Driving under the influence (DUI) is a serious offense in Texas, as it poses a significant risk to public safety. In the Lone Star State, strict laws and penalties are in place to deter individuals from driving while impaired (DWI). Unfortunately, many people make the decision to drive after consuming significant amounts of alcohol, which far too frequently leads to catastrophic accidents, injuries, and deaths.
In today’s article, the auto accident lawyers at Kherkher Garcia will provide a comprehensive overview of Texas DUI laws and the associated penalties, as well as offer insights into the legal processes related to DUI.
Definition of DUI/DWI in Texas
In Texas, DUI is often referred to as DUI or DWI. It is a crime to operate a motor vehicle in a public place while intoxicated, which means that you do not have the normal use of your mental or physical faculties due to the introduction of :
- Controlled substances
- Certain medications
- A combination of two or more of those substances
- Any other substance interfering with normal functions of the body
According to the Texas Penal Code, a person is considered to be driving while intoxicated if they have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or higher.
For individuals under 21, the BAC limit is even lower at 0.02%. For drivers under the age of 21, it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle with any detectable amount of alcohol in their system. This is known as Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol Under 21 (DUIA).
Texas DUI/DWI Statistics
Even with the penalties and consequences set by state law, an alarming number of people continue to drive after consuming alcohol or drugs. Here are some drunk driving statistics for Texas:
- In 2022, there were 1,162 drunk driving deaths in Texas, an increase of 2% from the previous year.
- On average, one person is killed every 7 hours and 32 minutes in a drunk driving crash in Texas.
- Drunk driving accounts for 26% of all traffic deaths in Texas.
- In 2021, there were 25,261 drunk driving crashes in Texas, resulting in 1,029 deaths and 2,522 serious injuries.
- Texas ranks 5th in the nation for drunk driving deaths.
- The most common times for drunk driving crashes are on weekends and between the hours of 10pm and 2am.
- Male drivers are more likely to be arrested for DUI than female drivers.
- Drivers under the age of 21 are more likely to be involved in drunk driving crashes than older drivers.
Penalties for DUI/DWI in Texas
The penalties for DUI/DWI in Texas can be severe and vary depending on several factors, including prior convictions and the level of impairment. Here is an overview of the typical penalties associated with DUI/DWI:
- First Offense:
- Fine: Up to $2,000
- Jail Time: 3 to 180 days
- License Suspension: 90 days to 1 year
- Ignition Interlock Device: Required for some offenders
- DWI Education Program: Mandatory
- Additional Penalties: Possible probation, community service, and an annual surcharge
- Second Offense:
- Fine: Up to $4,000
- Jail Time: 1 month to 1 year
- License Suspension: 180 days to 2 years
- Ignition Interlock Device: Mandatory for at least 1 year
- DWI Education Program: Required
- Additional Penalties: Probation, community service, and an annual surcharge
- Third Offense:
- Fine: Up to $10,000
- Jail Time: 2 to 10 years
- License Suspension: 180 days to 2 years
- Ignition Interlock Device: Mandatory for at least 2 years
- DWI Education Program: Compulsory
- Additional Penalties: Probation, community service, and an annual surcharge.
- Felony: If a DUI/DWI involves a child passenger under the age of 15, it is considered a state jail felony, and penalties can be significantly more severe. These penalties may include substantial fines and a prison sentence ranging from 180 days to two years.
Personal Consequences of DUI/DWI
In addition to the criminal penalties outlined above, a DUI/DWI conviction can have various other consequences, including:
- Driver’s License Reinstatement: To regain your driver’s license after a suspension, you may need to pay reinstatement fees, complete a mandatory DWI education program, and possibly install an ignition interlock device.
- Ignition Interlock Device: In many cases, those convicted of DWI must have an ignition interlock device installed in their vehicle, which requires a clean breath sample to start the car.
- Increased Insurance Costs: DWI convictions often result in substantially higher insurance premiums, making it more expensive to maintain coverage.
- Employment Consequences: A DWI on your record can hinder job prospects, especially for positions that involve driving or require a clean criminal record.
- Administrative License Revocation (ALR): In Texas, the Department of Public Safety (DPS) can suspend your driver’s license independently of criminal penalties through Administrative License Revocation (ALR). If you refuse a breath or blood test or fail a BAC test, your license can be suspended as follows:
- First Offense: 90 days
- Subsequent Offenses: 1 year
Let’s not forget the mental and emotional consequences of causing an accident that left someone else injured, or killed them. Every year, thousands of people must face this reality as a consequence of their actions.
Texas Dram Shop Laws
In terms of alcohol-related auto accidents, we must also mention the importance of Texas dram shop laws. Dram shop laws in Texas impose liability on businesses that sell alcoholic beverages to individuals who are visibly intoxicated or minors, and who subsequently cause harm to others or themselves due to their intoxication. These laws are designed to hold bars, restaurants, and other alcohol-selling establishments accountable for their role in alcohol-related accidents and injuries.
In Texas, dram shop liability may be established if it can be proven that:
- The establishment sold alcohol to a minor (under 21 years of age) or a visibly intoxicated person.
- The sale of alcohol was a proximate cause of the individual’s intoxication or the subsequent harm.
- The intoxicated individual’s actions led to injuries, property damage, or death.
It is important to note that dram shop laws are subject to certain limitations, and establishing liability can be complex. Texas law places a cap on the amount of damages that can be recovered from an alcohol-selling establishment in dram shop cases. Still, individuals who are injured in alcohol-related accidents can benefit from discussing dram shop laws with a personal injury lawyer.
How to Avoid DUI/DWI Accidents
The best way to avoid being involved in a DUI/DWI accident in Texas is to never drink and drive, and avoid riding with anyone else who may be intoxicated. There are now many options that drivers and their peers can utilize to reduce the risk of an intoxication-related accident. Consider the following:
- Designated Driver: Always have a sober designated driver if you or your peers plan to consume alcohol.
- Rideshare Services: Utilize rideshare apps like Uber or Lyft to get home safely.
- Public Transportation: Take advantage of public transportation when available.
- Stay Overnight: If you have been drinking, consider staying overnight at your location or arranging accommodations.
- Plan Ahead: Plan your transportation before going out, so you’re not tempted to drive after drinking.
- Consider the Time and Date: Remember that weekends and holidays are prime times for partying, drinking, and special events. Avoid driving, if possible, at times and in places where drinking and driving are more likely to occur.
While these tips may seem only for those actively driving, it is important for anyone who plans to socialize with alcohol or any type of drug (legal or otherwise) to be smart about their choices. DUI/DWI accidents can affect anyone.
Getting Help after a Drunk Driving Accident
Texas takes DUI/DWI very seriously. At Kherkher Garcia, so do we. If you have been injured due to a drunk driver, we want to help. Our personal injury lawyers have experience with all types of auto accidents and we are deeply familiar with Texas dram shop laws. We have the experience and resources that you need to pursue justice and compensation.
The trauma that follows a serious accident and injuries is overwhelming. Our goal at Kherkher Garcia is to help victims understand and protect their rights, while seeing justice done. The negligence and careless actions of others should never cost you your health and wellbeing.
To find out how we can help you after a DUI/DWI accident, call us at 713-333-1030, or fill out our online contact form. A free consultation could be all you need to start the journey toward recovery.
Image by wavebreakmedia_micro on Freepik