Houston DWI Penalties


Statistics show that the number of convictions for first-time offenders of DUI laws is fairly high but a sentence of probation usually accompanies it. One reason for this may be the results of a study done by the U.S. Justice Department. Their findings revealed that convicted drunk drivers are much more likely to seek out support programs to address their drinking and driving issues if they receive a probationary sentence versus incarceration. For details specific to your case or situation it is advisable to speak with a Houston DWI attorney for a more comprehensive explanation.

Often in the case of probation, the judge will be stern in his (or her) warning to the defendant about repeating any appearance before them in the courtroom for any future, similar events – but then show a measure of leniency in the sentencing itself.

In other words the defendant may be required to pay hefty fines but be given probation. Probation is a sentence that allows for the convicted person to remain free of incarceration as long as they follow rules and regulations stipulated by the court. Probation is offered in lieu of jail time at the discretion of the judge but should a person disregard the probationary requirements they can be taken into custody and confined for a period of time.

While probation is the most sought after sentence by defense lawyers and their clients (short of an acquittal of all charges) because it is the least restrictive the courts also benefit from this choice as well. The cost of housing an individual in county facilities is becoming prohibitive and the court system is looking for less costly alternatives to punishing persons who are not considered (in general) to be a threat to society.

Probation is still a form of punishment, however; it’s just punishment that one serves outside a prison cell. It is meant to be rehabilitative but not in the same way as incarceration. Persons who receive probation may be required to attend alcohol education classes or Alcohol Anonymous meetings. Be guaranteed that you will be asked to pay fines and fees and your driving privileges may be suspended or revoked for a period of time.

They may also be compelled to perform some type of community service. This could include such things as speaking to other persons about the dangers of drunk driving or visiting victims of drunk driving accidents and/or their family members so that the convicted drunk driver has a first-hand and up-close look at the consequences of the behavior. This is considered to be more profound, life-altering and effective deterrent to future drunk driving than any jail sentence could elicit.

Finally, you will be scheduled to meet regularly with a probation officer. This may happen at the courthouse or other social services facility. The probation officer will have separate requirements and expectations of you throughout the probationary period and will weigh in at the end of the sentence.

In order to ensure that your probation is successful attend all scheduled meetings with your probation officer and the courts and pay your fines on time.

First offense

A first-offense conviction includes a fine not to exceed $2,000.00 and/or the possibility of serving jail time from 3 days to 180 days, and a driver license suspension of 90 to 365 days. (Class B Misdemeanor).

Second offense

The maximum fine increases to no more than $4,000.00 and/or jail from 30 days to one year, and a possible driver license suspension ranging from 180 days to 2 years. (Class A Misdemeanor).

Third offense

You may receive a fine up to $10,000.00 and/or 2 to 10 years of imprisonment, and suspension of your driver license ranging from 180 days up to 2 years. (3rd Degree Felony).

DWI With an Open Alcohol Container

DWI with an open alcohol container (first offense): In addition to the penalty referenced above you face a minimum 6 days in jail and a fine of no more than $2,000.00. (Class B Misdemeanor).

DWI With an Accident

DWI with an accident where serious bodily injury occurred as a proximate cause of the intoxication: this crime is called intoxication assault, and upon conviction you may serve a minimum of 2 years up to a maximum of 10 years in jail. Additionally, you may be fined up to $10,000.00. (3 rd Degree Felony).

DWI Involving Death

DWI where a death has occurred as a proximate cause of the intoxication: here, the crime is intoxication manslaughter. Upon conviction you might have to pay a maximum fine of $10,000.00 and/or be imprisoned from 2 to 20 years (Intoxicated Manslaughter or Manslaughter with use of Deadly Weapon are both 2nd Degree Felonies).

DWI With a Child Passenger

DWI with a child passenger: A person commits a state jail felony if they drive while intoxicated and there is another person in the vehicle who is under 15 years of age. `Punishment for a non-enhanced state jail felony is by confinement in a state jail for any term of not more than 2 years or less than 180 days and a fine not to exceed $10,000.00.

In most DWI cases you will receive probation, but there is no guarantee that you will receive a probated jail sentence or fine. If you are convicted of intoxication assault and wish to receive probation, a minimum of 30 days in jail must be served as a condition of probation. If you are convicted of intoxication manslaughter you must serve a minimum of 120 days in jail. If you are convicted of Intoxication Assault or Intoxication Manslaughter and the court or jury finds that you committed the offense with a deadly weapon you may not be eligible to receive probation at all.

DWI and Minors

Minors can be cited for violating Texas law if they are caught purchasing, attempting to purchase, possessing or consuming alcoholic beverages. Further, minors who consume any amount of alcohol and then drive a motor vehicle can be arrested or ticketed for illegal activity even where the minor is driving without being intoxicated. A person under 21 arrested for DWI will be treated differently mostly in regard to their driver license. Driver license restrictions and suspensions are more severe for a person under 21 arrested and convicted of DWI. A person who is under 21 will have a one-year suspension period even if they receive probation for a DWI. Thus, they may need a restricted driver license for one year.

Collateral Damages

There are many unfortunate surprises that await a person who has been charged and/or convicted of driving under the influence or driving while intoxicated. For the purposes of this entry we will refer to them as ‘collateral damages’. First the experience of being arrested is unpleasant enough but after you are arraigned and walk out of the jail you may find that your car was impounded – so you’ll have to get a ride home. Impound and towing fees can be quite hefty depending on the circumstances. Your license will be in suspension in short order so you must either hire a Houston DWI defense lawyer or otherwise lobby the municipality to prevent this. You may or may not be successful in this endeavor.

Expect your insurance rates to skyrocket – and in many states your insurance company will be required to inform the state that they would be willing to continue to insure the driver. Too, if the person is looking for gainful employment a DWI conviction on your record may cause a prospective employer to reconsider their intent to hire you. If you are employed your current boss and company will need to be told (versus ‘finding out’ another way) and this is the type of incident that could prevent you from advancing in the organization among other things – and it may play a role if an organization begins to downsize as well. Finally, in some cases the employer may simply choose to fire you because of the liability involved with a convicted drunk driver.

In addition, most people don’t realize that a DWI conviction can wreak havoc with travel plans. There are a number of desirable locations that will no longer be available to a person who has been found guilty of driving while intoxicated. Our neighbor to the north of us is a great example. A DWI conviction in the United States is a felony offense in Canada and according to their immigration laws persons with a felony conviction are prevented from entering the country.

One of the choices at the disposal of the courts is to insist that the convicted driver install and maintain an ignition interlock device for a period of time. If this is required the addition costs could run into the hundreds or even up to a thousand dollars. And, let us not forget that there will be costs associated with the ticket itself as well as other court fees and fines.
But, arguably, the worst of the collateral damage may be in the relationships with your family and friends. A spouse or significant other suffers the same punishments as you – only indirectly. Any money that is spent to deal with a drunk driving charge and conviction is money that could be used by the family for other things. Too, it’s just a little embarrassing when people learn that someone has been charged or found guilty of driving while intoxicated.
Don’t drink and drive.