The COVID-19 pandemic has changed life as we know it here in Texas. We've faced more than 754,000 cases in the state and more than 139,000 in the Houston area alone. In April, Governor Greg Abbott shut down all but essential businesses, including bars, live events, and concerts. With cases peaking again in June, Governor Abbott again closed down bars, limited restaurants to 50% capacity indoors, and restricted outdoor gatherings to 100 people.
Texas Shuts Down
With bars, live events, and concerts shut down or limited in capacity since April, we'd expect arrests for people driving while intoxicated (DWI) to decrease dramatically. Instead, arrests for DWIs are holding steady. Sgt. Don Egdorf of the HPD DWI Task Force says, “The DWI numbers are still up here instead of taking a big drop.” Houston police reported about 4,500 arrests for DWI in 2019. The numbers for 2020 are on track to reach 4,300 arrests for DWI.
What is DWI in Texas?
A person is driving while intoxicated in Texas if their blood alcohol level is .08% or higher. But an individual is still intoxicated if they are impaired due to alcohol or drugs regardless of their BAC. See Tex. Penal Code § 49.01 (2001). A DWI conviction comes with severe penalties, even for a first offense:
- First DWI:
A first DWI offense is a class B misdemeanor punishable with up to 180 days in jail, a $2,000 fine, and a license suspension of one year. You can also face a $2,000 license renewal surcharge for three years. If your blood alcohol content is .15% or higher, you face a class A misdemeanor. A class A misdemeanor is punished with a fine of up to $4,000 and up to a year in jail.
- Second DWI:
A second DWI offense is a class A misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $4,000 and a year in jail. A conviction will also result in license suspension for two years and a $2,000 license renewal surcharge for three years.
- Third DWI:
A third DWI offense is a third-degree felony. This crime is punishable with up to $10,000 in fines and up to 10 years in prison. A conviction will also result in license suspension for two years and a $2,000 driver's license renewal surcharge for three years.
- Fourth or more DWI:
A fourth or more DWI conviction is also a felony. This offense is punishable with up to 10 years in prison and up to a $20,000 fine. A conviction also results in license suspension for two years and a $2,000 license renewal charge for three years.
Texas DWI Attorneys
If you face a DWI in Texas, you need a skilled criminal defense attorney with skilled expertise and experience in handling DWI cases. Being arrested on suspicion of DWI can be frightening, but it doesn't mean that a court will convict you. Attorney Doug Murphy is Board Certified in DWI defense and criminal defense law. He was also named Houston's best DWI lawyer as voted by his peers for the 2021 Lawyer of the Year, Best Lawyers in America published in US News and World Report. Don't try to do this alone, go into battle with a seasoned lawyer whose peers voted Lawyer of the Year. Contact the Doug Murphy Law Firm today for your free consultation.