Texas DWI Penalties

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If you are facing a DWI crime we want you to know some facts of what you are facing. It’s important to contact one of our Attorneys to not only answer any questions you may have but to start your legal defense strategy.

We offer free consultations for all those facing DWI charges.


First DWI conviction in Texas

    • Fine up to $2,000
    • Up to Six months in jail
    • Suspended driver’s license for up to a year
    • $1,000 or $2,000 every year for three years to keep your driver’s license

Second DWI conviction in Texas

    • Fine up to $4,000
    • Up to one year in jail
    • Suspended driver’s license for up to two years
    • $1000 $1,500 or $2000 every year for three years to keep your driver’s license

For further penalties or additional information on DWI’s in Texas.

How Long Is Your License Suspended for DWI in Texas?

DPS will suspend your license for a period of time if you failed or refused a chemical test. The suspension period depends on your age and if you refused or failed chemical testing. Suspension terms for refusals tend to be much longer than failed chemical tests.

If you are over the age of 21 and a non-commercial driver, then your suspension term is:

  • Up to 90 days for failing a chemical test; or

  • Up to 1 year for failing a chemical test with a history of one prior failed test

  • Up to 180 days for your first refusal; or

  • Up to 2 years for your second or subsequent refusal


If you are underaged and a non-commercial driver, then your suspension term is:

  • Up to 60 days for failing a chemical test;

  • Up to 120 days for failing a chemical test with a history of one prior failed test; or

  • Up to 180 days for failing a chemical test with a history of two or more failed tests

  • Up to 180 days for refusing a chemical test; or

  • Up to 2 years for your second or subsequent refusal


If you are a commercial driver, your commercial driver’s license (CDL) will be disqualified for:

  • Up to one year if you refused or failed chemical testing; or

  • Up to three years if you refused or failed chemical testing while transporting hazardous materials.

It’s important to remember the legal limit is different for underaged minors and commercial drivers. Commercial drivers cannot have a legal limit over .04 BAC when operating their commercial vehicle. Underaged minors have an incredibly low legal limit of just .02 BAC.


A DWI conviction can lead to a criminal license suspension. This is completely unrelated to your administrative license suspension. In fact, you could possibly be required to complete two suspension terms before you can drive again. This is why it’s incredibly important you combat your administrative license suspension early before your trial.

Every DWI case is unique. In some cases, your DWI attorney may be able to use one or several DWI defenses to protect your rights. What are some common DWI defenses in Texas? Here are a few:

  • Improper Stop. Police must have reasonable suspicion that you broke the law and have done something wrong or must show that you had some mechanical issue with your vehicle (such as a broken tail light). You must commit a driving infraction like, speeding, failed to signal a turn, or driving recklessly to be pulled over.

  • Improper Handling of Evidence. Police must test your blood alcohol concentration using proper protocols. If they wait too long, test you with a device that hasn’t received proper maintenance, or otherwise mishandle your samples, this evidence may be suppressed by the court. The Tijerina Law Firm are DWI lawyers in McAllen, Texas who may be able to review how evidence was handled and processed. Tijerina Law Firm, PC will fight to help you get the best possible result under the law.

  • Medical Conditions. Certain medical conditions can make officers think you are driving while intoxicated when you might have just been ill. For example, if you had been crying, have vertigo, or suffer from other medical conditions, it is possible that an officer might have mistaken these conditions for Driving While Intoxicated.

  • Failure to Read You Your Miranda Warnings. When people are under arrest, officers must inform them of their rights. If an officer failed to read you your rights, evidence gathered during your arrest could possibly be dismissed.

What to Do If You Are Pulled Over for a DWI in Texas 

If you are pulled over for a Driving While Intoxicated in Texas, you should pull over in a place where it is safe to do so. Be aware that you may be on camera when the officer comes to speak to you, so be sure to turn off your engine, roll down your window, and turn off your music. You’ll need to provide the officer with your name, driver’s license, and insurance information. However, it is important to remember that you do not have to answer any incriminating questions. If the officer asks you how much you have had to drink or whether you were at a bar, you have the right to tell the officer that you would like to exercise your right to remain silent and would need to have your attorney present to answer any questions. Be polite, but remember that anything you do say to police can be used against you in court. You have the right to refuse to submit to a breath test and have the right to refuse to submit to a field sobriety test. However, refusal to do so could lead to your arrest. As soon as you can, you will want to contact a qualified lawyer who can assist you. If you are put under the arrest, remember to assert your right to remain silent and ask to speak to your lawyer. 

