Navigating Texas DUI and DWI Laws

by | Apr 10, 2024 | Car Accident, Dram Shop Law, DUI/DWI, Personal Injury, Vehicle Accident

Driving under the influence (DUI) and driving while intoxicated (DWI) are serious offenses in Texas, with potentially life-altering consequences. While the terms DUI and DWI are often used interchangeably, there are key distinctions between Texas DUI and DWI laws. It is important for Texans to be aware of these laws, and how they could factor into a personal injury or dram shop claim if an accident occurs.

Below, the auto accident lawyers at Kherkher Garcia explore the specifics of these laws, outlining the legal limits, penalties, and crucial information for Texans who are injured by a drunk driver or negligent establishment.

Differences Between Texas DUI and DWI Laws

The primary difference between a DUI and DWI in Texas hinges on the driver’s age.

  • DUI (Driving Under the Influence): This charge applies specifically to drivers under 21 years old. Texas has a zero-tolerance law for underage drunk driving. Any detectable amount of alcohol in a minor’s system qualifies as a DUI.
  • DWI (Driving While Intoxicated): This charge applies to drivers 21 years old and over. Here, intoxication is defined as having a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or higher. However, it’s important to remember that even a BAC lower than 0.08% can lead to a DWI charge if the officer suspects the driver is impaired due to alcohol or drugs.

Penalties for DUI and DWI in Texas

The consequences of a DUI or DWI conviction can be substantial. Penalties become increasingly harsher with subsequent offenses. Here’s a breakdown of potential repercussions:

  • First Offense:
    • DUI: Up to $2,000 fine, license suspension up to 1 year, mandatory alcohol education classes (12 hours), and 20-40 hours of community service.
    • DWI: Up to $2,000 fine, 3-180 days in jail (with a mandatory minimum of 3 days), license suspension up to 2 years, and an annual surcharge of up to $2,000 for 3 years to retain a driver’s license. DWI intervention program or education may also be court-ordered.
  • Second Offense:
    • Penalties become more severe, with increased fines, longer jail sentences, and extended license suspensions.
  • Third Offense:
    • Considered a felony, with significant fines, potential prison time (up to 10 years), and lengthy driver’s license revocation.

In addition to these core penalties, a DUI or DWI conviction can have lasting negative impacts, such as increased car insurance rates, difficulty obtaining employment, and academic repercussions.

Enhanced Penalties and Aggravating Factors

Certain aggravating factors can lead to enhanced penalties for DUI and DWI offenses in Texas. These factors may include excessive speeding, driving with a minor passenger, causing property damage or bodily injury, or having a particularly high BAC level. Additionally, prior convictions for DUI or DWI can significantly increase the severity of penalties for subsequent offenses.

Ignition Interlock Devices (IIDs)

In Texas, individuals convicted of DWI may be required to install an ignition interlock device (IID) in their vehicles as a condition of license reinstatement. These devices require drivers to pass a breathalyzer test before starting their vehicles, effectively preventing them from driving while intoxicated. The installation and maintenance of IIDs often come at the expense of the offender.

Beyond BAC: Other Signs of Intoxication

Law enforcement officers rely on various methods to determine intoxication besides a BAC test. These can include:

  • Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (SFSTs): A series of physical tests designed to assess balance, coordination, and cognitive function.
  • Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) Evaluations: If officers suspect drug use, a DRE, specially trained in identifying drug impairment, may conduct a detailed evaluation.
  • Witness Statements: Observations by bystanders about a driver’s erratic behavior can be used as evidence.

If pulled over on suspicion of DUI or DWI, it’s crucial to cooperate with law enforcement officers respectfully. You have the right to refuse a breathalyzer test, but there may be consequences for doing so, such as automatic driver’s license suspension. It’s important to consult with an attorney to understand your options.

Implied Consent Law

In Texas, drivers are subject to the state’s implied consent law, which stipulates that by operating a motor vehicle, individuals implicitly consent to chemical testing to determine their BAC or intoxication level if lawfully arrested for suspicion of DUI or DWI. Refusal to submit to a breathalyzer or blood test can result in automatic license suspension, even if the individual is later found not guilty of the offense.

How Do Texas DUI and DWI Laws Factor into Dram Shop Claims?

In Texas, dram shop laws hold establishments liable for serving alcohol to individuals who subsequently cause injury or harm to others due to their intoxication. These laws provide a legal avenue for injured parties to seek compensation from alcohol-serving establishments, such as bars, restaurants, and liquor stores, in addition to pursuing legal action against the intoxicated individual themselves. However, Texas DUI and DWI laws intersect with dram shop claims in several key ways.

