Texas Court Records
What is a DWI in Texas?
In Texas, it is an offense to drive or operate a motor vehicle in a public place while under the influence of alcohol or any other substance that can impair the driver's ability as per Texas Penal Code § 49.04. An offense such as this is commonly referred to as a DWI or driving while intoxicated. The Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Department of Public Safety (DPS) enforce the codes instituted by the Texas criminal justice system.
What is the Difference Between a DUIA and a DWI in Texas
Officially, Texas uses the term DWI to describe drunk driving or driving while impaired. According to the Alcoholic Beverage Code, if a minor operates a vehicle or watercraft under the influence of alcohol, it is referred to as Driving or Operating Under the Influence of Alcohol (DUIA).
What happens when you get a DWI for the First Time in Texas?
According to Texas Penal Code § 49.04, a first-time DWI offense is a Class B misdemeanor. It is punishable by a minimum imprisonment term of 72 hours. The applicable punishment depends on the presence of aggravating factors, such as:
- If the arresting officer finds an open container of alcohol in the offender's possession
- The level of alcohol concentration in the offender's breath, urine, or blood
- The presence of a minor in the vehicle
- Whether the offense causes bodily harm to or the death of another person
A first-offense DWI can incur fines of between $2,000 to $10,000, depending on the factors involved. In place of jail time, a first-time offender may be placed on probation and have the party's licenses suspended. Other possible consequences include:
- Community service
- Mandatory participation in a driver education program
- Community supervision
- Annual license surcharge
If a minor commits a DUIA offense for the first time, it is a Class C misdemeanor (Texas Al. Code § 106). It is punishable by fines of between $500 and $2,000, a jail term of no more than 180 days, or both imprisonment and fines. Additionally, the minor may be required to complete an alcohol awareness program and perform community service.
How Likely is Jail Time After a First DWI in Texas?
A jail term is very likely after a first DWI offense. The minimum imprisonment term stipulated by the Texas Penal Code is 72 hours. If there are aggravating factors, such as the offender's possession of an open container of alcohol when stopped, the minimum term of imprisonment is six days in county jail.
What are the Typical Penalties for a DWI Conviction in Texas?
Generally, typical penalties for a DWI conviction in Texas include:
- Jail terms
- A suspension or revocation of the offender's license
- A surcharge on the offender's license
- Installation of an ignition interlock device
- Mandatory participation in a driver awareness or intervention program
Other consequences may include probation and community supervision. The penalty applied to a DWI conviction depends on the specifics or the severity of the offense.
First-time DWI offenses are Class B misdemeanors. Persons charges with this are punishable by a minimum term of 72 hours in county jail and fines of up to $2,000. However, if the offender has an open container of alcohol in the car at the time of the traffic stop, the minimum term of imprisonment is six days. If the alcohol concentration level in the person's urine, breath, or blood is 0.15 or more, the DWI is a Class A misdemeanor. It is punishable by a minimum of 72 hours in jail and fines of up to $4,000.
A DWI with a passenger under the age of 15, is a state jail felony. In Texas, state jail felonies are the least severe types of felony crimes. These crimes are punishable by prison terms of up to two years in state prison, fines of up to $10,000, or both.
A second-offense DWI is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by fines of up to $4,000, prison terms of between one month and one year, or both imprisonment and fines. A third and subsequent DWI is a third-degree felony (Texas Penal Code § 49.09). It is punishable by fines of up to $10,000 and prison terms of between two and ten years in state prison. Apart from fines and imprisonment, offenders will be required to install an ignition interlock device - this will ensure that the offender cannot operate a vehicle while intoxicated.
If a person causes serious bodily injury to another person while driving under the influence of alcohol (Intoxication Assault), it is a third-degree felony. It is punishable by two to ten years in state prison and fines of up to $10,000. If the DWI accidentally causes the death of another person (Intoxication Manslaughter), it is a second-degree felony that is punishable by up to 20 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines.
First and second DUIA offenses committed by a minor are Class C misdemeanors punishable by up to $500 in fines. Additionally, a first-time offense is punishable by 20-40 hours of community service, and license suspension for up to 180 days. A second offense is punishable by 40-60 hours of community service, a license suspension for up to two years, and mandatory attendance at an alcohol awareness program.
How Long Does a DWI Stay on Your Record in Texas?
Except it is sealed or expunged, a DWI record will remain on a Texas criminal record indefinitely. According to the Public Information Law, it will be accessible to the public. However, subjects of the document may file a motion for an Order of Nondisclosure to seal the party's criminal records. Eligible persons may apply by completing and submitting the Petition for Order of Nondisclosure form. The following criteria must be met for eligibility:
- The DWI in question must be a first-time offense
- There is no criminal history before to the DWI
- There have been no criminal convictions since the DWI
- The alcohol concentration level must not be above 0.15
- A waiting period of five years is required for offenders who are not required to install an interlock device
- A waiting period of two years is required for offenders required to install an interlock device
- All the conditions of the sentence must have been fulfilled
Only non-conviction EWI cases are eligible for expungement in Texas. Unless charges against the offender are dismissed, or the person is acquitted in appeals court, records of the DWI cannot be expunged according to Texas Crim. Code § 55.
Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching simpler, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for a specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:
- The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
- The location or assumed location of the record or person involved. This includes information such as the city, county, or state that person resides in or was accused in.
Third-party sites are independent from government sources, and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party sites may vary.
How do I Find DWI Checkpoints in Texas?
DWI checkpoints are illegal in Texas. According to the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution (U.S. Const. am. 4.), citizens are protected against unreasonable searches and seizures.
What is an Aggravated DWI in Texas?
An aggravated DWI refers to the presence of aggravating factors in a DWI offense. Types of aggravating factors include:
- Alcohol concentration level of 0.15 and above
- The presence or possession of an open container of alcohol in the vehicle
- The presence of a minor in the car (DWI with a Child)
- Prior DWI convictions
- Bodily injury caused to another person (Intoxication Assault)
- The death of another person (Intoxication Manslaughter)
Aggravating factors can severely impact a DWI classification and the applicable penalties. For example, a first-offense DWI is a misdemeanor. However, if the passenger in the vehicle is a child under the age of 15, it is a felony offense. The offender may also be charged with child endangerment. Similarly, Intoxication Assault and Intoxication Manslaughter are felony offenses. These offenses attract harsher penalties, such as longer prison terms and higher fines, and collateral consequences such as mandatory community service or installing an ignition interlock device.
What Happens When You Get a DWI in Texas?
Persons charged with DWIs in Texas should expect a suspension of driving privileges. The person will be issued a temporary permit and must request an administrative hearing within 15 days to contest the suspension. If the party does not, the license may be suspended for up to 90 days.
DWI offenders may review the available evidence against them before a hearing. If the party can prove that their blood alcohol level was within the required limit, or that the party was not operating a vehicle at the time of arrest, the case against them may be dismissed.
However, persons convicted of DWI offenses can expect penalties like fines, jail terms, community service, community supervision, participation in a drivers' education program, and an ignition interlock device.