A driving while intoxicated (DWI) conviction is life-changing in many ways. The criminal penalties for even a first offense are quite severe, and you will be left with a criminal record that will come back to haunt you for the rest of your life.
The consequences don’t stop there, though. You also have to worry about the financial cost of your alleged offense, which can leave you with enormous debt.
How much are we talking about?
Several years ago, the Texas Department of Transportation ran a billboard campaign stating that the average cost of a DWI is $17,000. While this claim has largely been debunked, a DWI absolutely can and will cost you thousands of dollars.
Texas takes DWI offenses very seriously, and criminal penalties, court fees, and fees associated with administrative penalties are costly. The total cost of a DWI conviction varies on a case-by-case basis, but you can expect some or all of the below costs.
Court and Criminal Fees, Penalties, and Fines
If convicted, you must pay fees for all court appearances. This typically costs between $200 and $1,500.
If convicted of a DWI, you will face substantial criminal fines. The amount depends on prior offenses, presence of aggravating factors, and whether anyone was hurt as a consequence of your intoxicated driving.
Generally, criminal penalties are as follows:
- First offense: Up to $2,000
- Second offense: Up to $4,000
- Third offense: Up to $10,000
- DWI with child passenger: Up to $10,000
- Intoxication assault or manslaughter: Up to $10,000
Jail Time and Compromised Employment Prospects
If your sentence includes jail time, you will lose your income for the time that you are incarcerated. It is also likely that your job won’t be waiting for you when you are released. Moreover, many employers consider a DWI conviction grounds for termination, even if you are not sentenced to jail time.
Should you lose your job as a result of your DWI, you may also struggle to find a new job, as a criminal record compromises many employment prospects.
Administrative Penalties and Fees
Administrative License Revocation
You will most likely have your license revoked following a DWI offense, known as Administrative License Revocation. The amount of time is decided during court proceedings, and will depend upon whether you refused or failed chemical testing, and whether you have prior DWI offenses. Generally, you can expect license revocation period of 180 days to two years.
Regardless of prior offenses, you will face significant administrative penalties and associated fees should you be convicted of a DWI.
No More DWI Surcharges in Texas
First and foremost, surcharges are now completely repealed. Surcharges were additional fees on top of normal fines and penalties associated with a DWI conviction. Surcharges for DWIs began at $3,000 and could reach as high as $6,000.
Failing to pay a surcharge could have originally lead to the revocation of your driver’s license. Luckily, they are no longer in effect.
Any driver who was recently hit with a surcharge may now see that the surcharge is removed from their record, and their driver’s license reinstated. However, you should be aware that other penalties have been put in place for DWIs.
Texas Changes the DWI Fine Structure
Removing surcharges doesn’t mean Texas won’t still take DWI charges seriously. To maintain the severity of a DWI charge, fines for DWI have been increased to cover the loss of the surcharge.
- Mandatory fines now include a flat $3,000 charge for a first offense, with an additional annual fee of up to $2,000 to retain your driver’s license.
- Second offenses within a 36-month period now result in a flat fine of $4,500.
- Any DWI where your BAC is recorded as 0.15 or higher will lead to a flat fine of $6,000.
- Aggravating factors beyond that or a third offense can raise fines as high as $10,000.
It’s important to note that these fines are not maximums, but minimums. There is no potential for a fine reduction in these convictions. Any conviction will result in at least $3,000 in fines, and potentially up to $10,000.
New Fines Are in Addition to Traditional DWI Penalties
Dealing with a DWI charge is serious business, especially now that the laws have been changed. Penalties are higher than ever before, with an emphasis on fines.
If you have been charged with a DWI in Texas, you should reach out to an experienced attorney today. They will help you navigate the legal system, work to reduce or remove penalties, and help you retain your license.
Remember, these new financial implications are on top of the other DWI penalties that are still in place. In Texas, a DWI is a class B misdemeanor, carrying penalties including:
- First DWI offense: anywhere from6 to 180 days in jail, a license suspension of 90 days to a year, or an annual fee of up to $2000 to keep your license.
- Second DWI offense: Anywhere from a month to a year in jail, a license suspension for at least a year or the three-year annual fee of $2000 to keep your license.
- Third and subsequent offenses: Anywhere from two to ten years in prison, up to two years license suspension or the annual fee to retain your license.
- DWI with a passenger under 15: This is considered a state jail felony. A conviction carries up to two years in prison and leaves the convicted person a felon for life.
Still, more potential penalties might include mandatory substance abuse treatment programs, community service, or an ignition interlock device.
Monthly Probation Fees
Probation is mandatory if you are convicted of a DWI. First time offenders are typically placed on probation for 6-12 months. If aggravating factors were present or you are a repeat offender, you can expect a longer probation. While on probation, you must pay a fee of $60-100/month.
