Penalties for driving with alcohol in your system vary from state to state. In some states, they call it a DUI, which means Driving Under the Influence of anything (drugs or alcohol). However, Texas law has both DWI and DUI. The differences are small, but knowing them can help you greatly.
What’s a DWI?
According to Texas Law, a DWI means Driving While Intoxicated (having a blood alcohol content (BAC) level of .08 or above, at any age). This means .08 milliliters of alcohol to 100 milliliters of blood. If you are a commercial driver in Texas, your BAC level must be below .04.
For a first time DWI offense, fines may be imposed of up to $2,000, a jail sentence between 3 and 180 days, a loss of driver license up to a year, and an annual surcharge of $1000 to $2000 for 3 years to retain your driver license.
While the first two DWI convictions are a misdemeanor, the third DWI is an automatic felony, along with the possibility of up to 10 years of prison time and a $10,000 fine.
What’s a DUI?
A DUI in Texas covers several things. A DUI could mean Driving Under the Influence of alcohol (at 21 or older, legal drinking age). So, below a .08 BAC, but still possibly tipsy or impaired, causing slow reflexes, where you could injure yourself or someone else.
A Texas DUI also covers underage drinking (someone under the age of 21). Any trace of alcohol in their system would result in a DUI since Texas has a zero tolerance law for underage drinkers.
But, a person under the age of 21 can still be charged with a DWI, as long as the driver has a blood or breath alcohol concentration of .08 or greater. A DUI could also cover drugs (a DUID), and some drugs are much more impairing than alcohol.
A DUI could land you with a Class C Misdemeanor charge on your record and could still result in you being arrested. Penalties that go along with a DUI include up to 40 hours of community service, alcohol counseling classes, a suspended license of up to 60 days, and a possible $500.
Other Alcohol Related Crimes
If you have an open container of alcohol in your vehicle this could result in up to 6 days in jail, and a Class B Misdemeanor on your record. Even if you are parked and completely sober, you could still face a $500 fine and a Class C Misdemeanor.
Are you a minor? Any interaction you have with alcohol could get you up to 180 days with a suspended license. Even if you fail in an attempt to purchase alcohol could get you at least 30 days without a license.