A charge of Driving under the influence (DUI) carries heavy penalties in any state. In Texas, a first offense DUI charge will vary according to the circumstance.
Those circumstances impact your driving record and drivers license status.
Criminal Charges for a First Offense DUI
A first offense DUI in Texas may be a misdemeanor. That does come with consequences, however. A conviction comes with jail time, fines, fees and surcharges, and possibly a suspended license.
Class B Misdemeanor
A first offense DUI is classified as a Class B misdemeanor. This is punishable by 3-180 days in a county jail. Or, the convicted can pay a fine of up to $2,000. It is also possible that the convicted individual will have to serve both the jail time and pay the fine.
However, some conditions increase the charges even if it is a first offense DUI. Those are:
DUI With a Minor
If the individual charged was driving while intoxicated with a child under 15 years old in the vehicle, Texas considers this to be a felony. If convicted, the individual could serve 180 days-2 years in a state jail. The individual could also pay a fine of up to $10,000.
If the DUI resulted in a serious injury to another person, this is a third-degree felony. The punishment is 2-10 years in a state prison. The individual could also pay a fine up to $10, 000.
If the DUI resulted in killing another person, this is a second-degree felony. The punishment is 2-20 years in a state prison. The individual could also pay a fine of up to $10,000.
Sentencing for a First Offense DUI
An individual convicted of a first offense DUI will serve at least a mandatory 3 days in jail. This might be up to 6 days if there was an open container at the time of the traffic stop.
However, probation is sometimes an alternative.
Community service may be an option as part of a plea deal or trial conviction. A jury can also sentence someone to community service.
Community supervision is also an option when the drunk driving charge is a misdemeanor. There are stipulations that come with this, however.
An evaluation from a state-approved drug and alcohol counselor is required to determine whether the individual has an addiction and what treatment may be necessary to deal with it. From there, rehab may be required.
DUI Education Program
The DUI education program is a required, approved 12-hour course on alcohol and drunk driving, which should be completed within 180 days of receiving probation.
If the individual fails to take the course, his or her license will be revoked. The individual won’t be able to reinstate the license until he or she completes the program.
Ignition Interlock Device
An individual may be ordered to have an ignition interlock device installed in his or her car to avoid losing his or her driver’s license. This device is typically ordered when the Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) registered between .08 and .15.
The individual is required to test his or her breath using the device each time he or she needs to start the vehicle. The device prevents the vehicle from starting when it detects alcohol.
The judge can also order this even when the BAC was under .15 at the time of the DUI.
Civil Consequences of First Offense DUI in Texas
In addition to the criminal punishment of a DUI, there are civil consequences that can be expensive and challenging because they affect your ability to drive.
Suspended License or Ignition Interlock Device
A DUI in Texas typically means a suspended license and fees.
Since 2015, anyone with a DUI and a BAC under .15 can opt for this to save their license.
What to Expect When a License Is Revoked
A drivers license is revoked or suspended 40 days after receiving notice, usually from the arresting officer. It lasts at least 90 days if the individual has not had a DUI in the past 10 years.
These suspensions are automatic upon refusal or failure of a blood-alcohol test unless you request a hearing.
Once notice is received, the individual has 15 days to request a hearing. The hearing is conducted by the Texas Office of Administrative Hearings, usually in the county where the arrest took place.
At the hearing, the judge decides whether the officer had probable cause to stop and arrest the individual and whether the BAC was above the legal limit.
If the judge decides in favor of the individual, the license is returned. If not, the license is suspended. It is lifted if the individual is acquitted.
Suspension Upon Conviction
If convicted, an individual’s driver’s license is suspended automatically. It takes effect within 30 days and can be from 90 days to one year for a first offense. The individual must pay $125 to get the license reinstated.
The Texas Department of Transportation charges a surcharge for DUIs. For a first offense DUI, the state Driver Responsibility Program has a $1,000 a year fee for three years. It is $2,000 if the BAC was .16 or higher.
Those who do not pay the annual fee within 30 days of notice will have their license revoked.
DUI On Background Checks
Most of the time a DUI appears on a background check. However, as of 2017, it is possible to get a conviction sealed after two years.
Get Legal Help for a DUI Case
A DUI, first offense or otherwise, will have severe effects on the individual’s life. No one should attempt to face these charges without a criminal defense attorney.
An attorney can provide proper defense against and assist in navigating their clients through the legal process, as well as select the best options for their case. Attorneys know the law and understand that each case has a different set of circumstances.
Please contact our offices for a free consultation.