fine or probation

Additionally, a DWI 2nd offense probation requires up to:

  • 30 days in jail as a condition of probation
  • A breath test device on any car the accused drives

Third or Subsequent Offense for a DWI Charge in Texas: Third-Degree Felony, Punishable by Up To:

  • Ten (10) years in prison
  • $10,000 fine or probation

Intoxication Assault, or a DWI Wherein the Intoxicated Person Causes Another Person Serious Bodily Injury: Third-Degree Felony, Punishable by Up To:

  • Ten (10) years in prison
  • $10,000 fine or probation

Intoxication Manslaughter, or a DWI Wherein the Intoxicated Person Causes the Death of Another: Second Degree Felony Punishable by Up To:

  • Twenty (20) years in prison
  • $10,000 fine or probation

When probation is possible, which is rare in a Felony DWI case, it is typically more than ten years in length.

How Have the Texas State DWI Laws Changed or Expanded Recently?

In the past few years, Texas State DWI laws have stiffened with the creation of new offenses that carry harsher penalties than the previous laws.

DWI with a BAC of 0.15 or more

This new law charges drivers with a BAC of .15 or higher with a Class A Misdemeanor —harsher than its previous charge of a Class B Misdemeanor.

This means, even for first offenders:

  • Larger fines
  • Increased probationary periods
  • Expanded possible jail time
  • DWI with a Minor Child in the Vehicle

This new law states that any driver who is found driving while intoxicated with a minor child in the vehicle will be charged with a felony, harsher than the previous Class B Misdemeanor it once carried for first offenders.

This means:

  • The driver risking a felony conviction on their permanent record
  • Up to two years of jail time in a state facility

How Are Cases Involving Minors Handled Differently?

There is very little room for error in a DWI case where a minor child was present in the vehicle at the time of the driver’s arrest. We recently had a client who was arrested under this charge, and who was facing more than jail time, but also a severe blow to her career. Our client is a nurse, and by law – since her license is issued by the State of Texas – it would be revoked with a felony conviction.

The nurse came to us after working with a different DWI attorney whom she felt was not applying the proper care to the case. We were able to examine several legal openings that were not considered previously and mitigate the charges against the nurse.

All DWI cases are different, which is why it is so important to contact a Denton DWI attorney right away.

Can Someone Represent Themselves in a DWI Case?

Any driver has the legal right to represent him/herself in court during a DWI case. However, because the Texas DWI laws are strict and complex, it is not advisable – especially if s/he would like to minimize the charges and the overall outcome.

What Can a DWI Attorney Do That I Cannot in a DWI Case?

An attorney will begin by getting a bond set for your release, so you can post bail and minimize your time behind bars. This can become complicated if the jurisdiction that is holding the driver is different from the one setting the bond.

Next, your driver’s license is going to be reviewed for suspension in an Administrative License Revocation (ALR) Program hearing. This proceeding will determine whether you retain your driving privileges, and an attorney can help you avoid losing the privilege of driving to work, school, or other mandatory appearances.

Thirdly, an attorney will review your case fully against the backdrop of its legality, which is something the driver may not be equipped to do on their own. This can include running an independent blood test or securing evidence that supports our position.

Questions your attorney can investigate and answer for you will be:

  • Was the stop of your vehicle, and the subsequent arrest legal?
  • If not, can your case be dismissed outright?
  • Is there an alternative legal solution that can be accomplished with a fair plea deal from the prosecutor’s office?
  • It is possible to be found “not guilty” at trial?

Understanding your rights is the most important part of mitigating the charges and their outcome. An attorney will provide clear and just options that you may not consider on your own.

Does DWI Only Apply to Alcohol? Or Drugs, Too?

Driving while intoxicated in the State of Texas is illegal in any capacity, whether the impairment is caused by alcohol or drugs.

To be clear, the word intoxication under Texas Law states: The loss of the normal use of the mental or physical faculties by reason of the introduction of alcohol, a drug, a dangerous drug or a controlled substance into the body.

Drugged Driving, as it is often referred, is a new legal frontier for most states. States that have legalized marijuana have their own THC concentration numbers that determine intoxicated driving. Texas is not yet one of those states, so we often borrow the concentration numbers from other states to determine the actual charges against drivers in our state.

However, THC is not the only DWI concern. Drugged Driving is often the result of prescription drug use, which further confuses the charges because the individual is using the drug under a physician’s orders.

Common Drugged Driving prescription use can include, but is not limited to:

  • Sleep medication, including Ambien
  • Sedatives, including Xanax or Valium
  • Pain medication, including Hydrocodone

While all illegal drugs including heroin, cocaine, or methamphetamines carry a clear label for intoxication, prescription drug use can be complicated further because there is no standard for intoxication to measure it against.

A Denton criminal defense attorney will provide the best outcome available in a DWI case, as the proper arguments for the drug’s use, and the educative evidence introduced on the driver’s behalf can go a long way with the prosecutor’s office, and in the courtroom.