Houston, TX is one place you do not want to be convicted of driving while intoxicated (DWI). Courts have a low tolerance for DWI offenders and shell out harsh punishments and penalties for convictions at any level. On top of it all, you risk damage to your personal and professional reputation, as well as your career, family, and your personal relationships.
If you have been charged with DWI in Houston, TX, having an attorney who knows and wants to protect your rights can go a long way toward fighting for the best possible outcome of your case. With a Houston-based DWI defense lawyer from Blass Law, you can rest assured you are represented by the best DWI defense lawyers in Houston, TX. We are committed to helping you move past this DWI arrest with minimal repercussions.
Call Blass Law at (713) 225-1900 for a review of your case and consultation.
What are the penalties for DWI in Texas?
First-offense DWIs in Houston are typically Class B misdemeanors. They can result in a driver’s license suspension of 90 days, provided the individual agreed to a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) testing in Houston. If the driver refused a breath or blood test, the driver could face a minimum 180-day license suspension from the Texas Department of Public Safety. Note: This possible drivers license suspension is separate from the criminal case.
Exceptions do apply, however, as follows:
- If the arresting officer discovers an open container of alcohol in the vehicle as you were operating it, the charge remains a Class B misdemeanor, but you could face a minimum of six days in the county jail.
- If a sample of your breath or blood shows an alcohol concentration level of 0.15 or more at the time of the test, the offense is enhanced to a Class A misdemeanor.
Punishments for DWI Classifications
The punishment that could be imposed for a 1st offense DWI conviction depends on the specific facts of the case and which DWI class your offense in Houston falls into. Specifically:
- Class B Misdemeanor offenses are punishable by fines up to $2,000 and/or confinement of up to 180 days in the county jail
- Class A Misdemeanor offenses are punishable by fines up to $4,000 and/or confinement of up to 365 days in the county jail
DUI or DWI Punishments and Penalties
Texas courts may also require any or all of the following for a person who is convicted of DWI:
- Additional fines of $3000 for first-time convictions, $4500 for first-time convictions with a breath or blood alcohol concentration of 0.15 or greater, or $6000 for second offenses
- Attendance at a Texas DWI Education Program, sometimes called DWI Offender Education
- Driver’s license suspension
- Requiring a Financial Responsibility Insurance Certificate (SR-22) from an insurance company
- A period of community supervision, or probation (along with completing a class in alcohol education)
- Ignition interlock restriction, requiring a person to only operate a vehicle with a deep lung ignition interlock device, or breathalyzer on their motor vehicle
Enhanced Punishments for DWI
The possible punishments and penalties for a DWI do not stop there. Your previous DWI activity will also weigh into these considerations. For example, if you have a previous DWI conviction, your current charge will be elevated to a Class A misdemeanor, an offense that carries a minimum jail sentence.
A third or subsequent DWI is a third-degree felony charge. Two to 10 years in prison, a potential license suspension of two years, and a $10,000 fine accompany a conviction.
How Texas Defines DWI
According to Texas Penal Code Ch 49.04 – Driving While Intoxicated, “A person commits an offense if the person is intoxicated while operating a motor vehicle in a public place.”
To formulate the best defense strategy against a Houston DWI, it helps to understand the individual components of this legal definition. These terms are also defined within the state’s penal code.
Glossary of Terms Used in Texas Penal Code Ch 49.04
- Intoxicated: In Texas, a person is intoxicated if they either 1) do not have normal use of their mental or physical faculties due to the ingestion of alcohol, a controlled substance, a drug, or any combination of these substances; or 2) demonstrate a BAC of 0.08 or higher.
- Motor Vehicle: A motor vehicle is defined in the state of Texas as any device used for the purpose of transporting or drawing something or someone on a highway, excepting those used solely on tracks or stationary rails.
- Public Place: An area deemed “public” is accessible to others and may include highways, streets, as well as common areas of office buildings, hospitals, stores, schools, and transport facilities, among other such areas.
How Houston Law Enforcement Proves Intoxication
Of course, the core element in a DWI is “intoxication.” Texas law enforcement is specifically trained to identify intoxication using standardized field sobriety tests. Three criteria will lend to your being identified as intoxicated at the time of your arrest:
- You fail to show a normal use of your physical faculties as a result of alcohol, drug, or controlled substance in your system.
- You fail to show a normal use of your mental faculties as a result of alcohol, drug, or controlled substance in your system.
- Administered tests indicate a BAC of 0.08 or more.
Appealing a DWI in Houston
According to the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, all criminal defendants have the right to appeal a court’s judgment against them. The law establishes that any appeal must be based on the argument that the court did not apply the law correctly or that the court permitted inappropriate behavior, either of which led to your eventual, wrongful conviction.
In the case of a DWI, the following types of errors are commonly cited as the basis for an appeal of the court’s decision:
- The prosecutor conducted himself or herself improperly.
- The court permitted testimony or evidence that should have been excluded.
