Avoid a DWI in Texas (5 Things You Need to Know about DWI)

To avoid a, you should know at least these five things.


I.   DWI in Texas
II.  Penalties
III.The Costs
IV. Sobriety Tests
V.  Avoid Arrest

I. DWI in Texas

It’s illegal to drive while intoxicated. Doing so is DWI in Texas. For those age 21 and older, DWI is driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or higher. For commercial drivers it’s 0.04%. And for those under age 21, including adults age 18 through 20, it’s any detectable amount.

Few states prohibit any detectable alcohol in the blood. That’s because they want to reduce the chances of convicting innocent young drivers.

Here’s the logic. “Breathalyzers” or alcohol breath testers are unreliable. They don’t really measure BAC. (That requires analysis of a sample of actual blood.) The breathalyzers only estimate it. That’s why not all states permit them.

Another problem is that everyone produces alcohol naturally within their bodies. And they do this 24/7. Obviously, that includes all young drivers. Also, many medications and foods contain alcohol. Surprisingly, this includes baked goods such as bread.

So permitting BACs under 0.02% is good government policy. It helps protect the innocent.

II. Penalties

The exact penalties imposed for DWI in Texas vary. Many factors cause these differences. They include such things as these.

  • dwi in texas
    Please, no! Not her!
  • Driver’s Age.
  • Type of license.
  • Estimated BAC.
  • The impairing substance(s)
  • Any prior DUIs.
  • Consequences of the DWI, if any (property damage, injuries, etc.)
  • Any minors in the vehicle.
  • Skill of driver’s attorney.
  • Characteristics of driver (demeanor in court, race, socio-economic status, etc.)
  • Beliefs and personality of judge hearing the case. That’s just the luck of the draw.

Some penalties are mandated, others are within ranges, and others are purely up to the judge.

Driver Age 21 and Older

First DWI

dwi in texasImprisonment for three to 180 days.

Fine up to $2,000.

Driving license suspension for up two years.

Annual surcharge of up to $2,000 for three years to keep the license.

Second DWI

DWI in TexasImprisonment for one month to one year.

Fine up to $4,000.

License suspension for up to two years.

Annual surcharge of up to $2,000 for three years.

Third DUI

Imprisonment foir two and ten years.

Fine up to $10,000.

Driving license suspension for up to two years.

Annual surcharge of up to $2,000 for three years.

Driver Under Age 21

dwi in texasTexas has a Zero Tolerance Law for those under 21. For this reason, it’s illegal for them to drive with any alcohol or drugs in their systems.


License suspension for up to one year.

Fine up to $500.

Required alcohol education program.

Possibility of required community service.

Possibile ignition interlock device (IID). An IDD prevents the vehicle from starting if there’s alcohol in the driver’s breath. It’s basically a breathalyzer test that the offender must pass every time before driving. Learn more about ignition interlock devices.


Passenger Under Age 15

Imprisonment up to two years.

Fine up to $10,000.

Automatic license suspension for 180 days.

Extreme DWI

There are also Extreme DWI crimes. Intoxication assault is when a DWI causes serious bodily harm to someone else. Intoxication manslaughter is when a DWI results in someone’s death. The penalties for Extreme DWI are very high.

III. The Costs

Legal Defense

Getting charged with an DWI in Texas is expensive. And this is true even if you’re innocent. Of course, it’s even more expensive if a judge or jury convicts you.

The cost of a legal DWI defense is very hard to estimate. That’s because the complexity of cases varies widely. And more complex cases take more of a lawyer’s time. That means more money.

dwi in texasIt’s wise to select an experienced lawyer who specializes in DUI defense. The knowledge and experience of such a lawyer is invaluable. In fact, such a lawyer may take less time.

Its obvious that simply asking lawyers how much they charge per hour isn’t helpful. It’s like asking a car dealer how much it costs to buy a car.

Other Costs

There are a number of other costs. They may include fines, court costs, property damage, medical expenses, possible loss of employment, increased insurance rates, and other expenses. The total can be high. It can easily be more than lawyer fees and expenses. Therefore, the total cost of an DWI can easily be tens of thousands of dollars.

In addition, there are non-money costs as well. They may include pain and suffering, feelings of guilt, embarrassment, driving license suspension, loss of friendships, and many others.

