Texas takes the crime of drinking and driving seriously. No matter the circumstances, a charge of DWI comes with very serious consequences for the driver involved. Fines, jail time, probation, license suspension and more are all a very real possibility when you’re convicted of the crime of driving while intoxicated.
All of these consequences become more severe if you’re charged with a Class A DWI in Texas. If you’re convicted of a Class A DWI, all of the potential penalties that you’re facing are increased. Fines become larger, and jail sentences become longer. In addition, because of the serious allegations against you, the prosecution may be more aggressive in seeking these enhanced penalties.
What Is A Class A DWI?
Under Texas law, it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle in a public place while intoxicated.
Intoxication is defined as :
- Not having the normal use of physical or mental faculties due to the consumption of alcohol, drugs, or a combination of the two; or
- Having a blood alcohol concentration, or BAC, of .08 or higher.
Normally a DWI is a Class B misdemeanor. However, when a driver’s BAC is 0.15 or higher, a DWI becomes a Class A misdemeanor. This fact enhances the penalties that a driver charged with DWI will face upon conviction.
Why Are The Penalties For A Class A DWI Enhanced?
Drinking and driving is seen as a serious social problem in Texas. The statistics on drinking and driving bear this out.
- Approximately every 20 minutes, someone in Texas is killed or injured in an alcohol-related motor vehicle crash;
- 28% of all Texas motor vehicle crash fatalities involved a driver who was under the influence of alcohol;
- Almost 60% of the drivers involved in fatal alcohol-related motor vehicle accidents had blood alcohol concentrations of 0.15 or higher.
In 2003, in an effort to reduce the number of alcohol-related fatalities on Texas roadways, the Texas legislature amended the state’s DWI laws, making driving with a BAC of 0.15 or greater a Class A misdemeanor.
Criminal Penalties For A Class A DWI
A driver who had a BAC of .08 or higher faces some serious penalties if convicted of DWI. These include:
- A fine of up to $6000; and
- Up to 180 days in jail.
Compare this to the penalties a driver faces if convicted of a Class A DWI:
- A fine of up to $6000; and
- Up to one year in jail.
In addition, the judge is required to order that an ignition interlock device, or IID, be placed on the driver’s vehicle. The IID is a device designed to prevent a driver from starting a motor vehicle if they’ve been drinking. Essentially, upon startup of the vehicle, the IID blocks the signal from the ignition to the starter until the driver provides a breath sample. This is done by blowing into a small handheld unit located near the driver’s seat. If the device detects no alcohol, the engine starts normally. If alcohol is detected, the vehicle will not start.
Administrative Penalties For A Class A DWI
Any arrest for DWI in Texas initiates two separate proceedings. One is the criminal case that may result in the penalties discussed. The other is an administrative proceeding overseen by the Texas Department of Public Safety. This administrative proceeding is completely unrelated to the criminal case.
If you were arrested for DWI in Texas, you will be asked to take a breath or blood test to measure your blood alcohol concentration level. If you refuse to take the test, or if you fail the test by having a blood alcohol concentration of 0.15 or more, you will be subject to an administrative license suspension from the Texas Department of Public Safety. In such a case, the arresting officer will confiscate your driver’s license and issue a temporary driving permit.
This temporary permit is good for 40 days from the date of the arrest. On the 41st day following the arrest, your driving privileges will become suspended. The length of this suspension depends on the number of previous DWI convictions on your record and whether you refused blood alcohol testing after your arrest.
The State of Texas takes driving while intoxicated seriously. This means that you need to take any DWI charges pending against you seriously as well. If you’ve been charged with a Class A DWI, you want to make sure that your case is handled correctly. RJ Harber is an expert in Texas DWI laws, and his practice focuses on DWI and DUI cases. Contact him for a free, confidential consultation at 214-389-1189, or through his online contact page.