Alcohol Education Program Fees
If convicted of a DWI, you will be required to participate in and pay for alcohol education programs. For a first-time offender, this costs $70. Repeat offenders are required to attend a more extensive program, which costs $185.
DWI Education Program
If you are a first-time offender, you will participate in the 12-hour DWI Education Program, which focuses on how drugs and alcohol affect the mind, body and driving abilities. It also covers Texas DWI laws and substance abuse and dependency.
Ignition Interlock Device
In many cases, you will be required to have an ignition interlock device installed in your car. This carries a monthly fee of $70-$100/month. Further, these devices are notoriously faulty, and you will be responsible for the costs of any repairs.
During court proceedings, the judge will decide if you will receive an ignition interlock device (IID). This device essentially means that you must pass a breathalyzer test in order to start your car, and also to keep your car running while you are driving.
An IID is costly to install and maintain, and is also embarrassing to use when you are carrying passengers. The best way to avoid a DWI is to plan ahead when you’re headed out for a night of drinking to avoid driving drunk. However, if you are already facing charges, reaching out to an experienced Fort Worth criminal defense attorney can help you build the best possible defense and maximize your chance at receiving a favorable outcome.
DWI Intervention Program
If you are a repeat offender, you will participate in the DWI Intervention program, which is 32 hours long. This program delves more deeply into the issues that may cause repeat DWI offenses, such as lifestyle issues, chemical dependency and self-esteem. It also provides resources for support groups and 12-step programs.
Increased Vehicle Insurance Costs
To have your license reinstated, you will have to carry greater liability for auto insurance, and your insurance company is likely to charge a higher premium for this coverage.
Vehicle Impound Cost
After your DWI arrest, law enforcement will tow and impound your car. Towing fees range from $250-450, and impoundment fees are typically $20/day.
That’s a lot of money to shell out for a night of drinking and a single bad decision to get behind the wheel. The best way to avoid these costs after you’ve been charged is to work with an experienced Fort Worth DWI lawyer who understands the law and how to minimize the damage to you. Get in touch today to start fighting your charges.
We have covered some of the basic expenses and costs associated with a DWI in Texas. What should you expect the next step to be in order to avoid these expenses and defend your DWI case?
You Were Just Arrested for a Fort Worth DWI – What’s Next?
When you are arrested for DWI in Texas, your thoughts probably immediately turn to what happens next. Will you be going to court? Jail? How long is this process going to go on?
In this post, we’ll describe the legal process that occurs after a DWI arrest and let you know how a knowledgeable attorney can help you.
Your Fort Worth Suspension Hearing
Typically, a Notice of Suspension of your driving privileges will be issued at your arrest. Within 15 days of the time you receive this notice, you must request a hearing to contest the suspension. If you make a request in a timely manner, you will be approved to drive until the next hearing in your case. If the hearing is unfavorable, your driving privileges will continue to be revoked until the next hearing.
At this early stage, an attorney’s help can be invaluable. Your lawyer can contest the suspension and help you retain your driving privileges. It’s important to contact an skilled DWI attorney as soon as you are arrested so you will reduce the chance that your right to drive will be taken away.
Texas DWI: The First Court Appearance
Normally, your first court appearance will be between 40 and 60 days after your arrest. At this appearance, a skilled Fort Worth criminal lawyer can request evidence such as witness statements, videos, police reports, and other documents from the prosecuting attorney.
Then the judge will set another date for an announcement setting to be held 20 to 30 days later, and another announcement setting to be held 20 to 30 days after the first one. At these announcement settings, you or your attorney will enter a plea or request a trial. The timeline is designed to give your lawyer adequate opportunity to research your case and prepare a plea.
Plea Bargaining in Texas
At any point throughout this process, you can enter a plea of guilty, typically in exchange for a reduced sentence. However, it’s important to ask an attorney to review your case to determine if there are valid reasons to continue contesting your charges. There are many ways to defend against DWI charges, including faulty police procedures or testing equipment. Give up too early and you may end up with a harsher penalty than you might be able to negotiate with a little extra effort.
Moreover, a guilty plea will result in a temporary revocation of your driver’s license, fines, jail time, and a possible probation sentence. You will be subject to controlled substance testing, completion of a DWI awareness program, and 24 to 100 hours of community service. Also, a conviction for DWI in Texas goes on your permanent record, which comes with its own consequences.
Texas DWI Trial
If you enter a not guilty plea and stick to it, your case will proceed to a trial. It’s essential to choose an attorney who has successfully handled DWI trials for the best possible outcome.
Why should you consider going to trial? Here are the legal consequences for a DWI conviction in Texas.