Knowing the high costs of a DWI is very useful. It’s a great motivation. That can help us try to avoid getting one.

IV. Sobriety Tests

Chemical Tests

dwi in texasAll states require drivers to submit to alcohol breath tests (estimators). That, in spite of their scientifically proven unreliability.

However, all drivers have a Constitutional right to decline taking a chemical BAC test. In spite of that, the state punishes those who use their right. The first time a driver uses the right, it’s punished with a license suspension of 180 days. If the driver uses the right within ten years, the punishment is license suspension for two years.

Field Sobriety Tests

However, no state requires drivers to take a field sobriety test. And that’s good. Simply put, field sobriety tests lack validity. That’s why about one-third of completely sober people with a 0.00% BAC fail them. And they do so under ideal conditions.

Naturally, taking a field sobriety test on an uneven highway shoulder after being pulled over by police and being very nervous is far from ideal. So the “real world” failure rate for completely sober people must be much higher.

dwi in texasUnderstandably, lawyers strongly urge drivers never to submit to any field sobriety test. On the other hand, police want suspects to take them. They often falsely insist the law requires it. It doesn’t. Or they say that passing it proves you’re innocent. It doesn’t.

An officer who pulls over a driver for suspected drinking and driving is conducting a criminal investigation. The officer may legally lie to you. Remember that if you are a suspect in a crime, the police officer is your adversary.

Discover much more about field sobriety tests. You won’t like what you learn. But knowledge really is power to protect yourself. Also, learn What to Do If You Are Pulled Over.

V. Avoid Arrest

Obviously, one way to avoid a DWI is by abstaining from alcohol. Another choice is to use a Designated Driver or use public transportation.

Most drivers enjoy drinking alcohol, at least on occasion. They may lack a Designated Driver or access to public transportation. And they may be unable to afford Uber or Lynks.

So how can drivers drink before driving, yet avoid arrest? The answer is simple and legal. Maintain a low BAC.

These guidelines can help keep a low BAC.

  • dwi in texas
    Standard Drinks

    Remember that standard drinks of beer, wine and spirits have equivalent amounts of pure alcohol.

  • Have no more than one standard drink each hour. Preferably less.
  • Avoid non-standard drinks. This makes it easier to keep track of alcohol intake.
  • Eat and snack while drinking. This is very important!
  • Have a non-alcoholic drink between alcoholic ones.
  • Accept an alcoholic drink only when it fits your consumption schedule.
  • Never engage in any drinking game.
  • Don’t try to “keep up” with the drinking of others.
Arrested for DWI in Texas?

This website strongly opposes impaired driving. But it also supports the U.S. Constitution and the rights it grants both the innocent and the guilty.

If you’re charged with an DWI in Texas, contact a lawyer immediately. The attorney should specialize in drinking and driving cases. Better yet is one whose practice is limited to such cases.

The Texas State Bar (lawyers’ association) provides a free lawyer referral service. Also, the Martingale guide offers a free on-line database with lawyers by specialty and geographic location. In addition, it provides free client and peer evaluations.

Don’t rely on this or any other site for legal information.


Brezina, C. I’ve Gotten a DWI/DUI, Now What? NY: Rosen, 2016.

CDC. Teen Drinking and Driving. Atlanta: 2012. (website)

___. Impaired Driving. Washington: 2018. (website)

Gillespie, L. Police Encounters. Know Your Rights. Gillespie, 2014.

Hudson, T. The Drinker’s Guide to Driving: The Secrets of DUI, From One of America’s Top DUI Lawyers. Cork: BookBaby, 2013.

Keech, C. & Fairchild, C. Dude, What are My Rights? Kansas City, MO: Keechild, 2014.

Lauterjung, L. DUI law for Drivers. How to Avoid DUI Arrests and How to Handle a DUI Stop. Lauterjung, 2012.

Nevels, T. Avoid DWI and Marijuana Charges. Cork: BookBaby, 2015.

NHTSA. Drunk Driving. Washington: 2018. (website)

Sagsletter, R. Rights During a Police Stop / DUI in the United States. What Officers Can and Cannot Do. Denver, CO: Outskirts, 2012.