DWI penalties become even tougher on the second and third offense in Texas, with a brief, but mandatory jail term, a lengthier driver’s license suspension and fines and fees reaching nearly $10,000.
The police can charge you with drunk driving if an officer stops you while driving or otherwise behind the wheel of a vehicle, and the officer suspects you are impaired by alcohol or drugs.
Probable cause for a DWI stop can include weaving across lanes or into oncoming traffic, drifting off the road, and alternately speeding up and slowing down. Once the officer makes the stop, he has cause to make a DWI arrest if you smell of alcohol, have red, glassy eyes, slur your words and fail a field sobriety test.
In Texas, impairment means a blood-alcohol level of. 08 or higher, or “not having the normal use of mental or physical faculties” because of drinking or taking drugs, according to the state Penal Code.
DWI penalties increase on second and third offense
DWI second offense is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by 30 days to 1 year in a county jail and/or a fine of not more than $4,000. DWI third offense is a third-degree felony, with a sentence of 2 to 10 years in a state prison and/or a fine of not more than $10,000
The judge – or a jury in a criminal trial – can still give you probation on a second or third drunk driving offense, but you will have to serve at least a few days in jail, under the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure. The sentence is 5 days minimum for DWI second offense and 10 days minimum for DWI third offense.
Other conditions of probation, or community supervision, are similar to simple DWI, but more stringent. They are:
1. Rehab evaluation – You will be required to get an evaluation from a state-approved drug and alcohol counselor to determine whether you have an addiction and what treatment may be necessary to deal with it. You may then be required to go through rehab.
2. DWI repeat offender program – You will be required to attend an approved 32-hour course covering alcohol abuse, driving impairment and AA groups. If you don’t take the course, your license will be revoked, and you won’t be able to get it back until you complete the program.
3. Ignition interlock device – You will be required to put a device on your vehicle that will test your breath each time you try to start the vehicle. The device won’t allow the vehicle to start if it detects alcohol. You will not be allowed to drive any vehicle without this device for one year following the reinstatement of your driver’s license.
Civil penalties and fees for drunk driving second and third offense
As with simple DWI, the civil penalties are potentially as stiff as the criminal charges.
If you are arrested for driving while intoxicated within 10 years of a previous arrest, you will automatically receive an administrative license revocation that lasts for one year.
The license suspension will begin 40 days after you receive notice, either from the arresting officer or from the Texas Department of Public Safety. You have 15 days after receiving the notice to request an administrative hearing.
The hearing will be conducting by the Texas Office of Administrative Hearings, usually in the county where you were arrested. The administrative hearing judge will determine whether the officer had probable cause to stop and arrest you, and whether your blood-alcohol was above the legal limit. If he finds for the officer, your license will be suspended. Your license will be reinstated if you are acquitted of the criminal charge.
Otherwise, if you are convicted of DWI second or subsequent offense, an automatic license suspension upon conviction will take effect within 30 days. The suspension can range from six months to two years. It will cost you at least $125 to get the suspended license reinstated.
You can also expect to pay heavy fees, called surcharges, in addition to the criminal fines. Under the Texas Driver Responsibility Program, you will be required to pay $2,000 a year for three years to maintain your driver’s license. Fail to pay the fee, and your license will be revoked.