Are you facing a first-time DWI in Houston, Texas? For many, driving under the influence is their first encounter with the legal system, but it is important to take your charges seriously. The impact of a first-time DWI could have a significant effect on your life.
To avoid the fallout and penalties of a Houston DWI, get legal help. The Law Offices of Ned Barnett can craft a compelling defense, help with driving privileges, challenge DWI evidence, and pursue the best possible outcome, like a dismissal.
Call (713) 222-6767 for a free DWI case review and learn what’s next.
Your First DWI in Texas
According to Texas Statute Section 49.04, you could be charged with DWI anytime you are intoxicated while operating a vehicle in public. One way intoxication is determined is through your blood alcohol concentration.
If your BAC reaches .08% or more when you can face Class B misdemeanor DWI charges. A DWI increases to a Class A misdemeanor when your BAC reaches .15% or greater.
However, you can also be charged with driving while intoxicated (DWI) even if you have not consumed alcohol or test below the limit if other evidence suggests you are impaired.
First-Time DWI Penalties & Consequences
The consequences of your first DWI in Houston may be more severe than you thought. The severity of the penalties will be based on details like your BAC, and whether you had an open container or caused a DWI-related accident.
If convicted of a Class B misdemeanor DWI, expect up to 180 days in county jail and fines as high as $2,000. Alternatively, if convicted of a class A DWI, you face up to one year in jail and fines as high as $6,000.
Depending on your BAC, a DWI with an open container could be a Class A or Class B misdemeanor. However, you face a minimum of six days in jail due to the state’s open container enhancement.
When Is a First DWI a Felony?
Generally, first-time DWI charges are misdemeanors. But, if a child was involved, your DWI may be increased to a felony. If convicted, you could spend up to 24 months in a Texas state jail facility and be ordered to pay fines as high as $10,000.
Will You Go to Jail for Your First DWI?
There is no requirement that you will spend time in jail for your first DWI in Texas unless you are charged with a DWI with an open container. However, at the misdemeanor level, it is still possible that you could spend time in jail, depending on whether there are aggravating factors present, such as a poor driving record or serious bodily injury or death.
How Long are DWIs on Your Criminal Record?
Texas does not have a look-back period. This means once you have been convicted of your first DWI, this will always be considered if you receive subsequent criminal charges.
Your DWI will never fall off your driving record or your criminal record. If you hope to avoid having a DWI conviction on your criminal record, you could work out a plea agreement, enter a pretrial diversion program, or obtain an acquittal.
Other First Offense DWI Consequences
It is not only incarceration and fines that you will face if you are convicted of a DWI in Houston, TX. Other potential consequences for first-time DWI offenders include the following:
- Completion of a DWI Victim Impact Panel
- Attendance at a DWI education class within six months of conviction
- Completion of a drug or alcohol evaluation and/or treatment
- Adhere to the terms of the department of community supervision requirement, including abstaining from drug or alcohol use, securing employment, completing service hours, and paying fines, fees, and court costs
- Higher Insurance Rates
- Lost Job Opportunities
- Travel Restrictions
- Limited Driving Eligibility
What Happens to Your License After Your First DWI?
Your driver’s license will usually be suspended or revoked when you’ve been convicted of a first-time DWI. You may face the suspension or revocation of your driver’s license if you refuse to submit to a chemical blood alcohol test, such as a breathalyzer, due to Texas implied consent laws. Failure to follow Texas implied consent laws is punishable by up to three months in county jail.
Your DWI license suspension length will vary depending on whether you were charged at the misdemeanor or felony level. For a Class B misdemeanor DWI, your driver’s license could be suspended anywhere from 90 days to one year. A Class A or felony DWI will result in even longer license suspensions.
You May Need (SR-22) Insurance
In Texas, you may be required to fill out and utilize Form SR–22 after a DWI. There is a $25 fee, and you must file this form with your insurance company after your driver’s license has been reinstated after a DWI conviction.
Your insurance company will then file this form with the state. You can expect your car insurance premiums to increase as the insurance company will consider you a risky driver.