Proving Liability

Under Texas dram shop laws, plaintiffs must demonstrate that the alcohol-serving establishment knowingly overserved an individual who was visibly intoxicated or under the legal drinking age, and this overservice directly contributed to the injuries or damages suffered. In cases involving DUI or DWI, evidence of intoxication, such as blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels or eyewitness testimony, can play a crucial role in establishing the liability of the establishment.

Comparative Negligence

Texas follows a modified comparative negligence rule, meaning that if the injured party is found partially responsible for their injuries, their compensation may be reduced accordingly. In DUI and DWI cases involving dram shop claims, the intoxicated individual’s actions are typically considered the primary cause of the accident. However, if the establishment can demonstrate that the injured party’s own negligence, such as contributing to the accident in some way, also played a role, it could impact the amount of compensation awarded.

Statute of Limitations

In Texas, there is a limited timeframe, known as the statute of limitations, within which dram shop claims must be filed. Generally, plaintiffs have two years from the date of the incident to initiate legal action against the alcohol-serving establishment. It’s important for individuals injured in DUI or DWI-related accidents to act promptly and seek legal counsel to ensure compliance with the statute of limitations and preserve their right to pursue compensation.

Settlements and Compensation

In many cases, dram shop claims are resolved through out-of-court settlements between the parties involved. These settlements typically involve the payment of compensation by the alcohol-serving establishment to the injured party in exchange for dropping or resolving the legal claim. Compensation may cover medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other damages resulting from the accident.

How a Dram Shop Lawyer Helps Victims of DUI or DWI Accidents

Texas DUI and DWI laws allow individuals who are injured due to a negligent party to seek compensation for their damages. A dram shop lawyer plays a crucial role in protecting victim rights and pursuing the appropriate recovery after an injury. Here are some of the ways that a dram shop lawyer can help victims in these situations:

Legal Expertise and Guidance

Dram shop laws can be complex, and navigating the legal process without proper expertise can be challenging. A dram shop lawyer has a deep understanding of these laws, as well as Texas DUI and DWI laws, and can provide victims with expert guidance. A skilled lawyer will offer guidance on victim rights, potential legal options, and the steps involved in pursuing a claim against an alcohol-serving establishment and/or a drunk driver.

Investigation and Evidence Gathering

A dram shop lawyer will conduct a thorough investigation into the circumstances surrounding the DUI or DWI accident to gather evidence establishing the liability of the driver and/or alcohol-serving establishment. This may involve obtaining witness statements, reviewing surveillance footage, analyzing alcohol sales records, and consulting with experts to assess the level of intoxication of the individual at the time of service.

Building a Strong Case

Based on the evidence gathered, a dram shop lawyer will build a strong case on behalf of the victim, demonstrating how the overservice of alcohol by the establishment directly contributed to the accident and resulting injuries or damages. This may involve presenting evidence of the establishment’s knowledge of the individual’s intoxication, failure to adhere to responsible alcohol service practices, or other negligent actions.

Negotiating with Insurance Companies

In many cases, the alcohol-serving establishment’s liability insurance provider will be involved in the legal proceedings. A dram shop lawyer will handle negotiations with insurance companies on behalf of the victim, advocating for fair compensation. Compensation may include medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other damages resulting from the accident. They will work to ensure that the victim’s rights are protected and that they receive the maximum compensation available under the law.

Representing the Victim in Court

If a settlement cannot be reached through negotiations, a dram shop lawyer will represent the victim in court, presenting their case before a judge and/or jury. They will advocate for the victim’s rights and work to secure a favorable outcome, holding the responsible parties accountable for their actions.

Providing Support and Counsel

Throughout the legal process, a dram shop lawyer serves as a supportive advocate for the victim and their loved ones. A lawyer provides counsel, guidance, and reassurance every step of the way. They understand the emotional and financial toll that DUI or DWI accidents can take on victims and their families and strive to alleviate some of the burdens by handling the legal aspects of the case with care and professionalism.

Have Questions about Texas DUI and DWI Laws or Dram Shop Claims?

If you have questions about Texas DUI and DWI laws, dram shop claims, or other auto accident injuries, Kherkher Garcia can help. Our team of attorneys are skilled in various areas of personal injury law, including drunk driving, truck accidents, pedestrian injuries, and more. We can answer your questions and provide you with information about your rights and best options for pursuing recovery.

To learn more, contact us for a free consultation! Call 713-333-1030, or complete our online contact form for immediate assistance.


Here are some helpful resources for further information on Texas DUI and DWI laws:

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Steve Kherkher

Steve Kherkher

Founding Partner and Trial Lawyer

This article was written and reviewed by Injury Trial Lawyer and Founding Firm Partner Steve Kherkher. Steve has been a practicing injury lawyer for more than 30 years. He has won $300 Million+ in Settlements and Verdicts for his clients. He is a force to be reckoned with in the courtroom and the trial lawyer you want on your side if you or a loved one have been catastrophically injured.

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