In the state of Texas, if you are operating a vehicle while under the influence, then you might be charged with criminal DWI. It’s a very serious charge, and that’s if you don’t end up in court in the face of a Houston injury lawyer, for hurting someone while impaired behind the wheel. Iif you are convicted, it is not only a criminal offense that can negatively affect your future, but the short-term consequences can also be very severe. Driving while under the influence means that someone is intoxicated while they are operating a motor vehicle. The intoxication means that they lack their normal physical faculties because they are under the influence of either drugs or alcohol.
A person might be charged with a DWI for two reasons: either they are mentally impaired and showing physical signs, or they have a blood alcohol concentration or BAC of 0.08% or higher. If someone is tested by breathalyzer and their BAC is above 0.08%, then that is legal grounds to charge them with a DWI – whether they are actually impaired or not.
With other crimes, after you are arrested you typically aren’t charged with anything unless you are found guilty in a court of law. A DWI in Houston is different. If you are even suspected of driving while under the influence, then you might face penalties and fines. If you are charged with DWI, you might have to incur the administrative costs of proving your innocence; even if you can’t, you will have to pay a serious amount of money, both to defend yourself and then pay penalties imposed by the state.
What are administrative penalties?
If you are charged with DWI in Texas, then the Department of Motor Vehicles (the DMV) can legally impose administrative penalties to revoke your license. If you either fail to or refuse to take a breathalyzer or a drug test, then the law enforcement officer will revoke your driving privileges immediately upon arrest. They will issue a “Notice of Suspension,” which will grant you privileges to drive temporarily until you can defend yourself in court; you will have just a 15-day window from the date that you are arrested to contest the suspension by requesting a hearing. If you fail to request a hearing, another 90-day suspension will be added to your license, which will start on the 41st day after you have been arrested. If you do request a hearing, then the Notice of Suspension allows you to drive until you have your day in court and are either found guilty or innocent.
If you refuse to take a breathalyzer or a drug test, then you are violating the Texas implied consent laws. If you do, then the state will automatically suspend your license for another 108 days once your temporary license has expired. If you are found not guilty, then the 108-day suspension will be revoked.
Since it is your first offense, you might be granted an “occupational license” to use during your suspension. An occupational license allows you to drive with specific limitations. You are only allowed to go to and from work, school, or other necessary places that you have to go to perform household duties. To get an occupational license, you have to have an ignition interlock device installed on your car and any other vehicles that you intend to use, such as a company car.
Criminal penalties and fines
Being found guilty of DWI in Texas is a Class B misdemeanor as long as your BAC level is less than .15%. If you have a BAC level of 0.15% or more, then it becomes a Class A misdemeanor. If you are found guilty, your fines and penalties can range anywhere from $2000-4000, along with whatever administrative fees you paid prior to being found guilty.
For your first offense you might also face anywhere from 72 hours to six months in prison, or as much as a year if your BAC is higher than .15%. In some instances, you might have to participate in community service, probation or DWI educational programs. Your first DWI conviction will also come with a suspension of your license for anywhere from 90 days to 12 months, and you are also charged an annual three-year license surcharge that can range from $1000-2000. If you are facing a DWI conviction in Houston – even if it is your first time – it is imperative that you hire a DWI attorney to help plead your case and to potentially lessen the consequences of being found guilty.