Texas DWI Laws and Penalties [2024 Updated]

Texas DWI Laws and Penalties [2024 Updated]
May 03, 2024 |

Understanding Texas DWI laws and penalties can be crucial if you face a DWI arrest or conviction. Knowing the most up-to-date information in Texas can help you maintain your rights and ensure you are not taken advantage of during the criminal court process.

Explaining DWI in Texas

In Texas, a DWI refers to driving a motor vehicle while intoxicated. Intoxication applies to more than alcohol. Driving after consumption or usage of certain drugs or a combination of drugs and alcohol can lead to a DWI. A critical factor determining the severity of an offense is a driver’s Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) at the time of the arrest.

While being over the legal limit can ensure your arrest, a BAC below the limit can still result in an arrest if law enforcement has probable cause for your intoxication. For example, driving unsafely and erratically might indicate to an officer that you are under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Misdemeanor vs. Felony DWI

The main difference between misdemeanor and felony DWIs in Texas is that felony DWIs have extenuating factors that increase the charge’s severity. A misdemeanor DWI can be elevated to a felony under certain circumstances, such as:

  • High BAC,
  • Previous DWI convictions, and
  • Causing serious injury or death.

Although misdemeanor DWIs come with civil and criminal penalties, the consequences of a felony DWI conviction are much harsher. If you find yourself charged with a felony DWI, ensure you hire experienced legal representation immediately.

Misdemeanor Penalties in Texas

The penalties for DWI can vary depending on factors contributing to your arrest. While consequences are essential, it is equally important to understand why and how DWI classifications can differ in Texas. It is important to reiterate that felony DWIs come with more severe penalties than misdemeanors as a result of the aggravating factors present.

  • First Offense. For first-time misdemeanor DWIs, offenders can expect fines, community service, alcohol education classes, increased insurance rates, and possible license suspensions and jail time. Your fine is likely to be less than a few thousand dollars, while your license suspension could last for months.
  • Second Offense. A second DWI conviction increases penalties while adding the possibility of an ignition interlock device (IID) requirement on your vehicle. Fines can go up thousands of dollars. The court will likely suspend your license for a longer period and sentence you to an increased jail sentence.
  • Subsequent Offenses. If you receive more than two DWI offenses in Texas, you will likely have your DWI elevated to a felony offense. Felony offenses are severe and can have long-term impacts on your life.

Felony Penalties in Texas

The penalties surrounding a felony DWI are severe as a result of the factors that lead to the felony designation. Common felony DWI penalties can include:

  • Years In Jail. Unlike a misdemeanor DWI, which might result in probation or a shorter jail term, a felony DWI has the potential for significant jail time. Your exact sentence is likely to depend on factors like your BAC level, prior DWI offenses, and whether the DWI caused any injuries or deaths. No matter the number of years of jail time you receive, incarceration for a felony DWI can have a devastating impact on your life.
  • Long-Term License Suspension. Many people can have trouble understanding how essential their driver’s license is to their ability to have a good quality of life. Without your license, you can have difficulties doing any activities that have become normal. Work, running errands, and other vital responsibilities can become impossible, especially in Texas.A felony DWI conviction can lead to a lengthy suspension or permanent revocation of your license, forcing you to learn a new way to live. Regaining driving privileges can be so complex that many people do not have the time and resources to do it. People faced with a felony DWI should not take this penalty lightly.
  • Steep Fines and Court Costs. It is not uncommon for felony convictions to come with such hefty fines and court costs that people become financially crippled. The financial penalties can impact paying bills, supporting your family, and progressing in life.The exact amount of your fines can vary, but common fines exceed thousands of dollars, not including court fees and costs.
  • Employment Difficulties. Texas is one of the states that allow employers to deny workforce applicants based on their criminal background. People who have lived with a felony record understand the significant barriers to employment that arise. Most people living without a felony record do not anticipate the trouble they could have gaining meaningful jobs or trying to start a career after a conviction.Specific fields require driving privileges or clean criminal records, so a felony conviction would eliminate you from those potential careers. Jobs that do not have these requirements can still see a felony DWI as impossible to ignore. The long-term consequences of lacking suitable employment opportunities can be far-reaching, with very few ways to improve these circumstances.
  • Damaged Reputation. A sometimes-underestimated consequence of a DWI is a damaged reputation. While a court handing you a sentence does not tarnish your reputation, felony DWIs are public records. The stigma around felonies and incarcerated people can be heavy on an unsuspecting person. Your relationship with friends, family, and coworkers can change forever.


Q: What Are the Penalties for a DWI in Texas?

A: The penalties for DWI in Texas can differ depending on the classification you receive and the factors of your situation. General penalties you can expect are a mixture of fines, jail time, probation, community service, license suspensions, and alcohol education classes. Since the consequences of a DWI conviction can also vary widely depending on the people in the court handling your case, obtaining legal representation can be a great idea.

Q: What Are the New DWI Laws in Texas?

A: In 2019, the new DWI law in Texas gave some first-time offenders the right to plead guilty or no contest in exchange for a probationary period or preferred judgment. This option, called deferred adjudication, is a type of plea bargain. With this plea bargain, an individual’s case can be dismissed after the probationary period.

Q: Is Jail Time Mandatory for the First DWI in Texas?

A: Since you can receive probation instead of incarceration, jail time is not mandatory for a first-time DWI in Texas. It is essential to know that if you do not receive probation, there is a minimum sentence of 3 days for a first-time DWI in Texas. Avoiding jail can rest on having a skilled attorney advocating for you.

Q: Do You Lose Your License for Your First DWI in Texas?

A: The short answer to whether or not you lose your license for the first DWI in Texas is yes. While an attorney can work to minimize your sentence, Texas law has first-time offenders lose their license for up to a year. Depending on the situation, some people may be eligible for a restricted driving license to and from work.

Get More Information About Texas DWI

To get more information about DWI laws in Texas, contact Segura & Kiatta Law Firm today. We are skilled in DWI law and understand the Texas legal system. If you have questions, we have answers.

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