DUI laws in America vary widely among different states, and this variation can be confusing for drivers, especially those who frequently travel across state lines.

If you were involved in a DUI incident in Texas, it is important to understand the specific laws and consequences that you could face. This guide will give you a brief overview of DUI laws in Texas and what to expect if you are arrested for driving under the influence.

DUI Meaning

Driving under the influence (DUI) or driving while intoxicated (DWI) is a criminal offense referring to operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The laws surrounding this offense vary by state, but the common denominator among many is that DUI/DWI offenses carry severe penalties and consequences.

Understanding the DUI Laws in Texas

There are numerous laws surrounding intoxicated driving in Texas, and it’s essential to understand them if you are facing a DUI/DWI charge. The following is a brief overview of the key aspects of DUI laws in Texas.

Per Se BAC Limit

In Texas, the legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit is 0.08%. This “per se” limit means that if you’re found to have a BAC of 0.08% or higher while driving, you can be charged with a DUI/DWI offense. On the other hand, the authorities could arrest you for DUI if you’re driving a commercial vehicle with a 0.04% BAC.

Per se means that no further evidence is necessary to prove intoxication — it’s automatically considered illegal. In this case, as long as the authorities have proof that you’re driving with a BAC over the legal limit, you can be convicted of DUI even if you’re not showing signs of impairment.

Refusing Tests

When authorities suspect you of DUI, they may ask you to take a preliminary test to gauge or confirm your level of intoxication. These tests are usually in the form of a breath or field sobriety test. You can refuse to take these tests without any legal consequences.

However, refusing a chemical or blood test when you’ve been arrested for DUI can result in an immediate and temporary suspension of your driver’s license. This limit of refusal to testing refers to the implied consent laws in Texas, which state that by driving within the state, you have agreed to submit to BAC testing when authorities have probable cause for a DUI arrest.

Enhanced Charges

Enhancement of DUI charges may occur when certain factors are present during a DUI arrest. These include:

  • A minor under the age of 15 was in the vehicle at the time of the offense.
  • Someone is severely injured or killed as a result of the DUI incident.
  • You’re a repeat offender with prior DWI convictions.
  • You’re driving with a 0.15% BAC or higher.

In such cases, enhanced charges can lead to more severe penalties, including longer jail time and higher fines.

Administrative Driver’s License Suspension

In addition to criminal charges, if you are arrested for DUI in Texas, your driver’s license can be suspended administratively. This suspension is separate and unrelated to any criminal proceedings or penalties.

The duration of an administrative suspension depends on various factors, including prior convictions and BAC at the time of arrest. It’s essential to note that an administrative suspension can occur even if the criminal DUI charges are dropped or you’re found not guilty.

Ignition Interlock Device

An ignition interlock device (IID) is a breathalyzer installed in a vehicle that requires the driver to blow into it before starting the engine. If the BAC registered is above the set limit, usually 0.02%, the car won’t start.

This device is usually mandatory for repeat DUI offenders or first-time offenders with a BAC of 0.15%. In some cases, the IID may also be required for those participating in a deferred adjudication program.

Zero-Tolerance DWI

In Texas, it’s illegal for drivers under the age of 21 to operate a vehicle with any detectable amount of alcohol in their system. This zero-tolerance policy means that even a BAC lower than the legal limit can result in a DUI charge for minors.

Minors caught driving while intoxicated are subject to a driver’s license suspension, fines, and mandatory alcohol education classes. The lower the age and the higher the BAC, the more severe the consequences.

What Is the New Law for DWI in Texas 2023?

On September 1, 2023, a new DUI law in Texas was enacted. This new DUI law, called Bentley’s Law, is named after a young boy who lost his parents after a tragic car accident in Missouri.

Bentley’s Law states that an intoxicated driver who killed a parent or both parents of a child is legally required to provide child support to the surviving child or children up to 18 years of age. The amount would be based on various factors and guidelines set by the court.

What Is the Punishment for DUI in Texas?

The penalty or punishment for DUI in Texas varies depending on the specific circumstances of each case and its degree. Some common penalties for DUI include probation, fines, alcohol education classes, community service, and jail time.

First Offense

If this is your first DUI offense and you have a BAC below 0.15%, you could be charged with a class B misdemeanor. Here are some penalties you could expect.

  • A fine of up to $2,000.
  • Possible jail time ranging from 72 hours to 180 days.
  • License suspension for up to 1 year.
  • Mandatory attendance at a DWI education program.
  • Possible ignition interlock device (IID) installation at the offender’s expense.
  • Serve several community service hours.
  • Potential DWI probation.
  • Completion of a DWI education program.

Second Offense

A second DUI offense occurs if you commit another DUI within ten years of your first one. A second DUI is a class A misdemeanor with the following possible penalties:

  • A fine of up to $4,000.
  • Mandatory jail time of around 30 days to 1 year.
  • License suspension for up to 2 years.
  • Mandatory attendance at a DWI education program.
  • Mandatory installation of an IID at the offender’s expense.
  • Possible forfeiture of the offender’s vehicle.

Third Offense

If you commit another DUI within ten years of your second offense, you’ll be charged with a third DUI offense. This offense is considered a felony with the following penalties:

  • A fine of up to $10,000.
  • Prison time of 2 to 10 years.
  • License suspension for up to 2 years.
  • Mandatory attendance at a DWI education program.
  • Mandatory installation of an IID at the offender’s expense.
  • Possible forfeiture of the offender’s vehicle.

What Happens When You Get a DUI for the First Time in Texas?

Several things are likely to occur if a person is arrested for a first DUI offense. Here’s an overview of what typically happens:

  • Arrest: When a person is suspected of driving under the influence in Texas, law enforcement officers may stop the vehicle and conduct preliminary tests. If the officer believes the driver is impaired, they will be arrested and taken into custody.
  • Booking Process: After the arrest, authorities will bring the individual to the police station or local jail for booking.
  • Chemical Testing: In Texas, drivers are subject to implied consent laws, meaning that by driving on Texas roads, individuals implicitly agree to submit to chemical testing if suspected of DWI.
  • Court Appearance: The individual must appear in court after being arrested for a DWI offense. The judge will inform them of their charges and allow them to enter a plea (guilty, not guilty, or no contest).
  • Legal Proceedings: The legal process will start after the court appearance. If the individual pleads guilty or is found guilty at trial, they will be sentenced by the court.
  • Probation: In some cases, the court may offer probation instead of or in addition to other penalties for first-time offenders. Probation typically involves meeting certain conditions, such as attending alcohol education classes, avoiding further legal trouble, and regularly reporting to a probation officer.

Is a DUI a Felony?

DUI in Texas is only a felony if it’s a third offense or more. However, certain circumstances may also lead to felony charges, such as causing serious injury or death while driving under the influence.

Can You Avoid Jail Time for Your First DUI in Texas?

First-time DUI offenders might face jail time, but it’s not mandatory. The court will consider several factors before determining the appropriate punishment, such as BAC level and prior criminal record. Sometimes, community service may be offered as an alternative to jail time. Probation is also an alternative route to avoid jail time.

We’re Here for You

DUI is a serious crime in Texas, and the penalties can be severe. If you or a loved one is facing DUI charges, it’s crucial to seek legal representation from an experienced attorney.

Our team of lawyers has years of experience in drunk driving cases and is ready to assist you today. Call us now.