Facing your first (and hopefully, last) DWI charge in Texas can be an overwhelming experience, the biggest reason being that the state of Texas takes driving while intoxicated extremely seriously. Therefore, Texas DWI laws are very strict. It is considered a Class B Misdemeanor which can lead to a maximum imprisonment of 6 months and fines of up to $2000. (also read DUI vs DWI)
With such a hefty penalty involved, you’d want to believe a DWI offense in Texas is a rare occurrence. But you’ll be surprised to know how it all just starts with a seemingly normal night.
You decide to go out with your college buddies and you all end up in a bar reminiscing about the good old days and just unwinding after a long week of work.
The drinks keep flowing, you are having such a good time that you’ve already lost count of how many you’ve had. It couldn’t have been a lot, right?
And because you feel absolutely fine when you finally reach the parking lot, you don’t even think twice about driving back home. Who will go through all the trouble of calling a cab and driving back to get the car the next day anyway, right? What can even go wrong?
As it turns out, everything!
Suddenly, you find yourself being pulled over by the cops and they are talking about arrests and fines.
You are being asked to take several tests.
And you just stand there frightened, helpless, and confused, regretting the very decision that felt like a no-brainer just a few moments ago.
The worst part of it all is your troubles won’t end with just an arrest and fine. Along with the criminal penalties, you’ll also face administrative punishments that will affect your life to a large extent. You may receive a driver’s license suspension for up to one year. And once you are eligible to get your license reinstated from suspension, you will have to pay $1000- $2000 per year as license surcharges.
And there’s more. A permanent criminal record can have consequences lasting years after your sentence is over. You will be actively discriminated against in job interviews, apartment and college applications, and you may not be allowed to own guns and even vote.
In June 2017, the state finally recognized the harshness of the consequences for such a minor crime and came up with a respite for first time DWI offenders. HB 3016, popularly known as the “second chance” law now allows the offenders to hide the records of their DWI first offense, Texas from the public.
First Time (DWI)? It’s the Right Time to Set Things Straight
If you are found driving while intoxicated with a blood alcohol level higher than 0.8 in the state of Texas, you will be charged with a Class B Misdemeanor. But your penalty can increase significantly in case any aggravating factors were discovered. What are some of these factors?
- If your blood alcohol level is found to be higher than 0.15, the charges turn into a Class A Misdemeanor instead. In that case, the punishment will increase to a maximum fine of $6000 and imprisonment for 12 months.
- The charges will also increase if you had an open container in the vehicle while driving intoxicated, and you will have to serve at least 6 days in jail. The maximum sentence will depend on your BAC at the time of driving. It wouldn’t even matter if you were actually drinking from the open bottle of alcohol in the passenger area of your car, you will be charged under Section 49.031 of the Texas Penal Code.
- And if you had a child passenger in your car when you were driving while intoxicated, the misdemeanor will get upgraded to a State Jail Felony. A State Jail Felony due to being intoxicated results in fines of up to $10,000 and imprisonment of up to 24 months. You’ll also end up with a permanent felony record and receive a driving license suspension.
But the recent change in laws ensures that if you haven’t hurt anyone and if this is your DWI first offense Texas, you can ensure it is hidden from your record for the most part. This law provides a route to live a normal life without you being branded as a criminal forever. So, if you have a DWI conviction on your record, it’s time to get it cleared by setting your record straight.
First-Time DWI Offenders Receive Some Texas Grace
In September 2017, Governor Abbott signed the law HB 3016 to provide certain one-time DWI offenders an opportunity to apply for a “non-disclosure” of their criminal records. To find out if you qualify under the law, you can reach out to an Austin DWI Lawyer to turn over a new leaf in your life.
So, what are the requirements that make you eligible to get a non-disclosure order issued?
- This DWI in Texas should be your very 1st offense ever, other than minor traffic offenses that are only punishable by fines.
- The charge against you must be categorized as a misdemeanor and not a felony.
- Your blood alcohol level must not be greater than 0.15 at the time of your arrest.
- You must not have hurt anyone when you were driving while intoxicated, or have a minor in the car at the time of your arrest.
- You must not have any other conviction on your record.
With a “non-disclosure”, you will be free of the probable obligation to reveal your criminal record to your employer, apartment owner, and certain government agencies. And the criminal justice agencies will be prohibited from disclosing it in your DWI first offense Texas public criminal history record.
