The first time someone gets pulled over for a DWI in Texas, the law considers it the equivalent of a smallish mistake.
The offense is listed as a Class B Misdemeanor. However, the law expects citizens to learn from their mistakes.
This means that the second time someone is arrested for a DWI, the charges and penalties change.
Filed as a Class A Misdemeanor, the second DWI is much harsher. Even worse, beyond two DWIs, drunk driving becomes a felony.
What the Law Says
For a first DWI, the penalties range from monetary fines up to $2,000 to various jail and license suspension times.
Jail time can be between 72 hours and 180 days in county while license suspension can be 90- 365 days.
For the second offense, however, the fine can be up to $4,000, and a person can be incarcerated in county jail for up to 360 days.
Texas law considers a third DWI a 3rd degree felony. This means that the driver can face up to $10,000 in fines, 2 to 3 years in Texas Department of Criminal Justice prison, and a license suspension for 180 days to 2 years.
The law considers a first DWI a mistake, a second one an unlearned lesson, but a third or more becomes a pattern of unacceptable behavior.
Timing Doesn’t Matter
Texas law doesn’t care whether the first DUI was last week or last decade. There is no statute of limitations protecting a driver from an earlier offense.
Mandatory Jail Time
For a second or third offense, a person must serve jail time. For a second offense, the minimum amount of time served is 5 days. For a third offense, the minimum amount of time served is 10 days.
Probation is another punitive option that can occur after a second or third offense. Probation is similar in a second or third DWI as in a simple first offense, but the requirements are more stringent.
The first condition will be rehabilitation evaluation.
With a second or third offense, the law assumes that the driver has a drinking problem. This means submitting to an evaluation from a state approved drug and alcohol counselor.
The theory here is to try to help the driver receive treatment for addiction. This means that there may be required rehab.
The second condition of probation means being entered into a DWI repeat offender program.
This is a 32-hour course that explains alcohol abuse, impaired driving, and Alcoholics Anonymous.
Not attending means automatic license revocation. This revocation stay in effect until course completion.
Finally, probation comes with having an ignition interlock device placed on the driver’s car.
This device requires a breath test to start the car. If the driver fails the breath test, the car won’t start. In addition, probation means that the individual must only drive cars with this device for a full year following their license being reinstated.
A second DWI within a ten-year period means an automatic one year administrative license revocation.
Once notice of the revocation has been provided, the driver has 15 days to request an administrative hearing. If no hearing is requested, then the automatic start date to the suspension is 40 days after notice.
If an administrative hearing is requested, the process is straightforward.
It will take place in the county where the arrest was made, not necessary the driver’s home county. The hearing looks at whether the officer’s use of probable cause was appropriate in stopping and arresting the driver.
This is also where the blood alcohol test will be reviewed to determine whether the driver tested in or out of the legal limit. If acquitted of the charge, the license is reinstated.
However, if the driver is convicted at this hearing, then the automatic suspension upon conviction will take effect within 30 days. This is the step that leads to monetary penalties.
The first monetary penalty to expect is the license reinstatement fee of $125. The second main fee will be what Texas calls a “surcharge” or a lot of money paid annually to continue to have a driver’s license.
After a second DWI, the Texas Driver Responsibility Program requires a $2000 per year fee to maintain a driver’s license. This fee is paid for 3 years. Failure to pay this fee leads to another license revocation.
How a Lawyer Can Help
A lawyer can help defend against a drunk driving arrest by challenging whether the officer had probably cause or looking to the accuracy of the breath test. Both of these are highly technical and a license attorney is best suited to help protect a driver.
In addition, many times, a plea deal can be negotiated to help lessen the charge against the driver.
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