Texas DWI Laws and Penalties

How Texas defines “driving while intoxicated” (DWI) and the consequences of a conviction.

A Texas motorist can get a DWI (also sometimes called “DUI”) for operating a motor vehicle while “intoxicated” by drugs or alcohol or with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% or more.

Texas also has a “zero-tolerance” law that prohibits underage age motorists (those under 21 years old) from driving with any detectable amount of alcohol in their body.

Jail Time and Fines for Texas DWI Convictions

The minimum and maximum jail time and fines you’ll face for a DWI conviction in Texas primarily depend on how many prior convictions you have. Here are the possible jail sentences and fines for a first, second, and third DWI conviction.

1st offense

2nd offense

3rd offense

Jail Time

3 days to six months (1-year maximum for drivers with a BAC of .15% or more)

30 days to 1 year

2 to 10 years

Fines

$2,000 maximum (or up to $4,000 for drivers with a BAC of .15% or more)

$4,000 maximum

$10,000 maximum

In some states, there’s a “wash-out” (or “look-back”) period for DWI/DUI convictions. And drunk driving convictions that are older than the wash-out period don’t count as priors. However, Texas doesn’t have a wash-out period for DWIs—meaning a DWI conviction stays on your record and counts as a prior conviction forever.

License Suspensions for a Texas DWI

All Texas drivers who are convicted of a DWI face license suspension. The possible suspension periods for a first, second, and third DWI are as follows.

1st offense

2nd offense

3rd offense

Suspension Period

90 days to 1 year

180 days to 2 years

180 days to 2 years

However, most offenders will be eligible for an “occupational license” for driving to and from places like work and school during at least part of the suspension.

Texas’s Implied Consent Laws

Texas has “implied consent” laws that basically say all motorists agree to take a blood or breath test if lawfully arrested for driving while intoxicated. Motorists who refuse testing generally face license suspension of 180 days to two years, depending on their record.

Reducing a Texas DWI Charge

If you're charged with driving while intoxicated in Texas, it's possible to "plea bargain" for a lesser charge. "Wet reckless" refers to a plea deal where a DWI charge is reduced to reckless driving. Some states have a reckless driving charge that applies specifically to offenses involving alcohol. But in Texas, the relevant statute applies more generally to all types of reckless driving.
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