What Happens When You Get a DWI in Texas

Have you been arrested for driving while intoxicated (DWI) in Texas? If so, then you should know a DWI can affect your life detrimentally, going beyond jail and fines but impacting your quality of life after you have paid your so-called debt to society.

But that only happens if you do not fight the charge. Pleading guilty initially or accepting a plea deal won't remove a criminal record, and you may still have to spend time in jail or pay a high fine, depending on the circumstances of your case. Either way, you are likely not to escape a criminal record if you do not fight the charges.

Retaining an experienced Board Certified DWI attorney is your best option to fighting a DWI charge. Doug Murphy -- one of only two Texas criminal lawyers to possess Board Certification in DWI defense and Board Certification in criminal law simultaneously -- has committed the last two decades to defend DWI clients. He uses skill, insight, and resources. He takes on the unique challenges of each new case with vigor. He does not shy away from a trial like so many other DWI attorneys do -- in fact, he prefers them because it is in your best interest, not a plea deal. But so many of you are confused about what happens and what you should do if you are pulled over and arrested for a DWI in Texas.

The first thing you want to do is inform yourself. Here's your briefing on what happens when you get a DWI in Texas.

Texas DWI: the Scenario, an Example of What Happens

Its late at night, maybe a weekend night, and you are driving home from a restaurant. Maybe you had a few drinks of alcohol, but nothing out of the ordinary. You get in the right lane to turn right but fail to signal that you will be turning. The officer watches, and just after you make the turn, the siren goes on.

You pull over. The officer taps on the window and waits for you to roll it down. Maybe he asks if you know why you were pulled over, or maybe he just asks for your driver's license and registration. You provide the same to him, but as you do, your hand starts to shake. You're nervous. Obviously. You have been pulled over, so who wouldn't be nervous?

But the officer takes it as a sign of intoxication. He asks if you have been drinking and you hesitate, unsure to say something or not. Then, you say just a drink or two. The officer asks that you get out of the vehicle. You do so. Maybe you trip over a rock as you get out or maybe the wind picks up and startles you -- the officer believes it is yet another sign of intoxication. He asks you to take a field sobriety test. You agree -- how hard can it be to walk?

Again, you are nervous. The officer keeps staring at you, judgmental and accusatory-like. According to the police officer, you fail the walk and turn test. He asks if you will take a breath test. Again, you hesitate. He gets pushy. You get standoffish. You ask if you have to take it. He says you refused a breath test. He arrests you. At the station, he requests a warrant to take a blood sample. You say you never refused a breath test. He says you did. The warrant is granted and your blood sample is taken. You are booked.

License Suspension

The next day, you are released and provided a pink paper. The pink paper advises you that your license has been suspended and that the pink paper is effectively a temporary license for 40 days. If you wish to dispute the suspension, you have 15 days to request an ALR hearing (Administrative License Revocation hearing).

Not only do you have the criminal charges to contend with. You also have an administrative matter to deal with. Suddenly, you don't know what just happened but feel like the world is about to cave in.


Upon your release, you will be required to attend an arraignment hearing. At this hearing, the charges are officially read to you, and you have the option of pleading:

  • Not guilty
  • Guilty
  • No contest.

Many alleged DWI and DUI offenders plead guilty because they believe the evidence is in already and there is no means to challenge it. That assumption is false.

You should almost always plead not guilty. Once you plead guilty or no contest, it's over. You move on to the sentencing stage. There is no opportunity to refute the changes and prove your innocence.

What you need to know at the arraignment:

  • An experienced Board Certified DWI and Board Certified criminal defense attorney has the unique capabilities and insight to defend your case effectively.

Pre-Trial Hearings

If you plead not guilty, the pre-trial part of the process will commence. Your attorney will enter into negotiations with the State. Your attorney will file motions, like motions to suppress, to the court strategically. Hearings will be set for those motions. Other regularly scheduled hearings like a preliminary hearing will also be set. You will attend most hearings with your attorney unless you are not required to do so -- at which time the choice to attend is yours.

Yes, fighting the charge will temporarily upset your life. You may have to ask for some time off work to attend hearings. You may be a little embarrassed to tell people what you are doing. It doesn't matter though, not in the scheme of things. Attending a hearing is far better than sitting in jail.


At trial, you will be present. Your attorney will prepare your strategic defense. You may or may not be called as a witness -- that will be up to you and your attorney. The State will put forth its evidence and its witnesses, and your attorney will challenge the evidence and cross-examine the witnesses. Then, your attorney will provide evidence and witnesses, who will also be cross-examined by the State.

It is Doug Murphy's intention to weaken the State's case against you, and he will do so through smart strategy, evidence, and logical argument. He has the experience and insight that allows him to do so.

Once the arguments have been made, closing arguments are presented, and the jury convenes to deliberate. Once a verdict is reached, you will be brought back to the courtroom to hear it.

  • If you are found not guilty, you will walk out free.
  • If you are found guilty, a sentencing date will be ordered.