- The court ruling was made in error.
A DWI defense lawyer can present evidence supporting that one of the above errors occurred in your case, rendering a significant impact on its outcome. If the Court of Appeals agrees with the stated facts, it may decide to reverse the trial court and grant you a new trial for your DWI. Should you lose the case on appeal, you still have recourse. Your DWI lawyer can file a motion with the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.
What a Minor Who Drinks and Drives Can Expect if Caught in Houston
Any time a Houston police officer has reasonable suspicion that someone is driving under the influence of alcohol, they can stop that individual and conduct a field sobriety test. In the case where the driver is underage and has alcohol in their system, the officer can arrest the minor.
The minor will be handcuffed and driven to the police station, at which point they may undergo BAC testing, either via breathalyzer or blood test (the latter may occur at the local hospital).
How Underage Drinking and Driving in Houston Differs from an Adult DWI
Texas has a zero-tolerance policy for underage drinking. With underage drinkers, laws apply with the mere consumption of alcohol and do not require proof of intoxication. system.
According to Texas’ Alcoholic Beverage Code (Title 4. Regulatory and Penal Provisions, Chapter 106. Provisions Relating to Age, Sec.106.041), if you are under the age of 21 and you are caught driving with any detectable amount of alcohol in your system, you can and will be charged with the Class C misdemeanor of Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol (DUI).
A conviction for this charge does not result in required confinement, however, it does mean you will pay a fine of as much as $500 if convicted.
Penalties and Punishments for Multiple DUIs
If your record reflects two previous convictions for any DUI offense, you will face additional penalties, which could include the following:
- Paying a $500-$2,000 fine
- Serving up to 180 days in jail
- Both of the above
Community Service Requirements
A Houston judge will order a minor convicted of a first-time DUI to perform between 20 and 40 hours of community service in a program connected with alcohol misuse education or prevention. Minors with a previous DUI on their records will be ordered to perform between 40 and 60 hours.
Underage DUI Deferred Disposition
A Houston DWI defense lawyer can occasionally negotiate a deferred disposition for underage DUIs. If successful in this effort, the minor’s sentence will be suspended, provided they fulfill specific obligations.
Section 106.071 (Punishment for Alcohol-Related Offense by Minor) of the Texas Penal Code allows for the court to order the minor to attend a Houston DUI alcohol awareness program program rather than face the other consequences associated with DUI. The program must be approved by the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation. Under certain circumstances, a parent or guardian may have to attend the program with the minor.
If the minor has been convicted of more than two prior DUIs, they will not be considered for deferred disposition or adjudication.
DWI Offenses for Minors
When an individual between the ages of 17 and 21 is found to be intoxicated (BAC of 0.08 or higher), the minor faces the same charges as an adult (a Class B misdemeanor), with the following provisions, punishments, and penalties:
Minors who are arrested and charged with their first DWI offense face a jail sentence of between three and 180 days. The minimum sentence is six days if police find an open container in the offender’s car.
Their driver’s license will be suspended for up to 365 days. Alternatively, the court may decide on community supervision and the required installation of an ignition interlock device. In these cases, the minor’s driver’s license will be suspended for only 90 days.
The minor’s offense will be enhanced to a Class A misdemeanor if their BAC tests show a blood alcohol content of at least 0.15. This conviction could yield a sentence of up to one year in county jail, as well as a fine up to $4,000.
In Texas, a minor who is convicted of DWI and has one previous DWI conviction will be charged with a Class A misdemeanor. This offense will cost the minor (or their parents) up to $4,000 in fines. In addition, the minor could face jail time from 30 days up to one year and will lose their driver’s license for anywhere between 180 days and two years.
If a Houston police officer arrests a minor for DWI and finds they have two or more DWI convictions on their record, the minor could serve up to 10 years in the penitentiary. They will be slapped with a fine up to $10,000, and they will lose their driver’s license for up to two years.
How a Houston DWI Defense Attorney Can Help Your Minor
A DWI conviction imposes serious, life-altering effects on the offender. In the case of a minor convicted of DWI, the aftermath of such a conviction is especially tragic—life is forever changed before the child has even had a chance to taste what life has to offer.
A Houston DWI defense lawyer at Blass Law can fight to ensure your minor’s rights are protected, working toward dismissal of the case, deferred adjudication, or a reduction in charges. Call us for DWI defense in Houston, TX today at (713) 225-1900 for a consultation.
How a DWI Conviction Affects a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL)
A person who makes their living driving stands to lose substantially more from a DWI conviction that the typical driver. If you count on your commercial driver’s license (CDL) to pay the bills, you should know that a DWI conviction could result in the temporary disqualification of your CDL, or even your commercial learner’s permit (CLP).
It is worth noting that Texas DPS can disqualify your CDL for driving your own car—or any motor vehicle, for that matter—while intoxicated. The penalties do not just apply to driving a commercial motor vehicle while intoxicated.
