Getting behind the wheel after drinking too much alcohol is an almost surefire way to end up in the criminal justice system in Texas. While the drinking laws are not so set in stone -- if you are under 21 and your parent gives you a beer, you can legally drink it with your parent -- there are harsh penalties for driving under the influence at any age. If you were charged with a DUI, get ready to face these penalties under Texas drunk driving laws.
What Texas Law Says
If you have a previous drunk driving conviction on your record, you should know that there is no "washout" period in Texas. That means it doesn't matter how long it has been since the last time you were convicted of drunk driving -- that conviction will still count against you. For this reason, it is even more important for drivers in Texas to avoid driving while impaired. The following is a breakdown of Texas drunk driving laws.
First Things First:
- Blood-alcohol concentration limits: If you are 21 or over, your blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) must remain under 0.08 percent (49.01(2)(B)). If you are driving a commercial vehicle, your BAC is limited to 0.04 percent (Sec. 522.003(7)(B)(ii)).
First Offense for Drunk Driving:
- First Offense for Drunk Driving -- Misdemeanor: The first time you are convicted of drunk driving, you will face between 72 hours and 180 days in jail. The court may also fine you up to $2,000. Your license may be suspended for 90 - 365 days (Sec. 49.04).
- Drunk Driving with Open Container -- Misdemeanor: If you had an open container of alcohol within reach while driving intoxicated, you will face a Class B misdemeanor punishable by a minimum of six days in jail (Sec. 49.04).
- Drunk Driving with 0.15 BAC -- Misdemeanor: If your BAC is 0.15 or higher, the charge is increased to a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $4,000 and/or up to one year in jail (Sec. 12.21).
- Drunk Driving with a Child Passenger -- Felony: If there was a person under 15 years old in the vehicle, you will face a felony charge even if it is your first drunk driving conviction (Sec. 49.045).
Second Offense for Drunk Driving:
- Second Offense for Drunk Driving -- Misdemeanor: If you were previously convicted of drunk driving, you will face a jail sentence of 30 days to 1 year. You will also face a fine of up to $4,000. If a child was in the car with you, the fine will increase. Your license may also by suspended from 180 days to two years (Sec. 49.09(a)).
- Third Offense for Drunk Driving -- 3rd Degree Felony: If you were previously convicted more than once for drunk driving, you are looking at a minimum of two years in jail. The court may up the sentence to as long as 10 years. You may additionally be fined up to $10,000. Your driver's license will be suspended for at least two years (Sec. 49.09(b)(2)).
Drunk Driving Laws for Minors:
- Zero Tolerance for Drunk Drivers under 21: Zero Tolerance means that if you are under 21 years of age and you have ANY detectable amount of alcohol in your system while you are operating a motor vehicle, you may be convicted of DUI by a minor. You will face a Class C misdemeanor which is punishable by a fine up to $500 (Sec. 106.041(b)).
- Third Offense for DUI by a Minor: If you have previously been convicted twice of DUI by a Minor and you are not a child, your third offense if punishable by a fine between $500 - $2,000 and/or up to 180 days in jail (Sec. 106.041).
Read the full text of the compiled Texas Statutes for more details.
I Was Arrested for a DUI: What's Next?
Texas doesn't allow people charged with drunk driving to plead to a "wet reckless" charge. That means Texas law forbids deals that allow a person to plead to a lesser reckless driving charge in lieu of a drunk driving charge. It is sometimes possible to fight drunk driving charges by arguing that the administration of the test was done incorrectly or that the person who administered the test pulled you over illegally.
Get a Free Case Review from a Texas DUI Attorney
People who are facing drunk driving charges in Texas must work quickly to determine a defense strategy. If you were charged with drunk driving, drunk driving by a minor, drunk driving with a child passenger, or any one of the enhanced drunk driving charges, you should get a free case review from a Texas attorney who can help defend you against these serious charges.