DWI vs. DUI in Texas. What Are The Most Important Differences?
In 2020, 867 Texas drivers died in alcohol-involved motor vehicle fatalities. To push back against such tragic and unnecessary accidents, the state of Texas employs harsh penalties against people who drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Many people use the terms “DWI” (Driving While Intoxicated) and “DUI” (Driving Under the Influence) interchangeably. However, a difference exists between the two definitions under state law.
When might Texas drivers face a DWI or DUI charge, and what penalties can you expect with either? Read on as our legal team at Kimbrough Legal, PLLC, explains. We are a criminal defense firm with offices located in Austin and San Antonio.
DWI and DUI in Texas
In Texas, drivers commit a DWI or DUI offense if they operate a vehicle while drug or alcohol use is impairing their physical or mental faculties. Even if the driver’s BAC (blood alcohol content) is below the legal limit, the law may still consider them intoxicated if alcohol or drugs hinder the full use of their mental or physical abilities.
In addition, Texas law prohibits driving with an open alcohol container in your vehicle, even if you have not been drinking out of it.
So what is the difference between DWI and DUI?
- For DWI, the legal BAC limit in Texas is 0.08 for private drivers of any age. Commercial drivers must adhere to the stricter limit of 0.04.
- DUI refers specifically to Texas drivers under 21 who have any detectable alcohol amount in their blood but don’t reach the BAC threshold of 0.08.
Under Texas law, drivers below the age of 21 cannot operate a vehicle if they have any alcohol at all in their system. If an 18-year-old driver gets pulled over, submits to a breathalyzer test, and the test detects BAC of 0.02, the young driver could face DUI charges. A 22-year-old driver in the same situation wouldn’t face charges unless visibly intoxicated.
However, if a driver’s BAC is 0.08 and above, they will face DWI and not DUI charges, regardless of their age.
The legal penalties for DWI in Texas are as follows:
First offense: Up to $2,000 in fines, jail time of up to 180 days, and driver’s license suspension up to 1 year
Second offense: Up to $4,000 in fines, jail time of up to 1 year, and driver’s license suspension of 1-2 years
Third offense: Up to $10,000 in fines, jail time of up to 10 years, and driver’s license suspension lasting up to 2 years
Texas drivers under 21 convicted of DUI could face:
First offense: Maximum fine of $500, 30 days of driver’s license suspension, and community service of up to 40 hours
Second offense: Maximum fine of $500, 60 days of driver’s license suspension, and community service of up to 60 hours
Third offense: Maximum fine of $2,000, up to 180 days in jail, and 180 days of driver’s license suspension
What Is a Felony DWI or Felony DUI in Texas?
In Texas, a DWI offense usually counts as a Class B misdemeanor. However, the Texas legal system may charge DWI as a felony under certain conditions.
Unlike DWI, a DUI offense would not get charged as a felony. DUI charges fall under the Texas Traffic Code, while the more serious DWI charge falls under the Texas Penal Code.
DWI may lead to a felony charge if:
- The driver committed a third (or more) DWI offense
- Intoxicated driving caused an accident that led to serious injuries or fatalities
- The impaired driver had a child under 15 in the vehicle
Apart from its legal penalties, a felony conviction will stay on a criminal record for at least three years. It can harm job prospects, limit housing options, and disqualify a person from federal loans.
Why You Need a Criminal Defense Lawyer
DWI or DUI charges could have a far-reaching impact on your career, reputation, and finances. Depending on the severity of the offense, drivers dealing with DWI or DUI charges may face the prospect of heavy fines, jail time, and license suspension.
Depending on the circumstances of your case, an experienced criminal defense lawyer can:
- Help protect your constitutional rights
- Challenge breathalyzer test results
- Gather favorable evidence
- Work to eliminate or reduce penalties
- Prevent or shorten license suspension
Choosing the right attorney can have a tremendous impact on the outcome of your DWI or DUI case. A skilled DWI lawyer knows how local courts operate and can work with you to build a strong line of defense.
Kimbrough Legal, PLLC: DWI and DUI Criminal Defense Attorneys in Travis County, TX
With offices in Austin and San Antonio, Texas, criminal defense law firm Kimbrough Legal, PLLC, offers effective legal counsel and assertive representation to Texas drivers facing DWI or DUI charges.
When your future is at stake, settle for no less than a fierce legal defense by an experienced and dedicated DWI/DUI lawyer. Call (833) 553-4251 or complete our online form to schedule a complimentary strategy session with Tycha Kimbrough, our lead DWI and DUI criminal defense attorney in Travis County, TX.
The information in this blog post (“post”) is provided for general informational purposes only and may not reflect the current law in your jurisdiction. No information in this post should be construed as legal advice from the individual author or the law firm, nor is it intended to be a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter. No reader of this post should act or refrain from acting based on any information included in or accessible through this post without seeking the appropriate legal or other professional advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a lawyer licensed in the recipient’s state, country or other appropriate licensing jurisdiction.
Kimbrough Legal, PLLC
5920 W. William Cannon Dr., Bldg 3, Ste 400
Austin, TX 78749