Not Much New DWI Legislation in Texas for 2011

By Dallas and Collin County Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal

(972) 562-7549

After a political season with a lot of chest-beating and drum-banging about changes to existing Driving While Intoxicated laws in Texas, only several changes will be made to the Texas Penal Code.  You can read an article by the Dallas Morning News on the topic here.

There are only two changes. The first is that that punishment ranges can be increased for first-time DWI cases with a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.15 or greater from 180 days to 1 year of jail for punishment. This change may sound like a harsh one, but the vast majority of DWI first-time offenders get probation regardless of the jail sentence — which means the punishment is suspended whether it’s 72 hours or 1 year of jail. The second change is to increase the punishment level where a victim of intoxicated assault is in a vegetative state from 10 years to 20 years.

The big news is that the legislature did not pass a bill allowing deferred adjudication in Driving While Intoxicated for first time offenders. The bill had broad support from law enforcement as well as prosecutors because the harsh state of DWI penalties gives prosecutors no room to plea-bargain. Defense lawyers had a luke-warm reaction to the idea because the proposed legislation was extremely shallow in it’s benefits for those pleading guilty to a first-time drunk driving charge.

*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 situation, you should consult an attorney directly.

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