Understanding DWI Criminal Offenses and DUI Punishments
The classification of criminal offenses can be very confusing. In Texas, the punishments for misdemeanor and felony crimes are especially harsh, particularly when it comes to DWI and assault. There are three types of misdemeanors in this state: Class A, B, and C, with a DWI being the most common Class A or B misdemeanor.
The three fictional scenarios below will give you an intro to some common alcohol-related offenses and punishments. Keep in mind that in the real world, every case is unique, and a good lawyer will take time to explore all mitigating factors that might win you a dismissal or result in a lesser charge.
You’re 20 years old, watching football at home with a couple of buddies. The three of you share a six-pack of beer you managed to purchase at a nearby grocery store without having to show I.D. You yourself only drink one can.
At halftime, you and your buddies get into the car, with you behind the wheel, to head back to the same store. Unfortunately, you fail to stop at a stop sign, and police car lights fill up your rearview. A bit panicked, you end up bumping the curb before coming to a halt. The officer asks you to take a breath test, which you agree to do. The test shows your BAC (blood alcohol content) at just .02.
In Texas, it is illegal for a minor to drive with any detectable amount of alcohol in his or her system. In scenario #1, since your BAC was so low and because you are under the age of 21, you would be charged with a DUI (driving under the influence), which is classified as a Class C misdemeanor and results in the following penalties:
First offense DUI
- 60-day driver’s license suspension,
- Required attendance at an alcohol awareness class,
- 20 to 40 hours of community service, and/or
- Up to $500 fine
Second offense DUI
- 120-day driver’s license suspension and all of the above
Third offense DUI
- This is considered a felony and can result in a fine as high as $2,000, jail time, or both.
In the above scenario, since you are underage, the person who sold you alcohol in the first place can be charged as well. Sale of alcohol to a minor is a Class A misdemeanor.
Same story as above, but you’re 21 and your BAC is just barely over the legal limit, .081. This qualifies as a DWI and not surprisingly, the penalties for DWI for individuals 21 and over are more severe. First offense DWI is a Class B misdemeanor while a second offense is a Class A. The penalties for each are:
First offense DWI
- 90 to 365 day driver’s license suspension,
- Up to $2,000 fine, and/or
- Possible three to 180 days of jail time
Second offense DWI
- 180 to two year driver’s license suspension,
- Up to $4,000 fine, and/or
- 30 days to one year jail time
While unadvisedly driving home after drinking several pitchers of beer on St. Patrick’s Day at your favorite bar, you lose control of your vehicle and crash head-on into an oncoming car. You’re okay, but the driver in the other vehicle sustains serious injuries. At the scene of the accident, a police officer determines your BAC is well above the legal limit.
Driving while intoxicated and causing an accident resulting in a serious bodily injury is considered intoxication assault and classified as a third-degree felony.
In Texas, these types of felonies include capital felony, first, second, and third degree felonies, and state jail felony. Each type applies to different scenarios and comes with its own set of penalties.
Conviction of intoxication assault can result in:
- Two to 10 years jail time, and/or
- A fine up to $10,000
- Possible conviction of intoxication manslaughter, where “a death has occurred as a proximate cause of the intoxication,” which could increase jail time up to 20 years.
- If more than one death occurred, the charges against you could be stacked and the penalties doubled.
Don’t Be That Guy
There are several other types of misdemeanors and felonies, each carrying penalties that range from a small fine, to more severe, long-term punishments. If you are arrested, whether you have been charged with a Class C misdemeanor or a capital felony, the first thing you must do is speak to a qualified attorney.
At Thiessen Law Firm, our award-winning attorneys will take the time to research and investigate every detail of your case and will fight hard for your justice. Contact us to request a free case evaluation.