Third DWI Felony Penalties under Texas Law

Under Texas law, if an individual is arrested for DWI after two prior drunk driving convictions, the third offense can be charged as a felony. After the third arrest for any drunk driving case, Texas law requires the court to impose certain conditions on the bond as a condition of release from jail. Although, many Texas criminal defense attorneys have argued that these special bond requirements run afoul of the presumption of innocence, the Texas courts have consistently upheld these special bond provisions as necessary for public safety.

Statutory Minimum Mandatory Requirements for a Third DWI under Texas Law

Under Texas law, a third conviction for DWI is classified as a third-degree felony. In most cases, the courts are required to impose certain minimum mandatory punishments, including:

  • A fine not to exceed $10,000;
  • The court can impose jail time in the Texas State Prison system for not less than two (2) year or more than ten (10) years;
  • The court can impose up to two (2) years of probation or community supervision;
  • The court must order an ignition interlock device (IID) which requires a deep lung air sample to be provided before the vehicle will start for all individuals convicted of a third or subsequent DWI crime as a condition of bond and before the individual can obtain any provisional or occupational driver’s license that might be awarded after the DWI conviction;
  • As part of the community control (probation), the court must impose at least 160 hours of community service but may require up to 600 hours of community service;
  • Driver’s license suspension of not less than 6 months or more than 2 years (which does not begin until any period of confinement is served).

If you have prior DWI or DUI convictions in Texas or another state, it’s vitally important to seek the services of a criminal defense attorney experienced in handling Texas DWI cases. A conviction for a felony DWI charge will have far greater consequences

Third or Subsequent DWI

Most first and second-time DWI offenses are considered misdemeanors, but after a person is convicted twice of drunk driving in Texas, Chapter 49 of the Texas Penal Code requires that prosecutors file a third-degree felony DWI charge for a third or subsequent DUI offense.

Anyone who has been convicted of DWI (driving while intoxicated, also known as driving under the influence [DUI] or drunk driving) in the past surely knows something about the criminal and civil penalties that may result from a DWI conviction, but a third-degree felony DWI charge is a much more serious matter than a misdemeanor DWI.

In Texas, the conviction for a third-degree felony may result in a minimum sentence of two years in the Texas State Prison, with a maximum sentence of up to 10 years, and/or a fine of up to $10,000, as well as the loss of certain rights due to the felony conviction. The driving privileges of a person charged with a third or subsequent DWI in Texas are also in severe jeopardy.

Other collateral consequences of a felony drunk driving conviction are expensive “DWI surcharges” that Texas imposes for three years — if the state reissues a driver’s license at all. Third-time offenders are also almost always required to install an ignition interlock device (IID). A person convicted of a third DWI felony will also be required to obtain expensive “SR-22” insurance in order to stay on the road.


DWI can be charged as a felony in Texas if the following applies:

  • A Third DWI– If you have two or more DWI convictions on your record, you can potentially be charged with a felony DWI. As a third-degree felony, this charge is punishable by a 2-year driver’s license revocation, fines and fees amounting to $10,000, court-ordered community service, and up to 10 years in a Texas state prison.
  • Accidents Resulting in Injury – Motorists suspected of driving while intoxicated or under the influence of drugs may be hit with felony DWI charges if they are also suspected of causing accidents that resulted in any person suffering serious injuries. In addition to hundreds of hours of court-mandated community service, up to $10,000 in fines and fees, and driver’s license suspension/revocation, being convicted of this third-degree felony (known as “intoxication assault”) can subject defendants to up to 10 years in state prison. The law notes victims must suffer “serious bodily injury” as a proximate cause of a defendant’s intoxication for prosecutors to pursue this charge.
  • Accidents Resulting in Death – There are few circumstances as serious as fatal accidents, which is why felony DWI allegations stemming from wrecks where a victim is killed make for the most serious DWI / DUI charge a person can face in Texas. Known as “intoxication manslaughter,” this second-degree felony offense is punishable by up to 20 years in state prison.
  • DWI with Child Passenger – Being arrested under suspicion of driving while intoxicated or under the influence of drugs with a child passenger in the vehicle is a state jail felony. As such, it’s punishable by a minimum of 180 days in jail and up to 2 years in a state jail facility. Under Texas law, a “child passenger” is any minor under the age of 15.


