New Texas DWI Law

A bill has been passed in the state of Texas that allows DWI first-time offenders the opportunity to have charges deferred.

John Fleming, the criminal attorney of Nacogdoches County in Texas stated that “historically, DWI (driving while intoxicated) could not be deferred and deferred probation is one that if the terms and conditions of probation are completed then there is not a conviction on the person’s record.”

Fleming, who has been in support of the bill since the beginning, told media that during the 86th legislative session, it was the 5th time a bill presenting the idea of deferring DWIs had been discussed. Texas law previously prevented such a bill from ever being passed, until recently. “For years, prosecutors across the state of Texas wanted to offer to defer on DWIs, but the law prohibited them from doing so.” Activist groups such as MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) have also in the past prevented the proposed bill from being anything more than an idea. A DWI has been known to prevent people from career advancements. A single DWI could prevent someone from becoming a doctor, a police officer, a teacher, or joining the military. This is why Fleming, in an attempt to strike a deal with MADD, explained “The balance that was struck between MADD and other players at the table is that deferred adjudication DWI, if someone qualifies for it and receives that, in the event that they pick up a second DWI, that first DWI they got deferred for, which in theory allows for a conviction to be off someone’s record, it can be used to enhance that second DWI.” This means, in short, that those with a DWI aren’t completely scott-free. The compromise is that a first DWI can be used to convict someone receiving a second DWI.

Other individuals and groups still aren’t fully on board with this law. Bob Inselmann, judge of the Angelina County 217th District, stated that “driving while intoxicated is a serious offense.” Although, in support of the bill, he then continued with “however there are circumstances where the state can have a wide range of punishment for that DWI.” He believes this law will be most beneficial to those who make one mistake in college or doing something stupid at a wedding, those who generally are law-abiding citizens. Humans are going to make mistakes in life. This law is an attempt to ensure these mistakes don’t jeopardize someone’s entire life. Stephen F. Austin State University Police Chief John Fields assures that this bill does not grant wrong-doers immunity from the law- simply a second chance.

Furthermore, following the deferring of a DWI, the driver will be required to use an ignition interlock system. This means the car they are driving will not start in an instance where they blow .03 or higher into a breathalyzer. This is extremely effective since as many as 75% of drunk drivers would continue to drive despite a suspended license. This ignition interlock system prevents them from doing so.

This law will go into effect on September 1st, 2019.