Have you been arrested for DWI?
Driving while intoxicated (DWI) is a serious charge. Long gone are the days when the penalty was a mere inconvenience. Fines, licenses suspension, surcharges, DWI school, mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device (IID), and jail could await you even if you have never before been convicted of drunk driving. If you have been charged with DWI (or a related offense), your first order of business should be to choose an experienced Austin DWI lawyer for your defense.
At the Law Office of Matthew Shrum, we are dedicated to protecting the rights of our clients. Matthew Shrum is an experienced DWI attorney who will fight for you every step of the way. Call us today for a free consultation.
What is DWI in Texas?
The law defining the basic offense of driving while intoxicated is section 49.04 of the Texas Penal Code. The statute says merely that if you operate a motor vehicle in a public place while intoxicated, you have committed an offense. The language appears simple, but it really doesn’t tell you very much about what the law really means, most importantly what it means to be intoxicated. In order to understand the answer to that question, you need to refer to the definitions contained in PC 49.01. In that section, “intoxication” is defined in distinct ways:
- Having an alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 or higher;
- Not having the normal use of your physical faculties due to having alcohol, drugs, or a combination of the two, in your body; or
- Not having the normal use of your mental faculties due to having alcohol, drugs, or a combination of the two, in your body.
If you have been arrested for DWI, you want an attorney who understands how the prosecution will try to prove intoxication, and all the defenses that may be available in order to counter the charges against you. Your attorney should also provide you with a fair and honest assessment of the case against you, and the potential consequences if you are convicted.
Texas DWI Penalties and Classifications
Being aware that you are facing a DWI charge is only a part of understanding your situation. There are numerous possible variations in the classifications and penalties in a DWI case, and they can affect both the seriousness of the charge, and the risks if you are convicted:
- First time DWI. If this is your first DWI, the offense is generally a class B misdemeanor. Your license will be suspended for up to a year. You also face a fine of $2,000, up to six months in jail (with a minimum of 72 hours confinement), a DWI education program, and the possibility of mandatory installation of an IID. When it’s time to get your license back, you’ll have to pay a license restoration fee, and your insurance rates will be sky-high.
- Second time DWI. This is a class A misdemeanor. A conviction will carry a potential fine of up to $4,000, up to a year in jail (minimum 30 days), plus DWI education, IID (if ordered by the judge), and other monetary consequences.
- Third or subsequent DWI. This is a third degree felony. In addition to the other DWI penalties, the fine could be as high as $10,000, your license will be suspended for up to two years, and your prison sentence could be from 2 to 10 years.
Additional sentencing enhancements may also be imposed where the charge is DWI with a BAC of 0.15 or more (class A misdemeanor), and DWI with an open container of alcohol in your immediate possession (minimum confinement of 6 days).
Additional DWI-related offenses
There are other drunk and drugged driving charges and enhancements that may apply in certain circumstances. These include:
- DWI with child passenger.
- Intoxication assault.
- Intoxication manslaughter.
All of these offenses are felonies, and each carries serious penalties if you are convicted.
What is the difference between DWI and DUI in Texas?
In some areas of the country, drunk driving (or drugged driving) is referred to as DWI (driving while intoxicated). In other places, it is called DUI (Driving under the influence). In most cases, this is merely a difference in terminology. In Texas, however, we call it DWI, unless the driver is under the age of 21. While adults, in order to be convicted of DWI, have to be legally intoxicated (as that term is defined in the statute), the state has a zero tolerance policy when it comes to minors. That means that if you are under 21, and you are caught driving with any detectable alcohol in your system, you can be charged with DUI. Of course, if your BAC is 0.08 or greater, or if you are physically or mentally impaired by alcohol and/or drugs, you can also be charged with DWI. But the offense of DUI in Texas is reserved for minors.
Additional intoxication-related charges
Being behind the wheel of a car or truck is not the only way to find yourself in trouble if you are legally intoxicated. Here are some related offenses:
- Public intoxication.
- Possession of alcohol in a vehicle.
- Flying while intoxicated.
- Boating (operating a watercraft) while intoxicated.
- Operating (or assembling) an amusement ride while intoxicated.
DWI defense attorney in Austin
Being charged with drunk driving, or with another intoxication-related offense, can lead to life-altering consequences. That’s why it is so important to choose the right attorney to defend you. Defenses do exist in these cases, including illegal stops, illegal search and seizure, faulty breath tests, and invalid field sobriety tests, among others.
If you have been charged with DWI, we can help. Contact the Law Office of Matthew Shrum today for a free consultation.