DPS can and will disqualify your CDL for certain, specified durations, depending upon a few factors.
One-Year CDL Disqualification
If you refuse to have your BAC measured via a breathalyzer or blood test, your CDL will be disqualified for one year. This penalty holds true if you are found to have a controlled substance as you are driving your vehicle in a public place.
The penalty of a one-year CDL disqualification also applies if your BAC corresponds to the following:
- 04 or more (commercial vehicle)
- 08 or more (any vehicle)
Three-Year CDL Disqualification in Houston
If you were transporting hazardous material at the time you were stopped, and you refuse to have your BAC tested, or police discover the presence of a controlled substance in your commercial motor vehicle as you were driving it, Texas DPS will disqualify your CDL for from transporting hazardous materials for three years.
This same penalty applies if you agree to a breathalyzer or blood test, and your BAC registers according to any of the following:
- 04 or more (commercial vehicle)
- 08 or more (any vehicle)
Your CDL will be disqualified for life if you are convicted of a second DWI offense while operating a commercial motor vehicle.
Administrative License Revocation (ALR) Hearing for License Suspension
A Houston DWI defense lawyer can contest your license suspension or CDL disqualification. The procedure and requirements are strict and must be followed to the letter.
Your lawyer must send a request for an Administrative License Revocation (ALR) hearing within 15 days of your DWI (20 days for a CDL disqualification). DPS will send you a letter stating a hearing date, time, and location. Missing this deadline disqualifies you from Houston ALR hearing consideration.
If you are granted an ALR hearing, it will occur in a separate location than your criminal case, frequently in a municipal or a justice of the peace court in your home county. At this hearing, your DWI defense lawyer will present evidence that the hearing officer will consider in determining whether your license suspension or CDL disqualification was valid.
If the ALR Hearing Does Not Go Your Way
You can file a petition to appeal the ALR hearing decision if the hearing officer does not reinstate your license or CDL. Your DWI CDL lawyer in Houston, TX will have to file the petition within 30 days of the date of your license suspension or CDL disqualification. This is filed in the county court. A certified copy of the petition must be mailed to DPS via certified overnight mail to:
Texas Department of Public Safety
Director of Hearings – ALR Program
P.O. Box 16327
Austin, TX 78761-5327
Upon receiving this petition, DPS will lift your suspension or disqualification for 90 days. The disqualification will be re-implemented should it happen that the appellate court has not ruled on your petition within the 90-day timeframe.
As you wait for a decision to be made, you are entitled to apply for an occupational license. This restricted license will allow you to drive your private motor vehicle to school, work, or for essential household activities. It does not permit you to drive a commercial motor vehicle.
A Houston DWI Defense Lawyer Can Help Protect Your CDL
It is no small thing to mess around with your CDL when you make your living as a commercial vehicle driver. You should know that Texas judges are very skeptical about showing any leniency to a commercial vehicle driver who has been charged with DWI—understandably so, given the massive potential for destruction and death that result from accidents in these situations.
You will want to step into your legal battle armed with a defense that gives you the best possible outcome given the circumstances of your DWI. Blass Law will fight to give you this defense. Call us today at (713) 225-1900 for a review of your case and consultation regarding your legal options.
How a DWI Affects Your Ability to Drive for Uber or Lyft
If your record shows you have a DWI conviction that is less than seven years old, you will not be able to drive for either Uber or Lyft. It does not matter that you have stayed DWI-free since the conviction. It does not matter that you have had your license reinstated, or that you paid all your legal fines.
This is just another way in which a DWI conviction cuts your opportunities and options in life. However, if you count on driving for Lyft or Uber, or it is a job you wish to pursue, and you have a fresh DWI on your record, a DWI lawyer may be able to work with the prosecutor to have your DWI charge reduced to a lesser charge—or dropped altogether.
In some cases, your lawyer can fight to have your DWI conviction kept off your record. This option is now enabled due to a 2017 law that permits non-disclosure of DWI convictions in particular types of cases.
If you want to drive for a rideshare company and are concerned about how your DWI may block this opportunity, call Blass Law. We will fight to exercise your rights and give you the best shot at the life you look forward to living. Call for DWI defense in Houston, TX at (713) 225-1900.
When You Are Looking for a DWI Defense Lawyer in Houston
Your pending DWI charge has already put you under enough stress. Imagine the relief of handing this potentially life-altering matter over to someone who understands Texas’ complex DWI laws and will fight aggressively to put them to work for your benefit, your economic welfare, and your freedom.
Blass Law will stand by your side through this difficult time, fortifying your case with a deep knowledge of standardized field sobriety testing protocols, law enforcement procedures, and prosecutorial tactics. Tell us about your charge, and we will make certain you understand your legal options. We know the tremendous difference a conviction can make in your life, your freedom, your career, and your family. Let us help you stay on the right path.
Call Blass Law today at (713) 225-1900.