What is the difference between a DUI and DWI in Texas? Which is worse? For many, it’s easy to assume that the terms Driving Under the Influence (DUI) and Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) are interchangeable. However, the two charges apply to people of different age groups and have different legal consequences.

Because the differences between a DUI charge and a DWI charge can actually be quite tricky, the cutting-edge DWI lawyers from Thiessen Law Firm are here to explain the difference between DUI and DWI in Texas, as well as give you a breakdown of the consequences.

What is a DWI in Texas?

DWI stands for driving while intoxicated. The Texas Penal Code § 49.04 states that you’re driving while intoxicated if you’re operating a motor vehicle in a public place while you lack normal physical or mental faculties as a direct result of:

  • Alcohol consumption
  • A controlled substance, or
  • By having a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or more

Anyone over the age of 21 who falls within one of these categories can be charged with DWI. A DWI, with no aggravating factors, is classified as a Class B misdemeanor and can be bumped up to a Class A misdemeanor if your BAC is over 0.15%. However, it’s important to note that if controlled substances are involved, your case could elevate quickly to include drug charges in Texas.

So, if you’re 21 and have a BAC over 0.08 while sitting on your best friend’s couch watching Altered Carbon, that is legal. But if you get up off of your friend’s couch and decide to take your car or boat out for a spin, then you’ve entered illegal territory.

Continue reading about drug-related DWI and the Texas drug classifications.


What’s the difference between DWI vs DUI in Texas? The first major difference is age. The Texas Penal Code § 106.041 defines driving under the influence as a situation in which a minor is operating a motor vehicle in a public place with “any detectable amount of alcohol in the minor’s system.”

Because DUI is a charge for minors, the consequences are a bit less severe than the ones for DWI, and DUIs are generally charged as Class C misdemeanors. 

However, there is one big caveat: minors can still be charged with a DWI in Texas

Minors with ANY amount of alcohol in their system — or any amount of detectable drug use, as Texas has a zero-tolerance policy towards minors driving under the influence of anything — can expect to face DUI charges in Texas. But you don’t have to meet the drinking age in Texas to be convicted of a DWI. If a minor under the age of 21 is arrested with a high enough BAC, they may be charged with a DWI instead, and face much steeper penalties. 

It is legal in Texas for parents to give their children alcohol, even if they’re under 21. But it’s never, ever legal for someone underage to drive after drinking. Even if you’ve only had a swig of alcohol, so long as the police can smell alcohol on your breath, you can face DUI charges in Texas.

Depending on the specifics of your case, you may be eligible for DWI expungement in Texas as an adult. What else is the difference between DUI and DWI in Texas? What penalties might you be facing? An experienced Houston DWI lawyer will be able to provide you with the appropriate answers to those questions. 

What happens in Texas if you get a DWI? A DUI?

Questions surrounding the difference between DUI and DWI penalties are as common as questions about the charges themselves. Do you go to jail for a DWI in Texas? Is a DWI a felony in Texas? What is the difference between DUI and DWI penalties in Texas?

Well, DUI penalties are often much lighter in comparison to DWI, as the offender is often much younger. However, DUI charges in Texas are still very serious, and the charge can carry lasting, serious consequences without experienced legal help.

The consequences of DUI and the various types of DWI charges are as follows. 

OffenseChargeMaximum FineJail Time
DUIClass C misdemeanor$500N/A
First offense DWIClass B misdemeanor$2,0003 – 180 days
Second offense DWIClass A misdemeanor$4,000180 days – 2 years
Third and fourth offense DWIThird-degree felony$10,0002 years – 10 years
DWI with a child passengerState jail felony$10,000180 days – 2 years
Intoxication assaultThird-degree felony$10,0002 years – 10 years
Intoxication manslaughterSecond-degree felony$10,0002 years – 20 years

Keep in mind that you may also be required to complete programs that address the behavior that led to your DUI or DWI, serve license suspensions, or spend time on DWI probation — even for misdemeanor DUI charges in Texas!

Although there are many differences between DUI and DWI, you’ll need the same aggressive defense. 

While there are many differences between a DUI and DWI in Texas, both are extremely serious charges. Whether it’s your child who is facing a charge for a DUI minor in Texas or you, yourself, are looking at a charge for intoxication manslaughter, you need to hire a lawyer who can take your case to court and win it

Mark Thiessen and the Houston DWI lawyers at Thiessen Law Firm have made a name for taking complex, high-stakes DWI cases to court and winning them. If you need a miracle in your DUI or DWI case, you need to call Thiessen Law Firm today at (713) 864-9000 or contact us online to request a consultation. 

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Mark Thiessen is an aggressive trial lawyer best known for his devotion to justice for his clients and high rank as a DWI Super Lawyer in Texas.