Ignition Interlock Devices (IIDs)
Another consequence of a DWI in Texas is the mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device (IID) at your own expense. This device will require you to blow into a breathalyzer before your vehicle starts and periodically while driving. If your BAC levels reach .08% or more, your vehicle will not start.
The Costs of Your First DWI
The financial implications of a Texas DWI are often more severe than many realize. In addition to paying court fines and fees, you will also pay a surcharge of $1,000 per year for a maximum of three years to the Texas Department of Public Safety. If your BAC was found to be at .16% or more, the surcharge could reach as much as $2,000 per year.
Your First-Time Houston DWI Defense Options
The impact of a first-time DWI is undeniable. But there are steps that you can take to defend yourself and improve your situation so you can avoid the harsh penalties of a DWI.
Common DWI Defenses
Even first-offense DWI cases are not open and shut. Mistakes happen with sobriety tests, the police incorrectly pull cars over, and various factors could make you appear impaired when you are sober. Some of the potential DWI defenses that could be used to challenge a DWI include:
- Lack of sufficient evidence
- Illegally or unlawfully obtained evidence
- Unlawful traffic stop
- Police or prosecutorial misconduct
- Laboratory testing errors
Having a Lawyer Helps with a First DWI
Having the right DWI defense attorney on your side could make all the difference in your opportunities to clear your name of the allegations against you. Your lawyer will have existing relationships with the prosecutors, court officials, and police and regularly work with local judges.
An attorney will also know the legal standard for the evidence being used against you and where police procedure may fall short in evaluating your level of impairment. This may make it possible for you to secure a plea or pretrial diversion program. When the DWI case against you is particularly weak, you may see the charges dropped or dismissed entirely. However, an experienced attorney can present a compelling defense strategy if your case goes to court.
Your attorney may be able to get your DWI charges reduced to a lesser offense. If this happens, you may be eligible for DWI probation. Depending on the circumstances, you could be required to be on probation and meet your probation requirements for a maximum of two years for a first-time DWI offense.
DWI Diversion Programs
You may be eligible for specific pretrial diversion programs if no one was injured and your blood alcohol content level was under .15% or higher. Pretrial diversion programs have requirements in Texas that need to be met. If you fail to adhere to these requirements, you may be forced to face the initial charges against you and potential consequences.
DWI Charge Reductions
DWI charges can be reduced to certain reckless driving offenses at the prosecutor’s discretion. This could allow you to avoid some harsher consequences of a criminal conviction, including the potential loss of professional licenses.
Can a DWI Be Dismissed?
Yes, DWI cases have the potential to be dismissed. However, first-time offenders are generally more likely to get the charges against them dismissed if they work with their attorney to obtain a plea agreement or pretrial diversion program.
DWIs can also be dismissed if the stop was unlawful or the police officer did not have probable cause.
Can a DWI Charge Be Expunged
Under Texas law, there is no option to have a DWI conviction expunged. However, the initial DWI charge against you can be expunged from your record if you were not convicted. You may also be able to seal your DWI conviction under Texas Second Chance laws which took effect in 2017.
Will A First-Time DWI Ruin My Life?
No, a first DWI is unlikely to ruin your life. However, that does not mean that a conviction will not continue to haunt you for years. If you are found guilty of your first DWI, you can expect the impact to reach beyond your criminal consequences.
In addition to fines, jail time, and the previously mentioned consequences, you may also find yourself being prohibited from utilizing federal student aid, losing job opportunities, having your professional license suspended or revoked, and facing other collateral penalties. For these reasons and more, it’s wise to consult a lawyer and pursue the best possible resolution to any DWI charge, even a first offense.
Contact a Texas DWI Attorney Today
Even a first-time DWI conviction could be devastating. You must do everything possible to defend yourself. The first step is reaching out to an experienced and highly skilled DWI lawyer.
The Houston DWI lawyers at the Law Offices of Ned Barnett have long and successful history protecting people from DWI convictions. For a free and confidential DWI case assessment, call (713) 222-6767 right away.