In the United States, one person dies from a drunk-driving accident every 28 minutes. That adds up to 10,142 preventable deaths in 2019 alone.
Driving while intoxicated can have serious consequences for you, your passengers, and the other drivers sharing the road. Because of this, Texas takes drunk driving incredibly seriously. If you’re caught driving while intoxicated, you could face a DWI or DUI in Texas.
While your first DUI can bring criminal charges, these consequences get more severe with each subsequent DUI. In Texas, the three-strikes rule can mean serious trouble after your third intoxicated-driving charge.
So how do the DUI laws in Texas work? And what happens to you after your third strike?
What Is Considered Driving Under the Influence?
In Texas, legal intoxication is any blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or higher. Driving with this BAC will result in a criminal charge.
In fact, anytime if drugs or alcohol are impacting your ability to operate a vehicle, you are technically breaking the law. This means even if your BAC is under 0.08%, you could still be facing a DUI (Driving Under the Influence) or DWI (Driving While Intoxicated) charge.
These charges don’t only apply to cars, either. Operators of planes, boats, and motorcycles can all face potential DUI or DWI charges.
Breath sample tests and field sobriety tests are used by police officers to screen for intoxicated drivers.
Strike One: Your First DUI in Texas
Your first DUI charge is considered a Class B misdemeanor. With this offense comes a mandatory 3-day jail sentence. You may also receive a jail sentence of up to 180 days and a fine of up to $2,000.
For those whose BAC was 0.15% or over on their first offense, the consequences are even steeper. Your charge becomes a Class A misdemeanor, with possible jail time of up to one year and fines of up to $4,000.
Finding the right DUI/DWI attorney can help you get the best plea bargain or sentencing possible.
Strike Two: Your Second DUI Charge
Your second DUI charge is considered a Class A misdemeanor. That, again, means up to one year of possible jail time and fines of up to $4,000.
If your first strike were more than five years ago, you’d still have to serve three days of mandatory jail time. If it was less than five years ago, that number jumps up to 5 days.
When charged with a second DUI, it’s even more important to find a well-versed DUI/DWI lawyer. They can help you avoid the most serious charges.
Three Strikes and You’re Out
The consequences of a DUI charge only get worse after your third strike. When this happens, you’ll be looking at a third-degree felony.
The major consequences of a third-degree felony may include:
- 2-10 year prison sentence
- Potential fines of up to $10,000
Oftentimes, however, judges will allow you to serve your sentence largely through probation. Probation requirements can include a combination of:
- DWI intervention programs
- Counseling and substance abuse classes
- Up to 600 hours of community service
Usually, DUIs served via probation are the result of plea bargains.
Unfortunately, time served, and possible fines aren’t the only possible consequences of having multiple DUIs.
Risks to Your Driver’s License
Being charged with any number of DUIs will also lead to a suspension of your driver’s license. In Texas, the length of your suspension varies by the number of DUIs.
For first strike offenses, you could be looking at a license suspension for 90 days to one year.
Second strike offenses can lead to a license suspension of up to two years. For a third strike offense, suspension of a license can last for a maximum of three years.
After any DUI suspension, you could also face a yearly $2,000 fee to retain your license. This fee will extend up to three years beyond the DUI date.
How to Avoid License Suspension
Licenses can be re-instated, but only if you install an ignition interlock device in your vehicle. With this device, you will have to blow into it to check your blood alcohol level before you can ignite your engine.
These devices are incredibly expensive and come with major maintenance fees. For most Texas drivers, they may not be a very realistic solution.
Your DWI attorney can help you decide which option is right for your specific case.
Consequences of a Felony
Having a felony is no minor matter in the eyes of the law. Individuals charged with felonies are not allowed to possess firearms or vote in any election.
Additionally, your probation could come with monthly fees and random alcohol or drug tests.
DUIs also stay on your permanent criminal record. So, anytime a background check is run on you, your DWI/DUI charges will appear.
This could affect your ability to:
- Get or keep a job
- Secure housing
- Get or keep licenses such as medical licenses, pilots licenses, etc.
- Obtain custody in any custodial battle
The only way around these consequences in Texas is with a pardon from the Governor.
How a DUI Attorney Can Help You
It is clear that any number of DUI charges can have a serious impact on your life. From hefty fees to possible jail time, you could find your life turned upside down in an instant.
Personal and professional relationships can be seriously damaged by a DWI and its consequences. That’s why it is important to work with a well-versed professional if you’re caught intoxicated behind the wheel.
A DUI lawyer will work with you to help minimize the penalties that come with a DUI charge. Working with a DUI lawyer is the best chance you have at avoiding the most serious consequences.
Maintain Your Freedom With the Right Attorney
Our attorneys have been nationally recognized for their work in DWI and DUI defense. If you’re charged with a DUI in Texas and looking for the best possible lawyers, we’ve got your back.
Contact us today to find out how we can help with your individual case.