How long do you have to wait to submit a petition under this law? The law states that if the first time offender fulfills the requirement of getting an ignition interlock system installed in their vehicles for 6 months, they will become eligible to apply for a “non-disclosure” merely 2 years after the end date of their probation period. But if the court order does not mention this requirement, you will be required to wait 5 years to take advantage of this law.
This law was made retroactive to make it accessible to people who were guilty and convicted of first DWI in Texas even before the law came into effect in 2017. So, if you just have one DWI conviction blotching your otherwise squeaky clean record, it’s time to get it back to its pristine state.
Why do you need an experienced lawyer to represent you? One of the biggest reasons is that your petition for an order of nondisclosure must include evidence that you are entitled to file the petition under this new law. So, reach out to James Gill today to find out the best option for you to deal with your DWI conviction.
Penalties for a First DWI Offense in Texas
If you are caught driving while intoxicated, the enforcement officer will ask you to blow into a breathalyzer to determine your current blood alcohol content level. If you refuse to take the breathalyzer test, the cops will likely get a warrant for your blood test. You will then be taken into custody to get your blood tested.
Is it better to take the breathalyzer or deny it? There are a lot of divided opinions on this. While making this decision, what you must remember is it is a lot easier to argue a breathalyzer result because of its common false results, than a blood test which is widely considered reliable by the jury.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has also recommended a bunch of field sobriety tests that can determine if your BAC is higher than 0.08 with an accuracy of 83%.
But an experienced Austin DWI Lawyer knows that most of the officers don’t conduct these tests properly and their accuracy is always up for question. So, the best course of action in case of an arrest for DWI is to contact an Austin DWI attorney immediately.
What consequences will you likely be facing if you are found guilty of a DWI and if this is your 1st offense DWI?
- You will have to pay a fine of up to $2000.
- You may have to serve jail time of up to 180 days.
- Your driver’s license will get suspended for up to a period of 1 year.
- You will need to pay a license surcharge from $1000-$2000 per year.
- You may lose your job if your employer runs a criminal background check on you.
- You may have trouble finding new jobs and apartments because the DWI conviction will leave a permanent mark on your criminal record.
- You might lose your professional licenses and security clearances.
- You may get refused a student loan.
Fighting & Expunging a First Offense DWI in Texas
With the new law, you can now avoid the long-term repercussions of a guilty DWI conviction by getting a non-disclosure order issued against it. But that does not mean you should take a DWI charge lightly.
If you or your loved one has been charged with a DWI and found guilty, your first step should be to fight it and try your best to walk away from it scot-free by getting your first DWI in Texas dismissed. The best way to do that would be to hire an experienced Austin DWI lawyer.
A lawyer knows what evidence is admissible and what can easily be contested. If not dealt with properly, the prosecution can make your case worse than it needed to be. So, what are some of the evidence that can help your case?
- Police Report
The police report contains a detailed depiction of incidents that led to your arrest. Please note that you cannot be randomly stopped for a sobriety test, there must be something outrightly suspicious that led them to make contact with you. If the reasons are not clear, it will be considered a huge violation of your rights, and your lawyer can make a case to get your charges thrown away.
Video of your actions and even your sobriety test can be extremely reliable evidence to support your case. If the traffic stop cameras have captured your stopping and your sobriety test, your lawyer can help you argue the validity and authenticity of both.
- Blood tests
Your attorney can get the result of your blood or breath tests completely excluded from the trial. These tests are heavily relied upon by the judge and the jury, therefore it becomes all the more important to have an experienced attorney look into the authenticity of these tests, and check if they were conducted properly.
Your attorney can demand extra documents from the State to check the validity of the machines used for conducting the tests. If the State fails to reveal them, your test results can be excluded on these grounds too.
Hire an Expert Texas Criminal Defense Attorney
Whether you have been charged with a DWI in Austin, Texas, or have been found guilty and have already served the sentence, you don’t deserve the lifetime consequences that follow a simple DWI. You can easily get out of this unfortunate situation and live your life as if it was all just a bad dream.
The fact is that the law recognizes all this, it’s just that you need someone by your side who understands how to use the law for your better. It is extremely important because the court can very well refuse your petition if the attorney representing the state presents evidence that you shouldn’t be allowed a non-disclosure order.
Austin DWI attorney, James Gill has countless years of experience defending those facing DWI, drug charges, and other criminal charges in Texas. Call today to schedule a consultation at 512-448-4560. The Law Offices of James Gill, PLLC serves all of Austin, Westlake, Kyle, Buda, San Marcos, and the surrounding TX communities.