Most people don’t think about drinking and driving until they find themselves facing charges for DWI or DUI. Texas has strict laws for intoxicated driving with harsh penalties, even for the first offense.
According to a press release from the Texas Department of Transportation, in 2022, 1,162 people were killed in drunk driving crashes in Texas. This is a 2% increase from the year 2021, an equivalent it says is akin to 3 people dying from drunk driving crashes every day of the year.
While it is a sobering reminder of potential outcomes, there are other hidden statistics for those that face drunk driving charges.
What Happens to Accused Drunk Drivers?
Statistics about DWI in Texas always revolve around the victims. However, many times, people are arrested for DWI without any motor vehicle crash or fatality involved.
The Texas Department of Public Safety issued a release for 2021 data that states 89,457 total DWI charges were reported for the state. However, it does not detail if crashes were involved. It does provide data on how many convictions resulted from these charges – 8,044 – as well as how many of these were dismissed – 1,917.
It stands to reason that while there are tragedies involving DWI, there are many more people accused of drunk driving that are facing wrongful convictions based on faulty testing, inaccurate BAC levels, improper procedures for pulling over a vehicle, and more.
While these things may not be clear, what is evident is that the financial impact of a DWI charge can total more than $10,000 in fines and may leave you facing prison time for up to 10 years. You may have your license suspended for up to 2 years as well, all while a DWI conviction stays on your permanent record.
It’s important to note that even a first offense for DWI in Texas can completely derail your life. You can learn more about the penalties for DWI below.
What to Know About DWI Arrests in Texas
In Texas, police officers may conduct a traffic stop if they witness a driver disregarding traffic laws, disrupting traffic flow, or otherwise driving erratically. The officer on the scene may then request the driver to submit to a PAS test (preliminary alcohol screening) through a breathalyzer.
You may think that the implied consent laws Texas has in place for DWI and chemical tests are the same as PAS, but you need to submit a chemical test after you have been arrested for this charge.
Your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) should be under the legal limit when behind the wheel. In Texas, any BAC recorded over .08% is grounds for being arrested for DWI. For any drivers under the legal drinking age of 21, Texas has a zero-tolerance policy which means any trace of BAC no matter how low will automatically result in being charged with DWI.
What Are the Potential Penalties for a DWI Conviction in Texas?
Like other states, Texas increases penalties for DWI with multiple convictions. For a first-time DWI that doesn’t involve any injuries or a fatality, you may receive a penalty of up to 180 days in the county jail plus a $2,000 fine and mandatory suspension of your driver’s license for 90 days up to one year.
However, if you have a prior DWI conviction and are arrested for DWI again a short time later, you can expect those penalties to become harsher. This is also the case if you have caused severe injury or a fatality in a crash while intoxicated.
You should know that at minimum, the mandatory jail sentence for a first-time DWI conviction is 3 days. Most judges will consider probation though if you have not hurt or killed anyone. They may even recommend rehabilitation programs as an alternative.
Is a Reduced DWI Charge Possible in Texas?
Texas certainly has a reputation for being tough on drunk drivers. Simply looking at the laws, it can make anyone fearful about the potential outcome. While nothing can be guaranteed, you can take comfort in the fact that many of the judges in the state will consider more lenient penalties if it’s your first offense if you are remorseful and willing to accept responsibility.
Working with a defense attorney for DWI may also be helpful as you’ll have someone who can challenge the evidence. If there were inconsistencies with your chemical test, it can raise questions to whether or not you were in fact above the legal limit. When the prosecution can’t make enough of a compelling case, they will likely reduce the charges.
How Long Does a DWI Conviction Stay on Your Record?
Unfortunately, if you are convicted of DWI in Texas, it will remain on your criminal record forever. You may be able to have the charge expunged if your case was dismissed and you were not convicted. With a conviction though, the only way to get it removed from your record is to make a petition for sealing the record. This may not always be possible, though with an attorney, you can find out more if you are eligible for sealing the record with an order of nondisclosure.
Here’s What to Do If You Were Arrested on DWI Charges in Texas
People make mistakes every day, and it is certainly hard to not think about the worst possible outcome. With a DWI attorney, they can look into the evidence and factors of your case. Often, mistakes are made by the arresting officer or the testing devices malfunction.
Plenty of people are also arrested for DWI when they are tired from working long hours. Red-rimmed eyes may be the hallmark of drunk driving, but this condition can be present in other situations as well. Your right to legal counsel is one you should exercise immediately if you are facing DWI charges in Texas.