A class B misdemeanor can be issued for a first-time DWI charge if no breath or blood test was conducted at your arrest, or if the results are less than 0.15. Upon conviction, you face sentencing of between 72 hours and 180 days in jail, a fine of up to $2,000, and/or probation of up to two years.
A class A misdemeanor can be issued for a breath or blood test with results over 0.15. If convicted, you will be subject to up to one year in jail, a fine of up to $4,000, and/or probation of up to two years.
Whatever you decide, understanding the process itself can go a long way towards making the experience more bearable and letting you know what you need to be ready for.
A DWI Charge in Ft. Worth Isn’t a Conviction – Here’s How to Beat It
In Fort Worth, the typical punishments for driving while intoxicated (DWI) are stiff, and if you find yourself charged it can be easy to find yourself scared into believing that there is nothing you can do. However, it is possible to fight your charges and avoid a conviction with the right help. If you want to try to fight your DWI charges, your case may be eligible for several defenses.
The first thing that you need to know is what the prosecution needs to prove in order to convict you:
- They must be able to prove you were the driver of the vehicle in the situation.
- They must prove that you were influenced by a substance that did not allow you to drive safely.
Without these two measures, you cannot be convicted of a DWI. It really is as simple as that. The trick is in coming up with the right defense strategy to cast doubt on their arguments.
Potential Defense Strategies That Can Be Used to Beat a Texas DWI
You weren’t driving. The charges may be dropped if a police officer failed to observe you driving the vehicle. You cannot be charged with a DWI if you were sitting in the driver’s seat of an idle vehicle, not moving. It is rare to be charged with a DWI if the vehicle wasn’t in motion, but depending on the details of your case, this defense may be used by a skilled Fort Worth attorney to get your charges dropped.
Lack of reasonable suspicion. The police officer must have reasonable suspicion of driving while intoxicated to stop or detain you, or to make an arrest. If you were stopped or arrested simply due to your ethnic background, you may be able to avoid a conviction.
Improperly following procedure. Texas law is specific about the details surrounding the arrest procedures for DWI charges. If the police officer who arrested you failed to follow due procedure, the case may be thrown out by the court. Examples of improper procedure include the following:
- Not reading your rights –A police officer is required to read you your Miranda rights, using phrases such as “You have the right to remain silent” and “You have the right to an attorney.” If your rights were read improperly or not read at all, your attorney may be able to fight your charges.
- Mistreatment by police – If you have proof that the police acted inappropriately or showed intimidation or disrespect to you during the arrest, your charges may be challenged.
- Inaccurate field sobriety test – If test results are inaccurate, or the tests were given using improper methods, the case can be dismissed. It’s common to challenge the horizontal gaze nystagmus test for inaccuracy.
- Portable breathalyzer failure – If the testing equipment is not calibrated correctly, test results can be wrong. The officer must be trained properly to use the breathalyzer accurately in the field.
- Standard breathalyzer failure – This equipment is used by police at the station after the arrest, but it is also subject to improper calibration.
- False results in blood testing – If your attorney can provide evidence to support that the blood testwas mishandled, the case may be dropped.
- Change in blood alcohol content levels – Since alcohol isn’t always fully absorbed in the body at the time of arrest, the blood alcohol content at the time of the stop may have been within legal limits but rose to above the legal limit when the test was administered.
If you are certain that proper procedure was not followed at the time of arrest, an attorney who is experienced with DWI cases can help you know if you have a chance to fight the charges.
False conclusions. You may be able to prove that the police officer’s testimony was based on false conclusions. If, for example, your speech was slurred due to a physical impairment instead of substance use, you may not have to face charges. Similarly, if your eyes are red due to allergies instead of alcohol use, the charges may not apply.
Witness testimony. Witnesses can testify that you were not intoxicated. They may have seen you enter a vehicle while you were sober. They may have been riding with you and known that your erratic driving was in fact distracted driving, not driving while intoxicated. Their testimony can help you fight your charges.
Less common defenses may get your charges reduced or dropped:
- Duress – You were driving only because someone was threatening you with serious injury or death unless you complied.
- Necessary measures – For example, you were driving a family member to the emergency room because they were having a heart attack.
- Honest mistake – Perhaps you assumed that the negative effects from a prescription drug, which would prevent you from driving safely, had worn off before you drove.
- Involuntary intoxication – If you attended a party and drank punch without realizing the alcohol content, you may be able to use this defense.
Contact an experienced Texas attorney to learn what defenses can be used in your case.
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. His skill has earned him recognition from the National Trial Lawyers (Top 100 Trial Lawyers) and Avvo (Top Attorney in Criminal Defense, Top Attorney in DUI & DWI, 10/10 Superb Rating), and he is Lead Counsel rated.