Known for being the 13th strictest state in the nation when it comes to DWI laws, Texas takes drunk driving seriously. While a DWI charge is always a big deal, getting a 2nd DWI in Texas can bring on incredibly serious consequences.
Before you hop behind the wheel after a few drinks, you’ll want to have a clear understanding of the drinking and driving laws in Texas. Here’s what you need to know.
According to Texas DWI laws, anyone caught driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 or higher can be arrested and charged with driving while intoxicated (DWI). Charges may also arise if you’re impaired on other drugs or alcohol regardless of your BAC.
As long as there are no children in the car, your first DWI offense will result in penalties including:
To retain your driver’s license, you’ll also have to pay an annual surcharge fee of $1,000 to $2,000 per year for three years.
Refusal to take a breathalyzer or blood test when you’re pulled over will result in an automatic 180-day license suspension.
If you have a child age 15 or under in the car at the time of the offense, penalties are steeper. These may include a fine of up to $10,000 and up to two years in jail. You’ll also lose your driver’s license for 180 days.
A first-time DWI is considered a Class B misdemeanor.
Thanks to the “Second Chance Law” in Texas, some DWI convictions can now be sealed from public access. Although this does offer some leniency for DWI offenders, those facing a second round of charges aren’t so lucky.
If you’re arrested for DWI a second time, the legal system isn’t so friendly. This offense is a Class A misdemeanor, which is a step up from the first conviction.
Fines can go up to $4,000 and you’ll face jail time of anywhere from one month to a full year. When you’re facing your second conviction, you’re far more likely to receive penalties at the higher end of the spectrum.
If jail time is probated, there’s still a mandatory three days sentence if you were convicted more than five years prior. If your conviction occurred within the past five years, the mandatory sentence increases to five days.
You’ll also lose your driver’s license for up to two years. To retain your driver’s license, you’ll need to pay a surcharge fee of either $1,000, $1,500, or $2,000 for three years.
There is no limit on the amount of time that must have passed between your first and second DWI charge. This means that even if decades have passed between charges, the extra penalties still apply.
If you have two or more DWI charges within five years, you’ll also have to install a special vehicle ignition interlock device on your car.
This ignition will prevent the car from starting if you’re intoxicated. It’s illegal for those convicted of a second DWI to operate a vehicle that does not have the device installed.
The courts may also require you to abstain from drinking alcohol or using controlled substances without a prescription. Your probation may require random drug testing.
Perhaps one of the worst things about a second DWI charge is that you’re not allowed to have your conviction sealed. That means it becomes a permanent part of your record that will come up in background checks and online searches.
Fighting a DWI charge for the second time brings additional challenges.
For starters, the jury will be told right away that you’ve had a prior DWI charge. This puts you at a severe disadvantage and makes it even more important to hire a competent lawyer to defend your case.
If you want to have any chance of fighting the conviction, you’ll need to get legal representation as soon as possible.
Ideally, you want a lawyer on your side before you leave jail or immediately after. This will give him or her the time to fully analyze the details of your case and pull together a well-assembled defense.
Although the defense is difficult, it’s not impossible.
Properly questioning the science and circumstances behind the state’s evidence can help raise a reasonable doubt. Breathalyzers are significantly less accurate than a blood test, so a good attorney can also help raise suspicion about the results.
Whether your attorney will be able to have your charges reduced or dropped will depend on your specific circumstances and the prosecutor assigned to your case.
In some cases, you might be able to plea down to a lesser charge, like reckless driving, in exchange for giving up your right to trial and pleading guilty.
This is a challenge when dealing with a second charge because the prosecutor might not be willing to work with you.
Even if you reach a deal, the judge can still decide not to sign off on it.
If it’s been many years since your last conviction, you’re receiving alcohol treatment, or you can show that you’re an upstanding member of the community, you might have a better chance of getting leniency from the courts.
If you or someone you know has been charged with a 2nd DWI in Texas, the next steps you take can impact the rest of your life. Don’t take chances. At Hoelscher Gebbia Cepeda PLLC, we know what it takes to prepare the best possible defense.
Contact us using our online form or give us a call at 210-222-9132 to discuss the details of your case.