By Collin County Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal
No. Ruin is a bit harsh of a word — but they’re definitely not pleasant.
I commonly describe a DWI arrest as “a misdemeanor on steroids.” This is because the most DWI arrests are Class B or A Misdemeanors in Texas — and the vast majority of cases where the person is convicted results in probation like any other misdemeanor. Felony DWI cases or cases where someone is hurt or even deceased from a DWI accident are another story.
I generally tell most clients that while a DWI certainly isn’t good for one’s criminal record — there is only so bad it will generally hurt. My experience is that the impact of a DWI is typically felt the hardest with persons who are in the transportation industry. That would be pilots, bus drivers, or truck drivers. Also a DWI can be very bad for law enforcement professionals or other public servants. Each profession is different — so there’s unfortunately no one-size-fits-all rule.
Most of what’s difficult about a DWI, though, is the punishment for the case itself.
Here’s what you have to remember about the politics behind DWI and DUI cases — no politician in Texas ever won by bragging about how light he/she has been on “drunk drivers.” People accused of driving while intoxicated make very easy targets for politicians in Austin or local law enforcement officials trying to act tough.
So what’s the result? A misdemeanor on steroids.
DWI convictions (which aren’t a foregone conclusion) come with all sorts of extra ‘baggage’ for lack of a better term which aren’t tacked onto to other common misdemeanor charges like usable amount marijuana possession.
For instance, there is no “deferred adjudication” on DWI cases which means that if a person pleads guilty (or is found guilty by a jury) — they will have a conviction which lasts forever and there is currently no way to mitigate, expunge, or minimize the arrest in the future.
Another example is the addition of surcharges to keep your license for a DWI conviction. If convicted of DWI, there s a $1,000 fee per year for 3 years to keep your license. If it’s a 2nd DWI conviction — that fee goes up to $1,500 per year. If there is a breath or blood specimen above 0.16, then it’s a $2,000 surcharge.
Additional examples of how DWI’s are distinguished from other misdemeanors are the requirements for a deep lung device in certain cases and/or mandatory minimum jail sentences which don’t exist in other cases.
A misdemeanor DWI won’t ruin your life. There is hope you can win and you do have to take it very seriously.
*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 situation you should talk to an attorney directly. Communications sent through this forum are not confidential and contacting the attorney does not create an attorney client relationship.