We’ve all heard of the terms DUI and DWI, but there is often confusion about what they actually mean. In fact, some people use these terms interchangeably, even though they come with different sets of rules and penalties.
We’ve all heard of the terms DUI and DWI, but there is often confusion about what they actually mean. In fact, some people use these terms interchangeably, even though they come with different sets of rules and penalties. While DUI is short for “driving under the influence,” DWI means “driving while intoxicated.” Knowing the difference between these two is important just in case you or anyone you know finds yourself being charged with one of them. Even more, every state has different rules, and Texas is no exception. So, what’s the real difference between a DUI and DWI in Texas? Let’s take a look.
DUI vs. DWI in Texas
Both a DUI and a DWI apply to individuals who operate a vehicle in a public space while intoxicated. However, these two terms have key differences.
DWI in Texas
DWIs are taken very seriously in Texas. A person can be convicted of a DWI if their breath or blood alcohol levels exceed the legal amount, which is .08 percent. However, you can also be charged if you lack normal use of mental or physical faculties due to alcohol or other controlled substances, even if you blow under .08 percent. The charges that a person can face depend on how many DWIs they have previously received.
- First offense: This is considered a Class B misdemeanor and carries a maximum fine of $2,000, a jail sentence up to 180 days, a license suspension of up to 1 year, and annual surcharges of up to $1,000 for 3 years. However, lawmakers have considered easing DWI penalties; you can read more about this here.
- Second offense: This is considered a Class A misdemeanor and carries a maximum fine of $4,000, a jail sentence up to 180 days, a license suspension of up to 2 years, and annual surcharges of up to $1,500 for 3 years.
- Third offense: This is considered a 3rd degree felony and carries a maximum fine of $10,000, a license suspension of up to 2 years, and annual surcharges of up to $1,500 for 3 years. It can also result in a two to ten year sentence in state prison.
These cover the general guidelines for three of the offenses that a person can receive. That said, the charges can change depending on the circumstances. For instance, if your breath or blood alcohol levels are over .15, then the DWI can have more severe penalties. Alternatively, if you have a child passenger while driving or the DWI results in the bodily harm or death of another person, then the charges will also vary.
DUI in Texas
The big difference between a DUI and DWI is the amount of alcohol in the system and the age of the driver. The Zero Tolerance Law in Texas prohibits minors (anyone younger than 21 years old) to drive after consuming any amount of alcohol. This means that if a minor has any detectable amount of alcohol in their system, then they are considered as driving under the influence.
According to Texas Penal Code Section 106.041, a DUI is considered a Class C misdemeanor and has more lenient penalties. The driver should expect a $500 fine, a 60-day drivers license suspension, 20 to 40 hours of community service, and a mandatory alcohol awareness class. If a minor who is not a child has been previously convicted at least twice for the same offense, then they will receive a maximum fine of $2,000, a jail sentence up to 180 days, and up to 60 hours of community service. These charges may vary depending on the age of the minor; if they are 18 years or older, the charges could be more severe than if they are younger than 17 years of age.
It’s important to point out that just because the driver is a minor, does not mean they are exempt from receiving a DWI. If they blow over a .08, then they can also receive a DWI.
What to Do if You’re Charged with a DUI or DWI
Although a DWI is a more serious charge than a DUI, both should be taken seriously. Since both of these charges can be put on your criminal record, they can affect your opportunities in the future. To get the best possible outcome and get the smallest penalty, it’s important that you’re represented by an experienced lawyer. Your lawyer will explain the different penalties based on what you’re being charged with and guide you throughout the entire process so that you feel comfortable and receive 24/7 support. If you’re in need of a lawyer, give us a call at AMS Law Group.