While many people use these terms interchangeably, there is a distinct difference between DUI and DWI in the state of Texas. DUI, or Driving Under the Influence, refers to minor drivers who have any detectable amount of alcohol in their systems, whereas DWI, or Driving While Intoxicated, refers to an “intoxicated” person (either a minor or an adult) who is operating a motor vehicle in a public place. In order to be intoxicated under Texas law, you must either:
· Not have the normal use of mental or physical faculties by reason of the introduction of alcohol, a controlled substance, a drug, a dangerous drug, a combination of two or more of these substances, or any other substance into the body, OR
· Have an alcohol concentration (blood alcohol content/BAC) of 0.08 or more.
On the other hand, there is no minimum alcohol concentration required for a minor, or an individual who is under the age of 21, to be charged with DUI. So long as the police officer can smell alcohol on the minor’s breath, he or she can charge the minor with DUI. However, an officer routinely will ask a minor to undergo sobriety tests or a breath test to measure the alcohol level of the minor. Texas, like many other states, has a zero tolerance policy for minor consumption of alcohol while driving a motor vehicle, whether it be a car or a boat.
There are also major differences in the punishments for DUI and DWI. A first-time DUI conviction is a Class C Misdemeanor, which usually results in an order to pay court costs and a $500 fine, completion of an alcohol education class, and completion of 20 – 40 hours of community service, the mandatory suspension of your license for up to two years, but no jail time. Texas law considers DWI, however, to be a more serious criminal offense; DWI charges can range from a Class B Misdemeanor to a First Degree Felony. For a first DWI offense, you will face a term of incarceration ranging from 30 – 180 days, fines of up to $2,000, an additional yearly surcharge to maintain driving privileges, the mandatory suspension of your license for up to two years, and the installation of an ignition interlock on any vehicle you drive.
At Peek & Toland, we are dedicated to protecting your rights and defending you from DWI and any potential criminal charges. We are here to investigate the facts surrounding your case, consider your options, and help you develop the strategy that is best designed to achieve a successful outcome in your case. Do not waste time attempting to handle legal matters on your own; contact our office as soon as you are charged with a criminal offense so that we can provide you with the help that we need.