Driving while intoxicated (DWI) and Driving under the influence (DUI) are terms often used interchangeably, but in the state of Texas, they carry distinct legal meanings and consequences.
Understanding these distinctions is important, as they can impact your legal standing, driving privileges and the penalties you may face if you’re ever charged with impaired driving.
DUI vs. DWI
In The Lone Star State, DUI occurs when a driver under the age of 21 gets behind the wheel while compromised due to alcohol, drugs or a combination of both. Minors are perceived to have committed a DUI offense if they get behind the wheel with any detectable amount of alcohol in their system. Essentially, the state has zero tolerance for underage DUI and has set the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level for underage drivers at 0.00%.
The penalties for underage DUI may include:
- A fine of up to $500 fine,
- Compulsory participation in an alcohol awareness course
- A 60-day driver’s license suspension
- Up to 40 hours of community service.
DWI, on the other hand, occurs when a driver over the age of 21 gets behind the wheel while compromised due alcohol, drugs or a combination of both. According to Texas law, a driver over the age of 21 is considered intoxicated when they have a BAC of 0.08% or greater. But, they may be arrested for impaired driving with an even lower BAC if they are driving dangerously.
DWI in the Lone Star State is generally a class C misdemeanor; however, aggravating factors can escalate this offense to a felony charge. The penalties for first-time DWI offenders can include up to one-year license suspension, up to a $2,000 fine, IID (ignition interlock device) installation and maintenance and up to 180 days in jail.
For second-time offenses:
- The fine can increase to $4,000
- The driver’s license may be suspended for up to two years
- The maximum jail time may increase to one year
There is also the continued possibility of IID requirements.
Naturally, penalties for third-time offenders can be harsher. For starters, the driver may need to pay a $10,000 fine, fulfil the continued possibility of IID requirements and they may experience further license suspension. Moreover, the maximum jail time may increase to ten years.
Understanding the key differences between DUI and DWI in Texas is essential for all motorists in the Lone Star State. Remember, seeking legal assistance is one of your best course of action in the face of DUI or DWI charges.