Texas DWI charges: Understanding the consequences

Following a DWI arrest, people may face a range of penalties, the severity of which vary based on their prior arrest records.

Each year, numerous people across the state of Texas are arrested for drunk driving. In fact, the Texas Department of Public Safety reports there were 70,569 DWI arrests in 2014 alone. Being charged with driving while intoxicated can be a frightening experience. Many who find themselves facing such charges are unsure of the potential consequences and how these charges may affect their futures.

Fines

Fines are one of the potential penalties for people who are convicted of, or who plead guilty to, DWI charges in Texas. The amount of the fines they could face varies based on their prior arrest record. For a first time DWI conviction, the Texas Department of Transportation points out that people may be fined a maximum of $2,000. The maximum fine is raised to $4,000 for a second DWI and $10,000 for a third DWI.

Driver's license suspension

Following a DWI conviction in the state of Texas, people may have their driving privileges suspended. If it is their first offense, motorists may have their licenses revoked for up to one year. Drivers may lose their licenses for up to two years for a second drunk driving offense. According to the Texas Department of Transportation, people's driver's licenses may be suspended for up to three years due to a third DWI conviction.

Driver's license retention fee

Once people's driver's licenses are reinstated, they are required to pay an annual retention fee in order to maintain their driving privileges. They must pay these fees for three years. After their first DWI conviction, drivers are required to pay $1,000 or $2,000 each year. Following a second or third DWI conviction, drivers must pay $1,000, $1,500 or $2,000 each year.

Ignition interlock devices

In order to have their driving privileges reinstated, people in some cases may be required to have ignition interlock devices installed on their vehicles. This is generally the case for motorists who have been convicted of DWI two times within a period of five years. These devices require motorists to provide a breath sample in order to turn on their vehicles.

Jail or prison time

Perhaps the penalty that weights most heavily on people's minds following a drunk driving arrest is the possibility of jail or prison time. For a first time DWI conviction, people may be sentenced to between three and 180 days in jail, according to the Texas Department of Transportation. They may face anywhere from one month to one year in jail for a second DWI conviction. Drivers may be sentenced to between two and 10 years in prison if they are convicted of a third DWI.

Obtaining legal representation

Driving while intoxicated is considered a serious offense in Texas and is prosecuted aggressively. Consequently, the penalties people face as a result of such charges could have life-changing implications. Therefore, those who have been charged with DWI or other alcohol-related offenses may benefit from working with an attorney. A lawyer may help protect their rights and aid them in developing a strong criminal defense.