There’s a reason why you should never drink and drive.
That’s 2,456 deadly crashes in 3 years.
It’s no wonder that Texas has strict driving while intoxicated (DWI) laws.
But what exactly are the Texas DWI laws?
And what are the penalties that come with it?
We’re here to tell you everything you need to know — in the hope that you will avoid drunk driving.
We’ll look at:
- The DWI laws and any related law
- The DWI penalties
- Myths about alcohol
- Dangers of DWI
There’s a lot to cover, so let’s get started right away!
DWI Laws in Texas
Texas has several laws focusing specifically on driving while intoxicated. These include the following:
- Illegal BAC Levels
- Zero Tolerance
- Implied Consent
- Open Container
Let’s look at the details of these laws.
NOTE: The DWI laws differ for adults (21 and above) and minors (below 21).
Illegal BAC Levels for Adults
Although any amount of alcohol in your system is discouraged, you are legally intoxicated when your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level reaches 0.08%.
That means you have 8 drops of alcohol for every 100 drops of blood.
However, alcohol can still impair your driving ability even with a 0.02% or 0.04% BAC.
This is why, whenever you drink, don’t drive — no matter how little.
Now, this legal limit only applies to drivers 21 years old and older.
But if the 21-year-old driver holds a commercial driver’s license, the illegal BAC level is lowered to 0.04%.
And it becomes even lower for minors (check below).
Implied Consent Law for Adults
Under Texas’ Implied Consent Law…
“Any driver who operates a vehicle within the state has already given their permission to take a blood, urine, or breath sample for analysis if a law enforcement officer suspects them of a DWI.”
These samples determine your BAC level — and so will confirm whether you’re driving while intoxicated or not.
What happens if you refuse the sample tests?
Refusing it leads to penalties — you may face a license suspension ranging from 180 days (for the first occurrence) to 730 days (for subsequent incidents).
On top of that, you can still be charged with DWI, especially if you showed evident signs of impaired driving.
Zero Tolerance Laws for Minors
The Texas DWI law is even stricter with drivers under 21 years old — this is why it’s called zero tolerance.
I mean, these drivers are not even legally allowed to drink alcohol yet.
This is why any amount of alcohol found in their system, which usually means a BAC level of 0.02%, will be a DWI conviction.
Moreover, Texas prohibits minors from purchasing, attempting to purchase, consuming, and possessing alcohol.
Implied Consent Law for Minors
The Implied Consent Law in Texas is the same for adults and minors.
However, the difference is in the penalties.
If minors refuse a breath, blood, or urine test, then they will face a 180-day license suspension (for the first offense) and 2 years suspension (for 2nd and subsequent offenses).
As you can see, the 2nd and subsequent offenses are much more severe.
Open Container Law
Here’s one law that helps prevent DWI.
In Texas, you cannot have an opened container of alcohol in your vehicle on a public highway.
And yes, this applies whether the vehicle is moving, stopped, or parked.
Violating Texas’ Open Container law results in a fine of up to $500.
DWI Penalties in Texas
Texas has harsh consequences for a DWI conviction.
And these get progressively more severe if you are a repeat offender OR caused an accident.
