In 2017, at least 13,000 people were involved in alcohol-related crashes in Texas. For many of those involved in the crashes, it was their first time. Unfortunately, for 521 others, it was their last time.
The simple truth that these stats show is that whether you are driving drunk for the first time or the tenth time, your actions can result in serious consequences. Apart from the apparent risk you pose to other road users, you could hurt yourself seriously when driving with influence (DWI).
And if you happen to get out in one piece, Texas DWI laws will be waiting to make you heartily regret those drinks. Still not clear on exactly what consequences you may be facing after getting arrested for a DWI in Texas? Here’s all you need to keep in mind.
DWI in Texas is Serious Business
And don’t think otherwise for a second. Texas operates a ‘zero tolerance’ policy for DWI offences so even if you are a first time offender or a minor caught offending, you’re unlikely to get off lightly.
The reason for this hard stance towards DWI is the devastating effect that it can have on lives and families. Get this. In Texas, at least one person is seriously hurt or killed in an alcohol related car crash every 20 minutes. That means, in 1 hour, at least three people will have their lives significantly altered because somebody chose to drive drunk.
In 2016, 1,438 people were killed in alcohol-related car crashes, a figure that constituted a massive 38% of all vehicular fatalities that year. The statistics show that DWI car crash events lead to serious consequences for those involved.
Even worse, the stats disclose that up to 33.1% of those impacted by these DWI events are people aged 21 and younger. Little brothers, sisters, daughters, sons are the ones most affected by the decision to drink and drive.
Laws on DWI in Texas
Due to the troubling effect of DWI on individuals and the society, Texas takes a hard line stance to alcohol-impaired driving. Although most states describe the offence as driving under the influence (DUI), Texas law describes it as driving with influence instead. The two terms mean essentially the same thing though and may be used interchangeably.
Under Texas law, it is illegal for any person to operate a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration level of .08 or more. It is also illegal to operate such vehicle while intoxicated by drugs or alcohol. This means that a person may be arrested for a DWI in any of two instances.
First, if the arresting officer suspects that you are driving alcohol impaired, they may administer a breath or blood test. This tests the level of alcohol in your body system and if it is above .08, you may be charged with a DWI. Individuals with a commercial driving license have a stricter limit, with a maximum limit of .04. And if you are a minor and you register anything other than zero, you can be charged with a DWI.
In the second instance, the officer may not even need a breath or blood test. If they observe that you “lack the normal use of mental or physical faculties” due to alcohol, you may be arrested. The officer can test the use of your faculties by asking you to walk in a straight line or through some other test.
Consequences of a Texas DWI Conviction
Getting arrested for a DWI in Texas can result in serious consequences that will impact your freedom and ability to earn a living. Worse, even before conviction, mere arrest will expose you to significant administrative fines.
Upon lawful arrest for a DWI, your license will be automatically suspended. You will have 15 days to request a hearing to contest the suspension. If you don’t request the hearing or if you fail to succeed in contesting the suspension, your license will remain suspended for 90 days.
If you fail to submit to a breath or blood test, your license will be automatically suspended for 180 days. The only way this penalty can be set aside is if you are acquitted of your DWI charge in court.
Jail time and significant fines
The penalty scheme for Texas DWI convictions varies in relation to the frequency of offending. This means if you are a second or third offender, you will face much more severe punishment than if you were a first offender.
As a first offender, you may be fined up to $2,000 and face a jail term of between 3 and 180 days. This is in addition to a suspension of your license for up to 12 months. In order to reinstate and keep your license, you may have to pay up to $2,000 for 3 years afterwards. Apart from this, you may be required to install an ignition interlock device (IID) in your car and attend a DWI education course.
Second offending attracts a fine of up to $4,000 and jail time of between 30 days to 2 years. Your license may be suspended for up to 2 years, in addition to a surcharge of $2,000 to keep your license for 3 years afterwards. You will be compulsorily required to install an IID device in your car and attend a DWI education course.
Third offenders will be charged with a felony DWI. This attracts the maximum possible punishment of $10,000 plus 2 to 10 years in state prison. Your license will also be suspended for up to 2 years plus the surcharge of $2,000 to reinstate your license, assessed at $2,000 per year for 3 years. You will also have to mandatorily install an IID device and attend a DWI education course.
Regardless of whether you are a first or third time offender, getting arrested or convicted for a DUI will burn a hole in your pocket. You will be facing costs anywhere from $7,000 to $24,000. And it may only get worse, depending on the circumstances of your offence.
Significant work/life effects
What most people that get convicted for DWIs don’t realize is that the consequences of a conviction far outstrip criminal penalties. There are also several adverse effects that a DWI conviction will have on one’s life and work.
For instance, a single DWI conviction can significantly affect your chances of securing favorable insurance rates. It can increase your insurance premium by up to 87%.
Apart from this, jail time can reduce your employment prospects. You will most likely lose income for the period when you were in jail and there’s a good chance that your job won’t be waiting for you when you get out. The conviction will also affect your ability to secure employment in future.
You may find it difficult to get loans and even when you do, the rates may be unfavorable. Even a search for apartments will get a bit more difficult because of a DWI conviction as many landlords prefer not to rent to ex-convicts.
All of this can operate to fundamentally impact your life. It may estrange friends and family, leaving you alone and with nowhere to turn.
What Steps Can You Take Immediately After your DWI Arrest?
If you have been arrested or charged with a DWI, you may be set to embark on a difficult journey. It’s not the end of the world though. There are steps you can take to salvage the situation and get your life back on track. Here are some of them:
- Write down everything you remember: DWIs are messy events because you may not recall all that occurred. While you may believe your goose is cooked, in actual fact, there may be circumstances that operate in your favor. Due to this, it is important that you try to recall as much as you can and document everything. Your documentation should include the things the officer said and did, including whatever tests were administered.
- Get in touch with a lawyer: You will need a lawyer that has very good knowledge and experience of DWI laws and cases. With their experience, they may be able to use whatever facts are peculiar to your case to help you achieve a positive outcome.
- Stay out of trouble: As you have seen, the consequences of a DWI only get more onerous the more you offend. If you have been arrested or even charged, you need to lay low and get yourself out of trouble.
Apart from the steps outlined above, it will be important for you to sit and have a think. Do you think you have a problem with alcoholism? If you do, all of the outlined steps will only amount to papering over the real cracks.
Take the Step that Matters Most
Alcoholism is a disease. There’s no way to gloss over that. If you don’t get appropriate treatment, you will only find yourself in steadily worse situations. But you can stem the tide before it gets that bad. And even if you’re all the way at the end of the road, it’s still possible to backtrack.
Through alcohol addiction treatment, you can address the problem and get back on the road to recovery. The treatment will address both the physical, psychological, and spiritual roots of your alcoholism and help you find a new lease of life.
If you or a loved one is suffering from alcohol addiction and looking for an alcohol rehab near Fort Worth, give us a call! We are just outside the Dallas / Fort Worth metroplex and have been saving lives since 2010. Give us a call at (817) 993-9733 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.
John Eckelbarger is a Business Development Representative for Stonegate Center. With a BSA in Chemistry from the University of Texas at Austin, he has an interest in the neurobiology of addiction as well as the pharmacology of drugs. He hopes to bolster Stonegate Center’s status at the forefront of addiction medicine through bold, innovative content creation. He is currently pursuing his MBA in Finance from Texas Christian University.