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 come with different legal consequences.
Even so, the differences between a DUI charge and a DWI charge can become quite tricky. This blog will explain the difference between DUI and DWI in Texas, the age differences and severity between the two charges.
What is DWI?
DWI stands for driving while intoxicated. The Texas Penal Code Section 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 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. (Further reading: Classifications of Drugs)
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 still 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.
What is DUI?
A DUI in Texas is driving under the influence. So what’s the difference between a DUI and DWI in Texas? The first major difference is age. The Texas Penal Code Section 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.”
A DUI is classified as a Class C misdemeanor. However, even if you’re under 21, if your BAC is high enough you can receive a DWI instead of a DUI. Texas also has a zero tolerance policy towards minors driving under the influence any drug. So, getting caught with weed as a minor could possibly spell big legal trouble.
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 get charged with a DUI.
Depending on the specifics of your case, you may be eligible for getting a DUI expunged later on as an adult. An experienced Houston DWI lawyer will be able to provide you with the appropriate answers to: What else is the difference between DUI and DWI in Texas? What penalties might you be facing?
What are DWI penalties?
Jail time: If you’re charged with a DWI, you’ll be required to spend a minimum of 72 hours in jail. If you’re charged with a DWI and have an open container in your vehicle, you’ll be behind bars for six days. Note that these are just minimums—your jail sentence can be as much as 180 days.
License suspension: A first-time DWI offender will have their license suspended for between 90 days and 1 year. Testing positive in a blood, breath or urine test results in automatic suspension of your driver’s license, regardless of whether or not you’re convicted. If you receive another DWI, your license will be suspended for a minimum of 18 months and have to pay a fine of $100 dollars if you want to regain your license.
Programs: It’s possible that you will be required to complete a program that addresses the behavior that lead to your DWI. You will lose your license if you fail or do not complete these programs. DWI offenders may also have to complete DWI probation in Texas.
Fines: First-time DWI offenders can receive fines up to $2,000. Additionally, it’s possible that you may be required to pay an annual fee of $1,000 or $2,000 for the next three years in order to keep your license. Think about it—if you get stuck with the maximum fees for your offense, you’ll pay $8,000 and spend time in jail. That’s a lot more expensive than a taxi.
What are DUI penalties?
What is the difference between DUI and DWI penalties in Texas? DUI penalties are often much lighter in comparison to DWI, as the offender is often much younger. However, DUI charges are still very serious, and the charge can carry lasting, serious consequences without experienced legal help.
Jail time: Although first-time DUI offenders do not spend time in jail, repeat offenders will almost certainly serve time behind bars.
License suspension: A minor pulled over for drinking and driving can have their license suspended for 60 days.
Programs: Like with a DWI, it’s possible that you will be required to complete a program that addresses the behavior that lead to your DUI. You will lose your license if you do not complete these programs. Minors may also have to complete between 20 and 40 hours of community service.
Fines: First-time DUI offenders can receive a fine for up to $500.
Get the aggressive defense you need
While there are differences between a DUI and DWI in Texas, both are extremely serious charges. Whether you’ve been charged with a DWI or a DUI, a lot of work needs to be done very quickly if you want to keep your license. You have a much lower chance of incurring the harshest penalties and higher chance of keeping your freedom and even getting your DUI expunged with an experienced DWI attorney in Houston.
If you’ve received a DWI or DUI charge and want the best attorney in Houston at your side, contact Thiessen Law Firm for your free consultation today.
Related DWI & DUI resources:
- Is There a Statute of Limitations on DUI Charges?
- Can You Travel to Mexico with a DUI?
- Possession of Dangerous Drug in Texas
- Can You Join the Military With a Misdemeanor
- Traveling With Edibles