The legal terms DWI (driving while intoxicated) and DUI (driving under the influence) are often used interchangeably, but in Texas these are separate crimes. Both involve operating a vehicle while under the effects of alcohol or drugs. The key difference between these offenses is that DUI applies only to drivers under the age of 21.
An operator 21 years of age or older can be found guilty of DWI when his or her mental or physical abilities are impaired by the use of drugs or alcohol. Impairment is defined as having a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 or higher or being unable to safely operate a vehicle due to the effects of alcohol or drugs in their system.
A DWI is a Class B misdemeanor carrying a minimum jail sentence of three days for the first offense. If the operator had an open alcoholic beverage in the vehicle at the time of the arrest, the minimum jail time is six days. The maximum jail sentence for the first offense is six months. The fine for DWI is up to $2,000 plus court costs.
A DWI also carries administrative penalties. The person’s driving license is suspended for a minimum of 90 days up to one year for the first offense and the driver may be forced to attend a drug or alcohol education program at his or her own expense. The court has discretion to put the offender on probation and/or to order require participation in a community service program. A driver who refuses to submit to a BAC test will automatically have their driving license suspended.
A DUI charge can be brought against a vehicle operator who is under 21 years of age. Because the legal drinking age in Texas is 21, an underage operator may be charged with DUI regardless of their BAC and even if their faculties are unimpaired.
A DUI is a Class C misdemeanor in Texas. There is no jail time for first time offenders. The criminal fine is up to $500. Jail time and fines increase substantially with subsequent DUI convictions. The court may also order an offender to take an alcohol education program or to complete community service. The administrative penalties for refusing to submit to a BAC test are the same as those for operators who are 21 years or older. In addition, a DUI conviction can substantially affect a younger person’s future educational and employment opportunities.
Kevin L. Collins, P.C. in San Antonio is a full-service law firm providing DWI and DUI defense throughout south-central Texas. If you have been arrested on such a charge, feel free to contact us online or call 210-598-8629 for a free initial consultation.