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Classifications and Range of Punishment for DWI Conviction

Posted by attorney Shari Goldsberry
Filed under: Criminal defense

DWI, 1st Offense: Class B Misdemeanor in Texas

  • Fine - A fine not to exceed $2,000.

  • Jail - Confinement in the County Jail for a term of not less the 72 hours nor more that six (6) months. Open Container - If there was an open container of alcohol in your car when arrested, the minimum term of confinement is six (6) days in the county jail.

  • Community Service - Texas law mandates that a judge order not less than 24 hours nor more than 100 hours of community service.

Absent unusual facts, most persons convicted of a first offense DWI are granted community supervision ("probation") of any confinement ordered. The general length of DWI probation is from 1-2 years, depending on the jurisdiction. There are also conditions of community supervision ordered that are fairly standard in most courts. Typical conditions imposed are:

  • Drug/Alcohol Evaluation - A person convicted of DWI will be required to submit to evaluation for probability of committing DWI in the future and to disclose a potential problem with alcohol or drug abuse. If a problem is detected, additional terms and conditions of probation are ordered to be administered through the Community Supervision Department.

  • Attend and complete an approved DWI Education class within 180 days from the date of conviction (Satisfying this requirement will avoid the one (1) year drivers license suspension, so it kills two birds with one stone.)

  • Attend and complete a Victim Impact Panel. This is a forum that presents victims of drunk drivers to address persons convicted of DWI and warn of the dangers and perils of driving while intoxicated.

  • Work faithfully at suitable employment, commit no other crimes, remain at the same residence and employment unless notification is given to the community supervision officer, report monthly to the supervision office, pay all fines, supervision fees and court costs in a timely manner.

  • Perform a specified number hours of community or volunteer service.

NOTE: If convicted, you will be given an Order Granting Probation. This Order will be specific and unique to your case and fully sets forth the terms and conditions of your probation which apply to you. It is the blueprint for your probation, and you should go over the Order with your attorney. Additional Conditions of Probation that may be Ordered: If your case presents unusual facts (accident, alcohol problem, prior alcohol contacts, bad driving record etc.), additional conditions may be ordered. Most conditions are designed to address a problem that appears from the facts or alcohol/drug evaluation that is performed on the subject after conviction. The following list is only a general discussion of conditions that have been imposed in some DWI cases and may not apply to you.

  • Ignition Interlock Device - This provision requires that you install and maintain a device on any car which you intend to drive during probation. The device requires a breath sample before it will allow your car to start. Some devices require periodic breaths while driving. This condition is sometimes recommended after an unfavorable drug/alcohol evaluation during a first-offense probation, and is almost always ordered as a condition of bond on an arrest for DWI 2nd or more.

  • Alcohol Treatment - Attendance at AA or other counseling programs offered through the probation department. In extreme cases outpatient programs may be ordered. This condition is recommended after an unfavorable drug/alcohol evaluation.

  • Abstain from alcohol - Most courts require that a person not consume any alcohol during probation. This provision is monitored by periodic and random urinalysis at the probation office. Some courts will not even allow a probationer to enter a bar, tavern or lounge where alcohol is sold and consumed. This is a standard condition for probation in Galveston County.

  • Confinement - In some circumstances, the Court may order that a DWI offender serve confinement in the county jail as a condition of being granted probation.

  • Restitution - If there was an accident followed by a DWI arrest, and if your insurance company has not paid damages to the other party, restitution of any unpaid amounts will be ordered by the Court as a condition of probation. In cases where insurance DID pay, you may still be ordered to pay the deductible or other out of pocket costs of the victim.

  • Enhanced Penalties - (Prior alcohol or drug related criminal history) - Under Texas law, if it is shown that a person has been previously convicted of DWI, the punishment and penalties after conviction are increased or enhanced. The prior DWI conviction must have occurred within ten (10) years of the present arrest for DWI. Additionally, if a person has any prior DWI conviction within the previous ten year period (measured from dates of arrest), the State is then allowed to use any prior DWI conviction since obtaining a drivers license to enhance the accusation to a DWI, third offense. NOTE: Texas can use prior convictions that have occurred in other states for enhancement of punishment.

DWI, Second Offense: Class A Misdemeanor Special Condition for Jail Release on Bond:

It is important to note that if arrested and accused of a DWI Second or greater offense, Texas law now requires the Court to Order as a CONDITION OF RELEASE FROM JAIL ON BOND, that the person install and maintain a deep lung air device (also called “Interlock Device) on the car that the person intends to drive and operate while charges are pending. The device requires a breath sample before it will allow you to start your car. They also require periodic breaths while driving to monitor and insure sobriety. New technology has made these devices "user sensitive" so that someone else cannot blow into the device for the driver. Although this provision seems to run afoul of the presumption of innocence, Texas Courts have consistently held that such condition is necessary to protect a legitimate governmental interest in making public roadways safe for the motoring public.

  • Fine - A fine not to exceed $4,000.00.

  • Jail - Confinement in the County Jail for a term of not less than 72 hours nor more than one (1) year.

  • Community Service - Texas law mandates that a judge order not less than 80 hours nor more than 200 hours.

  • Deep lung air device - Typically deep lung devices are required for all DWI second offenders during probation.

  • Suspension of license - A person convicted of DWI, Second may have their driving privilege suspended for not less than 180 days or more than two (2) years.

DWI, Third Offense (or greater): Third degree FELONY

  • Fine - A fine not to exceed $10,000.00.

  • Jail - Confinement in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Institutional Division (Penitentiary) for a term of not less than 2 years nor more than ten (10) years.

  • Deep lung air device - Deep lung air devices are generally ordered on all persons convicted of three or more DWI's both as conditions of bond and as conditions of any occupational or provisional licenses that may be awarded after conviction.

  • Community Service - Texas law mandates that a judge order not less than 160 hours nor more than 600 hours.

  • Suspension of license - A person convicted of DWI, Second may have their driving privilege suspended for not less than 180 days or more than two (2) years.

  • Other - A third conviction for DWI indicates a significant problem with alcohol to the Court or jury assessing punishment. Some type of rehabilitative treatment is therefore mandated in punishment if confinement in the penitentiary is to be avoided. In some cases an in-patient, incarceration program (Substance Abuse Felony Probation SAFP) is ordered. This program requires confinement in a State Facility for alcohol rehabilitation. After successful completion of the SAFP program, the person is then released and placed on probation for a term not to exceed ten (10) years. Another popular condition for habitual DWI offenders is a prescription for a drug named "Antabuse". This drug will make a person violently ill if any alcohol is consumed. The alcohol can be contained in mouthwash or marinated food and will still have the same effect on the user. If a person has any type of liver problems, this drug can cause liver failure and death.

Texas law does not provide for any increased punishment after DWI, 3rd. If a person presents a DWI, fourth offense or beyond, the typical punishment is confinement in the penitentiary from two (2) to ten (10) years without probation being granted. In some cases SAFP may be granted upon proper request and showing that it is appropriate.

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