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What to Expect from a First-Offense DWI in Texas

The first time you are issued a DWI can be quite an intimidating event in the state of Texas. The night may have begun just like any other night – meeting a friend for a drink or having your usual happy hour, but when those flashing lights appear in your rearview mirror, everything has changed.

The best thing you can do if you find yourself in this situation is be prepared by knowing what is going to happen next and the best way to handle it.

What Happens When You Get Pulled Over

You may have a false feeling that you are secure when you are being pulled over and that everything is going to be routine. However, the officer pulling you over will be looking for the slightest hints from his initial contact that things are not routine. You can expect the officer will ask for your ID and likely comment on the smell of alcohol. This is often followed by a request to perform road-side sobriety tests.

Here is the issue: field sobriety tests are designed for you to fail to give Texas law enforcement a reason to be able to arrest you for a DWI. At this point, you can assume that you’ll be arrested for a DWI, or driving while intoxicated.   YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO REFUSE ANY FIELD TEST.

What First-Offense DWI Charges Mean in Texas

Probably the single most often asked question about first-time DWIs is, “Is the first DWI in Texas a felony?” Some of the only good news in this post is that a first DWI charge in Texas are usually filed as Class B Misdemeanors. What does that mean? The specific criteria are as follows:

  • Your BAC can be no higher than .15
  • There cannot be any other crimes involved (manslaughter, driving with children, etc.)

The criminal penalties for a Class B Misdemeanor DWI in Texas typically include:

  • Up to 180 days in jail.
  • Probation for up to 2 years.
  • A license suspension for up to 1 year on a first DWI.
  • Up to $2,000 in fines.
  • Administrative fines.
  • DWI education / driving classes

The criminal penalties for a Class A Misdemeanor DWI in Texas typically include:

  • Up to 365 days in jail.
  • Probation for up to 2 years.
  • A license suspension for up to 1 year on a first DWI.
  • Up to $4,000 in fines.
  • Administrative fines.
  • DWI education / driving classes.
  • Ignition Interlock.

The criminal penalties for a DWI with a child passenger in Texas typically include:

  • 180 days to two years in a state jail facility.
  • Up to a $10,000 fine.
  • Up to 5 years’ probation.
  • A license suspension for up to 2 years.
  • Administrative fines.
  • DWI education / driving classes.
  • Ignition Interlock.

The criminal penalties for intoxication assault in Texas typically include:

  • Two years to 10 years in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice
  • Up to a $10,000 fine.
  • Up to 10 years’ probation.
  • A license suspension for up to 2 years.
  • Administrative fines.
  • DWI education / driving classes.
  • Ignition Interlock.

The criminal penalties for intoxication manslaughter in Texas typically include:

  • Two years to 20 years in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice
  • Up to a $10,000 fine.
  • Up to 10 years’ probation.
  • A license suspension for up to 2 years.
  • Administrative fines.
  • DWI education / driving classes.
  • Ignition Interlock.

A DWI second is a class A misdemeanor. A DWI 3rd is a 3rd degree felony.

The administrative penalties can go above and beyond (are added to) the criminal ones and include:

  • Administrative License Revocation Penalties can add up and end in additional suspension to your license (you need an experienced DWI defense attorney to protect you from this).
  • Additional fees from refusing to take or failing during a chemical test.

Protect Yourself And Start Your Defense Today

The biggest mistake people facing a first time DWI make is not hiring qualified and experienced legal representation. When you go to court, you may face an over-zealous prosecutor looking to enhance both the administrative and legal penalties for your DWI. This can be quite a challenge to the unrepresented as well as inexperienced attorneys and ultimately ends up with you paying the consequences. At The Nolter Firm, we have decades of experience to help defend against these types of situations.

Another thing you need to keep in mind is that other factors can lead to increased DWI charges even if it is your first offense. The prosecution in the state of Texas will examine all the facts to see if there is any possible way to increase the charges. This includes examining your BAC, if minors were in the vehicle, if you had any previous issues with your license, and if your operation of the vehicle was in violation of posted speed and traffic laws.

Sentencing and Probation for First-Time DWIs in Texas

In many cases, sentencing is left up to the judge and will be determined by their assessment of the facts of the case against you. This is why it’s very important to have qualified and experienced legal representation. You don’t want the judge to not have all the facts when they are making this decision.

A judge may place you on DWI probation instead of sending you to jail. In this situation, they will lay out some very strict rules for this.

Can You “Seal” a DWI in Texas?

Lastly, if it is your first offense, a new Texas DWI law from 2017 has made it possible to have your DWI removed from your record if you qualify. If you have questions about this or anything else concerning a first-time DWI, give us a call for a free office or phone consultation.

CRIMINAL DEFENSE

Edward J. Nolter
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