By Dallas and Collin County Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal
A first DWI is classified in Texas as a Class B Misdemeanor. The punishment range is between 72 hours in jail and/or a fine not to exceed $2,000.
The main difference between a Driving While Intoxicated charge and any other Class B Misdemeanor (such as possession of a small amount of marijuana), is that there is tons of red tape and other administrative penalties that come along.
First is that if you’ve been arrested for DWI in Texas, you’re probably also facing a driver’s license suspension for either refusing the breath test or taking the breath test and blowing over a 0.08. The suspension is not automatic (even though law enforcement likes to think otherwise), but it’s still an additional headache nonetheless. For a 1st DWI arrest, the driver should be eligible for what is known as an occupational license which allows them to drive during the suspension period for work or essential household purposes in the event the license is ultimately suspended.
Next is that if you’re convicted of a DWI, then the Department of Public Safety charges you an annual surcharge for 3 years in order for you to maintain your driver’s license. A generic surcharge is $1,000 per year while if your breath test is higher than a 0.15 the surcharge goes to $2,000. For a second offense the surcharge is $1,500. The surcharge program has been the source of much controversy lately but unfortunately you still have to deal with it if you’re convicted.
There is no deferred adjudication for Driving While Intoxicated cases in Texas. People accused of selling drugs to kids and worse can get deferred — but not on DWI cases.
More recently, Texas laws require Judges to order “Interlock” or “deep lung devices” on cars if the accused is convicted and had a blood alcohol concentration of greater than 0.16 while that person is on probation. The devices aren’t free and the reporting requirements that come along with the devices can be fairly time-consuming and cumbersome.
Now the good news — DWI cases are very fightable and statistics show even in Collin County that people charged with DWI have a lower conviction rate at trial than almost any other offense. Also, first-time DWI cases rarely result in jail for the accused an instead get probation even if convicted.
*Jeremy Rosenthal is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and licensed by the Supreme Court of Texas. Nothing in this article is intended to be legal advice. For legal advice about any specific case you should consult an attorney directly.