The ALR hearing is a civil proceeding that is entirely separate from any criminal DWI charges you may face. The primary goal of your hearing will be to determine whether or not your license should be suspended. Your license can only be suspended if the State can prove with certain evidence that you either:

    • Refused chemical testing in violation of the state implied consent law; or
    • Failed chemical testing and had a BAC of .08 percent or greater.


At the hearing, you will have the opportunity to defend yourself, attack the validity of the State’s evidence, and possibly even cross-examine the officer who made the arrest.


Requesting an ALR hearing is one of the most important things you can do if you refuse or fail a breath or blood test in Harris County. Even though the outcome of your ALR hearing will not influence any criminal proceedings, it is still vital to your future because you can obtain valuable impeachment evidence to help you beat your DWI charge. If you have requested an ALR hearing, you may be wondering if it is necessary to hire an attorney to defend you. Here are some pros and cons to consider when making this important decision. The simple answer is yes. Would you wager your hard earned money in a poker game without knowing the rules? Why would you gamble with your freedom and reputation in an ALR in the same manner? 

Many people are not aware that driving while intoxicated (DWI) can result in both criminal and administrative penalties. Refusing or failing a chemical test may result in a license suspension by the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS). Depending on the situation, you could have your license suspended for up to two years because of one bad night.

It’s stressful enough to deal with criminal penalties but adding administrative consequences can make the whole situation seem unbearable. If you want to retain your driving privileges you must act now. You can hire an experienced attorney to file a request for an administrative license revocation (ALR) hearing. It’s important you do this quickly because you only have 15 days after arrest to file a request for an ALR hearing.

How Does an Administrative License Revocation (ALR) Hearing Work?

An ALR hearing functions differently than a standard criminal proceeding. The evidence isn’t presented in front of a jury, but an administrative law judge. The judge will interpret the rules of the hearing and decide if you should keep your license or not. ALR hearings also use a different burden of proof called preponderance of the evidence, meaning you must prove that it’s more likely than not you were not drinking and driving.

There will be no prosecution at the hearing, but your arresting officer may show up. If you hire an attorney for the hearing, it could be a good chance to question the officer without a District Attorney present. The officer may not be prepared so it will make cross-examination much easier for the defense.

Texas Transportation Code § 524.035 states the evidence must prove the following if your license was suspended because of a failed chemical test.

  • You were driving a motor vehicle;
  • You gave a blood, breath or urine sample which detected alcohol in your system above the legal limit; and
  • The officer had enough probable cause to stop you

Texas law states the evidence must prove the following if your license was suspended because you refused to take a chemical test.

  • The officer pulled you over;
  • They had enough probable cause to determine that you were driving a motor vehicle while intoxicated;
  • The officer requested for you to submit to chemical testing and informed you of the legal ramifications of refusing; and
  • You refused to comply with chemical testing.

The ALR Hearing Does Affect Your DWI Case

The ALR hearing provides you with the opportunity to argue against license suspension. This civil proceeding, overseen by an administrative law judge, takes place separately from your criminal proceedings and the outcomes of each are independent of the other—to a degree. 

The lawyers who represent the TxDPS at the ALR hearing will use the same evidence to argue for license suspension as the prosecutor will use to obtain a criminal drunk driving conviction. The sooner your DWI lawyer can get a look at the evidence, the soon your legal team will understand the strength of the prosecutor’s case.

This evidence may include:

    • The arresting officer’s report
    • Dash cam footage
    • The arresting officer’s statement
    • Witness statements
    • BAC testing reports

You have a legal right to obtain and review all evidence in the possession of the TxDPS, so that you can mount a defense if you so choose. This means that our legal team can obtain copies of all evidence through the discovery process. This provides invaluable insight that we can use to defend you at the ALR hearing and bolster your criminal DWI defense.

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Whether you are facing drug charges, weapons charges, racketeering charges or any other criminal allegations, Chris Arce has the experience and reputation to fight for your rights. To schedule your free legal strategy session, please contact Mr Arce’s office at 210-882-0220 or by email.

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