DWI Penalties for Adults
|First||Up to $2,000||72 hours to 180 days (jail)||90 to 365 days|
|Second||Up to $4,000||30 days to 1 year (jail)||180 days to 2 years|
|Third and Subsequent||Up to $10,000||2 to 10 years (TDCJ)||180 days to 2 years|
|DWI with a Passenger Under 15 (1st offense)||Up to $10,000||180 days to 2 years (state jail)||90 days to 2 years|
|Intoxication Assault (1st offense)||Up to $10,000||2 to 10 years (TDCJ)||90 days to 2 years|
|Intoxication Manslaughter (1st offense)||Up to $10,000||2 to 20 years (TDCJ)||180 days to 2 years|
DWI Penalties for Minors
There are two sets of penalties for minors, depending on your offense:
- Driving Under the Influence (when your BAC is 0.02% to 0.07%)
- Driving While Intoxicated (when your BAC is 0.08% or higher)
Penalties for Driving Under the Influence (0.02% to 0.07%)
|Offense||Fine||Community Service||Confinement:||Other Requirements|
(Class C Misdemeanor)
|Up to $500||20 to 40 hours||N/A||Alcohol Awareness Course (with a parent if the driver is under 18)|
(Class C Misdemeanor)
|Up to $500||40 to 60 hours||N/A||Alcohol Awareness Course|
(Class C Misdemeanor if under 17)
|Up to $500||40 to 60 hours||N/A||Alcohol Awareness Course |
transfer of the case to Juvenile Court
(Class B Misdemeanor if between 17 to 21)
|$500 to $2,000||40 to 60 hours||Up to 180 days||License suspension for one year|
License suspension for 90 days with an ignition interlock device
Penalties for Driving While Intoxicated (0.08% and higher)
(Class B Misdemeanor)
|Up to $2,000||72 hours (minimum of 6 days if with an open container) to 180 days||365 days (denial of privileges of not licensed) or 90 days with an ignition interlock device|
(Class A Misdemeanor)
|Up to $4,000||30 days to 1 year||180 days to 18 months|
|Third and Subsequent|
|Up to $10,000||2 to 10 years (TDCJ)||180 days to 18 months|
|DWI with a Child Passenger|
|Up to $10,000||180 days to 2 years (state jail)||90 days to 1 year|
|Up to $10,000||2 to 10 years (TDCJ)||90 days to 1 year|
|Up to $10,000||2 to 20 years (TDCJ)||180 days to 2 years|
Myths About Drinking Alcohol
You shouldn’t get behind the wheel if you’ve been drinking.
Now, some people think they can sober up by:
- Drinking coffee
- Taking a cold shower
Here’s some bad news — none of those are true.
The only factors that can minimize the effect of alcohol are as follows:
- Body weight
- Number of drinks
- Length of time between drinks
- Food intake
For every drink you have, your body takes an average of an hour to get it out of your system.
So if you want to play it safe, say no to alcoholic drinks if you know you’re driving.
Or ensure you have an alternative way to get home.
Dangers of Alcohol and Drugs on Driving
Remember, a DWI in Texas isn’t caused by alcohol alone.
Even if your BAC is below the legal limit, a police officer may still charge you if you’ve taken controlled substances or drugs (stimulants, tranquilizers, prescribed, illegal, or over-the-counter).
A clear head is necessary to be a safe driver.
You must also have a steady hand and a keen awareness of your surroundings.
Drugs or alcohol in your system may result in the following:
- Poor judgment
- Impaired vision
- Slower reactions
Taking more than one drug or combining it with alcohol puts you in more danger since it increases the overall effects.
So if your doctor prescribes you medicine, discuss its possible side effects. It’s always best to check with them if simultaneously taking different medications is safe.
Frequently Asked Questions About Texas DWI Laws
Is Texas Strict on DWI?
Yes, Texas has strict laws on DWIs. A first conviction doesn’t only result in high fines — you may have to serve some time behind bars, face license suspensions, and attend an alcohol treatment program.
Is a DWI in Texas a Felony?
In Texas, a DWI becomes a felony in the following situations:
- It’s your third (or more) offense
- You had a passenger under 15
- Your DWI resulted in grave injury or death
Otherwise, a DWI is a misdemeanor in Texas.
Can You Drive After a DWI in Texas?
Even if it’s your first offense, you’ll lose your driving privileges after a DWI conviction. The state may suspend your license for a year. However, it may be reduced to 90 days if a judge requires an ignition interlock device in your vehicle.
Can a DWI be Dismissed in Texas?
Yes, you can get your DWI charge dismissed in Texas.
Remember, the arresting officer must have probable cause to pull you over. If you can prove that they didn’t, everything resulting from that stop (such as the results of the breath or blood test) become inadmissible.
Another possible angle is to focus on the accuracy of the sample est’s administration and results.
What is the Difference Between DUI and DWI in Texas?
A DUI (driving under the influence) is typically for underaged drivers who have a BAC level of 0.02% but lower than 0.08%.
A DWI (driving while intoxicated) is for drivers whose blood alcohol concentration is 0.08% or higher.
How Long Does a DWI Last in Texas?
A DWI conviction stays on your driving record permanently. The only way to keep it out of public record is to have your record sealed or have the conviction expunged.
The Wrap Up
And that is everything you need to know about the Texas DWI laws.
Because of the dangers it poses to you, your passengers, and anyone around, most states treat DWI charges seriously (and rightly so).
And Texas is one of the stricter states when it comes to DWI.
So you want to avoid that at all costs.
Not just so you can avoid the harsh penalties — but so that you can ensure safety for all.
Be a responsible driver!
DON’T DRINK AND DRIVE!