In Texas, driving while intoxicated (DWI) is criminalized under Section 49.04 of the Texas Penal Code. Under Section 49.04(a) it says, “A person commits an offense if the person is intoxicated while operating a motor vehicle in a public place.”
Under Section 49.01(2)(a), intoxicated is defined as “not having the normal use of mental or physical faculties by reason of the introduction of alcohol, a controlled substance, a drug, a dangerous drug, or a combination of two or more of those substances, or any other substance into the body.” Intoxicated also means to have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or more under this section.
Criminal Penalties for a Texas DWI
The criminal penalties for a first-time DWI in Texas include:
- Up to a $2,000 fine
- Up to 180 days in jail
- Up to one year driver license suspension
- An annual fee up to $2,000 to keep driver license
The above are the criminal penalties for a simple, first-time DWI in Denton County and every other part of Texas, but what about the other penalties? How else can a DWI conviction affect your life? Read on as we explain.
1. Insurance: Since DWI convictions are reported on people’s driving records for years, as a result auto insurance premiums are affected substantially. Expect to pay thousands more over the course of several years.
2. Employment: Even a simple, first-time DUI is still a criminal offense; therefore, the DWI will come up on background checks indefinitely. Depending on your industry, your employer could fire you for a DWI – it’s perfectly legal. Even if a DUI doesn’t lead to a job loss at your current company, it will likely affect future employment opportunities.
3. Housing: Many apartment managers and rental property owners have strict policies against renting or leasing to people with criminal records. In effect, you could have a difficult time finding an apartment or house to rent with a criminal record.
4. Education: For high school and college students, a DWI conviction can impact educational opportunities. From college entrance to college scholarship to staying in a school that a college student is already enrolled in, a DWI can affect all of these.
5. Immigration: A misdemeanor DWI typically does not lead to removal proceedings; however, a felony DWI or a drug-related DWI can trigger removal proceedings under the Immigration Nationality Act.
6. International Travel: While a DWI should not prevent you from obtaining a U.S. passport, it can restrict your travel to certain countries, such as Canada. If you plan to travel to Canada for business or pleasure, you may have to wait until your DWI is 10-years-old before you’ll be allowed to enter the country.
7. Security Clearance: If you have a security clearance or you plan to apply in the future, a DWI conviction can affect your status or application. To learn more, read about Guideline G of the Adjudicative Process, which explains how security clearance can be denied for alcohol-related activities, including DWI.
8. Child Custody: If you’re caught driving under the influence with a child under the age of 15 in your vehicle, you can face separate charges for child endangerment, which is punishable by up to two years in a state jail and by a fine not to exceed $10,000 among other penalties. If you’re sentenced for the DWI and for child endangerment, how are you going to take care of your children? You could lose child custody. Also, if you’re in a child custody battle, the recent DWI can affect your case, even if your children were not in your vehicle at the time of the arrest.
9. Professional Licenses: A DWI conviction can definitely cause the denial of a professional license. To learn more, visit the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR) and read its guidelines for license applicants with criminal records.
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