Cinco de Mayo is a time for celebration and enjoyment with friends and family. Unfortunately, it’s also a day that DWIs typically go up in the state of Texas.
This, along with the recent COVID-19 lockdowns, has led to a significant spike in the amount of day drinking. Combined with the recently relaxed laws on drinks to go, you have the perfect recipe for rising DWI numbers.
We’ll take a look at what the law says about driving while intoxicated in the state of Texas. We’ll look at the various components that make up the law. Then we’ll examine the different possible penalties for a DWI violation.
What Does the Law Say About DWI in Texas?
Driving while intoxicated refers to the operation of a motor vehicle while under the effects of alcohol. Typically, this refers to an individual with a blood alcohol level (BAC) above 0.08 percent. If you are pulled over and are shown to have a BAC above 0.08 percent, you will be arrested.
However, it’s important to clarify that you don’t have to have a BAC at 0.08 percent to be arrested for DWI. Instead, if your blood alcohol level is less than the specified amount, but you are driving erratically and shown to be under the effects of alcohol, you can still be charged.
The primary concern is whether you can safely operate a motor vehicle. As a general rule of thumb, it is recommended that you wait one hour for every one ounce of alcohol that you consume. This means one beer per hour, one shot of liquor per hour, or one glass of wine per hour.
What Are the Penalties for DWI in Texas?
The penalties for driving while intoxicated can vary depending on the surrounding circumstances.
For a first DWI offense, the penalty is a fine of up to $2,000, between three and 180 days in jail, and the loss of your driver’s license for one year.
The second DWI offense carries a penalty of a fine up to $4,000, between one month and one year in jail, and the loss of your driver’s license for two years. If the second offense happens within five years, a special ignition switch must be installed, which deactivates your vehicle if you’ve been drinking.
On the third DWI conviction, the penalty is a $10,000 fine, between two years and ten years in prison, and the loss of your driver’s license for two years.
Additionally, as of September 1st, 2019, there will be additional fines for individuals convicted of driving while intoxicated. For a second DWI within 36 months, an extra fine of $4,500 will be charged if your blood alcohol level was 0.15 percent or higher at the time of the arrest.
It is also important to note that an open container in a vehicle can lead to a DWI arrest as well, which brings us to the next bit of information.
What Are the New Laws on Alcohol to Go in Texas?
Due to the unprecedented circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent shutdowns, certain laws typically in effect have been relaxed. Primarily, laws surrounding to-go alcohol sales.
This means that restaurants and certain other establishments that are qualified to sell liquor, beer, and wine, can now sell to go. These establishments are already licensed for the specific type of alcohol they are selling. They must also comply with the laws.
One potential outcome is that carrying alcohol from restaurants is an increased opportunity to drink alcohol and drive. There is also a higher chance of being pulled open with an open container, which is still illegal. (Nope, that law didn’t go away.)
Enjoy your time on lockdown as best you can, but don’t forget Texas laws while you do. Be sure and stay in compliance to avoid the potentially severe consequences of a DWI arrest.
About the Author:
After getting his Juris Doctor from the University of Houston Law Center, Jeff Hampton began practicing criminal law in Texas in 2005. Before becoming a defense attorney, he worked as a prosecutor for the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office – experience he uses to anticipate and cast doubt on the arguments that will be used against his clients. Over the course of his career, he has helped countless Texans protect their rights and get the best possible outcome in their criminal cases. He has been named one of the 3 Best DUI Lawyers in Fort Worth, recognized by Expertise, National Trial Lawyers, Avvo, and others, and he is Lead Counsel rated.