DUI Laws, Limits, and Insurance in Texas
In Texas, a first-time DUI is a Class B misdemeanor with a fine up to $2,000, mandatory jail time between 72 hours to 180 days, license suspension between 90 and 365 days, and an annual surcharge of $1,000 per year for three years. Subsequent offenses carry harsher penalties. Getting back on the road will require SR-22 insurance.
How Is a DUI Defined Under Texas Law?
In Texas, driving under the influence is called driving while intoxicated (DWI) and includes a range of substances other than alcohol. For alcohol charges, the legal blood alcohol content (BAC) of alcohol is 0.08.
The concept of intoxication applies to a wide range of different substances, including marijuana, methamphetamine, opiates, cocaine, ecstasy, over-the-counter drugs like cough syrup, and others. It doesn’t matter if it is a medication prescribed by a doctor — if it impairs your motor function or your ability to operate a vehicle, it is still punishable under DWI laws. This also applies to combinations of different substances like alcohol and antihistamines.
The penalties for drugged driving are generally the same as those for alcohol-related DWI charges. Fines and other penalties like jail time will largely differ by the severity of the charge itself (e.g., whether a child was present in the car, whether it resulted in an accident) and whether it is a first offense or a second, third, or fourth. Prior DWIs will be considered as such, regardless of whether they were for drugs, alcohol, or a combination of the two.
Texas has a law known as “implied consent” that makes it mandatory for all motorists under arrest for driving while intoxicated to undergo a blood, urine, breath, or physical ability test if requested. If you refuse to submit to this test, your license will be automatically suspended, and the refusal will count against you in court.
It is also strictly illegal to have an open container of alcohol or cannabis in the passenger compartment of your vehicle. Alcohol can be stored in the passenger compartment but must be kept in a closed container with an unbroken seal. Because cannabis is illegal in Texas, it is illegal to have it in the car at all.
What Are the Blood Alcohol Limits in Texas?
According to the Texas DMV, the following are the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limits for a DUI:
|Drivers under age 21
|Drivers 21 years and older
Texas has a “zero tolerance” policy that extends to underage drinking and driving. Any driver under 21 who has a BAC of 0.02 or more will face penalties of an Under 21 DWI. These include up to $5,000 in fines, 40 hours of community service, and required alcohol education classes.
What Are the Penalties for a DUI in Texas?
If you get a DUI in Texas, several different factors will influence the penalties imposed upon you. These factors include your age, your BAC level at the time of your arrest, the presence of a child under the age of 16 in your car, the nature of your arrest (accident, speeding, reckless driving), and your previous history with DUIs.
If your DUI offense results in a felony charge, your penalties will be escalated accordingly. The following sections outline penalties for certain first, second, and third DWI offenses:
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First-Time DUI Penalties
If you receive a first-time DUI conviction in Texas, you can expect the following penalties in your court case:
If it is your first DWI, it will be classified as a Class B misdemeanor — including if you are carrying an open container in your vehicle. If your BAC is 0.15 or above, it will be elevated to a Class A misdemeanor, and if there is a child under the age of 15 present in your car, it automatically becomes a State Jail Felony.
A first-time DUI has a mandatory fine of up to $2,000. This will be the same if your charge carries an Open Container Enhancement. If your BAC is found to be at least 0.15, the fine will be elevated to $4,000 or less. If a child under 15 years of age was present in the car with you, the fine increases significantly to up to $10,000.
Jail time for a first-time DUI can range from three days up to six months, making this a highly variable part of sentencing. If there is an open container present in the car, jail time increases slightly from six days to six months. For an offense in which your BAC was 0.15 or more, jail time ranges from three days to one year. Finally, if a child under 15 years of age was in the car, jail time ranges from six months to two years in a State Jail facility.
The period of license suspension for a first-time DWI is 90 to 365 days. This also applies to a first-time DWI with a BAC of 0.15 or more, as well as for an Open Container Enhancement. For a DWI with a passenger under 15 years old, the license suspension period is extended to 90 days to two years. When you do get back on the road, you will need SR-22 insurance with a high-risk policy.
In Texas, the state also imposes an annual surcharge of $1,000 per year for three years for a first-time DUI as well as for a first-time DUI with an open container. For BAC of 0.15 or higher and a DWI with a child under 15 in the car, this goes up to $2,000 per year for three years.
Second DUI Penalties
Harsher penalties accompany a second DUI conviction.
A second DUI is considered a Class A misdemeanor.
The fines for this type of conviction can range up to $4,000.
Jail sentencing for second-time DUI offenders will last a minimum of 30 days but can last up to 365 days, depending on the judge’s decision.
The criminal court will impose a license suspension of six months to two years for a second DUI offense.
On top of the mandatory $4,000 fine, the state of Texas also imposes an annual surcharge of $1,500 per year for three years for a second offense.
Third DUI Penalties
A third DUI is classified as a felony and means even more severe penalties:
For a third-time DUI, the conviction will be classified as a Third-Degree Felony. If this is your third DUI and you’ve been in jail before, the crime will be punished as a Second-Degree Felony; a third DUI with two previous penitentiary trips will be classified as an Enhanced Felony Punishment.
The fine for a third DUI can be up to $10,000 regardless of whether it is for a third-time offense, a third-time offense with one prior penitentiary trip, or a third offense with two prior penitentiary trips.
A third-time DUI offense will lead to between two and 10 years of jail time under the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. For a third-time DUI with one prior penitentiary trip, the amount of jail time will range from two to 20 years; and for a third offense with three prior penitentiary trips, the jail sentence will range from 25 years to life in prison.
This felony will see a complete revoking of your driver’s license for between six months and two years for a third-time DUI. If it includes one or two previous penitentiary trips, the license suspension will last up to two years.
The annual surcharge for a third-time DUI in Texas is $1,500 per year for three years, regardless of previous trips to the penitentiary.
Four or More DUIs
Texas law does not specify any particular punishment mandates for DUIs past number three. If you get charged with a fourth or higher DUI, punishment typically includes two to 10 years in prison without probation. In some scenarios, the court may grant you a Substance Abuse Felony Punishment if deemed appropriate.
Other DUI Classifications
If you are convicted of a DUI in relation to an accident, you may find your charge elevated. It may be classified as “Intoxicated Assault” if your DUI leads to you causing serious injury or bodily harm to another person. This is a Third Degree Felony under Texas Penal Code §49.07.
“Intoxication Manslaughter” involves a DUI in which your actions led to the death of another person by accident or mistake. This will be classified as a Second-Degree Felony.
How Long Will a DUI Conviction Last on Texas Driving Records?
While some states will remove a DUI from the driver’s record after a certain number of years, this is not the case in Texas. A DUI in Texas becomes a permanent part of the driver’s record, meaning any further DUIs will be treated as subsequent offenses regardless of the time elapsed between them.
Where to Turn If You Need SR-22 or DUI Insurance
SR-22 Advisor is here to help when you’re ready to get back on the road after a DUI. We offer high-quality and cheap SR-22 insurance in Texas because we believe cleaning up your record is a crucial step in returning to normal and moving past this serious charge. Our insurance partner will find a fair, affordable, and high-quality SR-22 insurance policy that works for you online or over the phone.