1st DWI Offense
Driving while intoxicated, or DWI, is defined by Texas Penal Code § 49.04. This offense occurs when someone is intoxicated while driving in a public space. Intoxicated can be a stricter standard than “under the influence” or DUI. DWI is considered a Class B misdemeanor, the second most serious type of misdemeanor in Texas. A standard Class B misdemeanor DWI in Texas is punishable by a minimum jail sentence of 72 hours.
The minimum jail sentence for a DWI is increased if other specific circumstances are present. If the driver is pulled over with an open container of alcohol in their possession while arrested for DWI, the minimum jail sentence is increased to 6 days. If the driver has a blood alcohol concentration level of 0.15 or higher, they will be charged with a Class A misdemeanor DWI.
Austin 1st DWI Offense Lawyer | Travis County, TX
If you’re convicted of a 1st-offense DWI and are arrested again for a similar offense in the future, you’ll face enhanced criminal charges. Although it’s a misdemeanor, you should fight it like a felony.
Even if you’re guilty of the offense, there are options available that might allow you to avoid jail, a criminal record, and to keep some level of legal driving privileges. To receive quality legal representation, contact criminal defense attorney Jackson F. Gorski at The Law Office of Jackson F. Gorski today.
Law Office of Jackson F. Gorski has offices in Austin and Georgetown but accepts clients throughout several counties in Texas including Travis County, Williamson County, Bell County, Bastrop County, Burnett County, Hays County, Caldwell County, Blanco County, Lee County, Milam County, Hays County, and Caldwell County.
- Texas DWI Misdemeanor Penalties
- House Bill 3582
- How A First-Time DWI Offender Can Complete DWI Deferred Adjudication
- Other Options For First-Time DWI Defendants
- Additional Resources
The penalties for various criminal charges in Texas are laid out by Texas Penal Code Chapter 12. While some minimums are set forth by Texas Penal Code § 49.04, the judge can impose harsher penalties than those minimums. The sentencing guidelines for misdemeanor DWI are as follows:
- Class A maximums: $4,000 in fines, one year in jail
- Class B maximums: $2,000 in fines, 180 days in jail
Penalties increase when a defendant has been convicted of DWI more than once. Only first-time offenses are relevant here, so the increases do not apply.
DWI charges are intimidating. As are prosecutors, judges, courtrooms, paperwork, and everything involved throughout the process. Someone who has never been involved in the judicial system could feel very out of place during a DWI prosecution. House Bill 3582, first introduced in 2019, offers exciting opportunities for first-time DWI offenders in Texas. Called deferred adjudication, this option could help defendants avoid significant consequences and keep their life on the right path.
Having no prior DWI offenses is not the only requirement to qualify for deferred adjudication through HB 3582. First, anyone charged with DWI with a BAC of 0.15 or higher does not qualify for deferred adjudication. Secondly, deferred adjudication cannot be used when the defendant caused a traffic accident. Additionally, those who hold a CDL, or a commercial driver’s license, do not qualify for deferred adjudication under HB 3582. Finally, anyone with traffic violations that are punishable only by a fine will also be ineligible for DWI deferred adjudication.
When one completes the deferred adjudication process, the charges against them will be dismissed. Before those charges are dropped, the defendant must complete several steps. Until those steps are completed, the judge will place a hold on the proceedings, or “defer” them, until the defendant completes (or fails) the program. The dismissal will remain on the defendant’s record unless they have it expunged or sealed. However, a dismissal of DWI charges undeniably looks better on someone’s record than a conviction.
If a defendant qualifies for deferred adjudication of DWI charges, they should enter a plea of guilty or no contest (nolo contendere). The plea must be entered so the defendant can enter a period of community supervision. One of the first requirements of HB 3582 is that a defendant completing community supervision only operate a vehicle(s) that has an IID, or ignition interlock device, installed. The length of time the defendant must use the IID may vary and can be quite expensive. Ignition interlock devices come with monthly fees, maintenance fees, and possibly installation fees and violation fees as well. However, the judge can waive the IID requirement if they find that the IID is not reasonably necessary for the safety of the community. For example, if a defendant were arrested while intoxicated via prescription medication, an IID would not be able to detect the substances; thus, the judge may waive the requirement.
It is crucial that a defendant in the deferred adjudication program not violate the IID requirements imposed by the judge. The defendant may have other terms as part of their deferred adjudication, some of which may be similar to parole. These other terms often include alcohol screening, educational courses, and community service. While many volunteer programs do not accept applicants completing hours for court-ordered programs, this is better than jail time and/or probation. Suppose the defendant does not finish all the court-imposed requirements for deferred adjudication. In that case, the judge can order any amount of penalties within the original charges’ guidelines, including the maximum.
Just because someone qualifies for deferred adjudication does not mean it is always their best option. For example, the defendant may not be confident in their ability to complete the program’s requirements and would rather negotiate for lower initial penalties rather than risk the maximum from the judge if/when they fail the program. There may be evidence of violations of the defendant’s constitutional rights that could result in charges being dismissed or, at the very least, reduced. Some evidence in the case may also be inadmissible, which could provide substantial leverage in negotiations with the prosecution. Confident defendants may want to take their case to trial to achieve a not-guilty verdict. But the best decision for a defendant facing DWI charges in Texas cannot be decided through information alone without analysis from a competent criminal defense attorney. The best way for a defendant to determine the best course of action when facing DWI charges is to consult with at least one defense attorney. Criminal defendants in Texas have the option to seek out their own legal counsel rather than using a court-appointed public defender.
Texas Penal Code § 49.04 – Texas’ law regarding driving while intoxicated. This is a distinct offense from DUI, or driving under the influence.
Texas Penal Code Chapter 12 – The criminal penalties for various offenses in Texas, including misdemeanor DWI charges.
House Bill 3582 – Legislation allowing first-time DWI offenders in Texas to defer adjudication, offering substantial short- and long-term benefits.
Georgetown 1st DWI Offense Attorney | Williamson County, TX
Due to the thousands of lives lost on Texas roads and highways on an annual basis, the state of Texas is serious about DWI enforcement and normally conducts stings in high-risk areas and around the holidays. If you or a loved one were arrested for driving while intoxicated, and you’re searching for an experienced Austin DWI lawyer to help you learn more about your rights, your legal options, and that will help you fight the charge, reach out The Law Office of Jackson F. Gorski.
Jackson F. Gorski has years of experience helping hundreds of Texans fight their DWI accusations. He can do the same for you. To schedule a free, confidential consultation with experienced Texas DUI defense lawyer Jackson Gorski, call 512-960-4646 today.
Mr. Gorski and his legal team accepts DWI cases in Austin and Georgetown, TX.