All You Need to Know About DWI & Drunk Driving Law in Texas

November 15th, 2017 by Tad Nelson in DWI

Some people believe that they are better drivers after a few drinks. Some claim they are not affected. Others flat out do it anyways. Drunk or buzzed drivers jeopardize their own lives and the lives of others in the car. Besides co-passengers, they also risk the lives of other drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists. This is happening not only in the US, but in different parts of the world where drinking, partying and driving back home is the cultural norm amongst teenagers, young adults and adults alike.

What about Texas?

“DUI” and “DWI” are two short-forms under Texas law to describe “driving under the influence” and “driving while intoxicated”. You may be thinking the two concepts are similar. But they are a little different in reality. Let’s understand how.

The main difference between the two acronyms lies in the age of the driver. Under Texas Law, a person driving a vehicle who is at least 21 years old and is legally intoxicated (0.08 alcohol concentration in breath or blood) is charged with a DWI. But a person under the age of 21 years and has alcohol in his/her system can be charged with DUI. Whether the minor is impaired by alcohol or not becomes irrelevant when he/she is charged with DUI.

But the penalties imposed in each crime are also different. DWI penalties in Texas, especially in cities like Houston, League City and Galveston, are based on different factors like license type, age, and other circumstances in which the driver was caught. Common DWI penalties include the following:

  • Surcharges and fines.
  • License revocation and suspension.
  • Imprisonment.
  • Community Service.
  • DWI intervention and education programs.
  • Expensive car insurance.

For example, a first-time DWI offense may call for a fine up to $2,000, imprisonment for 3 to 180 days, cancellation of driver’s license, and an annual fee of $1,000 or $2,000 for three years to get back the license. Conversely, a minor caught for drunk driving may be fined for up to $500, a 60-day suspension of the driving license,  20 to 40 hours of community service and a compulsory alcohol-awareness class. The penalties for a person caught for drunk driving increase the second or third time because Texas follows a zero-tolerance policy.


While a criminal defense attorney can fight cases of minors criminalized for drunk driving, Texas has other supportive measures in place. The state takes part in a pretrial diversion program, called DIVERT, which proves a much better alternative to prosecution. First-time offenders get coordinated support and assistance through personal or group counseling sessions for a year. The program has specific guidelines, which are stated clearly in a contract that judges and lawyers sign before the program starts.

It is notable that DWI are serious offenses and can lead to graver felony crimes such as intoxication manslaughter and intoxication assault. As such, it is important that both adults and minors adhere to driving rules and avoid drunk driving for their own safety and the safety of others on the road.

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