Remember: Doug Murphy's intent is always an acquittal, but if that does not transpire, you can consider an appeal.

What happens with a Texas DWI Second offense?

second DWI in Texas is still a misdemeanor, but a Class A misdemeanor and not a Class B, like a first-time DWI. The process is pretty much the same though the penalties you face are more severe than the penalties for a Class B misdemeanor. It's more about what's different the second time around than the first time you were charged and convicted of a DWI. The difference is in those penalties and the fact you have a prior DWI conviction.

For second-time DWI offenses, the penalties in both jail time and fines are generally double that of a first-time offense. Further, though you may have qualified at the time of your first DWI conviction, a second conviction does not qualify for nondisclosure. Nondisclosure is when your records are sealed and are basically hidden from the public's view. So, if you get a second DWI, that conviction remains on your criminal record permanently for all to see. Plus, your first DWI can be used against you during your second DWI trial -- and juries don't usually like that kind of thing; it makes you look guilty.

Thus, fighting your first DWI charge is of paramount importance and all the more reason why you must hire an experienced Board Certified DWI lawyer to help you beat the charge. If, however, this is your second DWI charge, then hiring a Board Certified DWI lawyer with ample successful trial experience will be key to your defense. You need someone who knows how juries work, think, and react and someone who knows how to expertly handle witnesses -- expert and lay witnesses.

That someone is Board Certified DWI criminal defense lawyer Doug Murphy.

What happens with a Texas DWI 3rd offense?

When you're arrested for your third DWI in Texas, you need to consult an experienced DWI attorney as soon as possible. A third offense is a felony. Your case must get off to a running start if you are to be successful. Because the assumptions and pre-judgment that a third offense carries with it can be overwhelming and difficult to defeat, your attorney is going to need time to collect and analyze evidence in order to put together a well-organized defense strategy.

The same is what happens with a Texas DWI 4th offense. The more charges and convictions you accumulate, the harder it is to defend your DWI charge and the more time your attorney will need to prepare.

What does driving while intoxicated in Texas mean and what will it get you?

If you have ever had a drink and then operated a motor vehicle, you may have wondered what Texas DWI rules are. DWI laws in Texas are not unique, but the penalties are among the strictest in the country -- so it is important to know what these rules are. That said, one drink will not -- or at least should not -- be enough to get you arrested. Here's what you need to know about Texas DWI rules.

Driving while intoxicated in Texas means you are operating a motor vehicle while either

  1. at or above the Texas DWI limit for blood alcohol content (BAC) level, which is 0.08 percent BAC unless you possess a CDL and the legal limit is 0.04 percent or you are a minor and the legal limit is “any detectable amount of alcohol”; or
  2. not exhibiting normal use of mental or physical faculties.

The first is proven through the use of breathalyzers and blood tests while the second is proven through observation and performance of field sobriety tests.

If you are convicted of a Texas DWI, the penalties you face will reflect the classification of the offense.

Misdemeanor v. Felony Texas DWIs

In Texas, a first and second DWI are misdemeanors unless you had a child passenger or caused an accident and seriously injured or killed someone. In the latter cases, you will be charged with a state jail felony for driving while intoxicated with a child under the age of 15 and felonies for intoxication assault and intoxication manslaughter. Third and subsequent DWIs are also felonies.



Underage DUI First Offense

Class C Misdemeanor

Underage DUI Second Offense

Class C Misdemeanor

First DWI
*including CDL holders, DWI marijuana, and DWI prescription drugs

Class B Misdemeanor

Second DWI
*including CDL holders, DWI marijuana, and DWI prescription drugs

Class A Misdemeanor

DWI with Child Passenger

State Felony Jail

Third DWI
*including CDL holders, DWI marijuana, and DWI prescription drugs

Third Degree Felony

Fourth DWI or subsequent
*including CDL holders, DWI marijuana, and DWI prescription drugs

Third Degree Felony

Intoxication Assault

Third Degree Felony

Intoxication Assault, enhanced
*victim is a peace officer, firefighter, or emergency medical personnel

Second Degree Felony

Intoxication Manslaughter

Second Degree Felony

Penalties for Misdemeanor and Felony DWIs in Texas

The penalties for a DWI conviction depend on the classification of the crime. The below chart gives you an idea of what you can expect if you are convicted of a DWI or related crime. 




License Suspension

Underage DUI First Offense


Up to $500

60 - 180 days

Underage DUI Second Offense


Up to 500

120 days - 2 years

First DWI

Up to 180 days in jail

Up to $2,000

1 year

Second DWI

Up to 1 year in jail

Up to $4,000

2 years

DWI with Child Passenger

180 days - 2 years in jail or prison

Up to $10,000

180 days

Third DWI

2 - 10 years in prison

Up to $10,000

2 years

Fourth DWI or subsequent

2 - 10 years in prison

Up to $20,000

2 years

Intoxication Assault                 

2 - 10 years

Up to $10,000

  • 90 days - 1 year, or
  • 1 - 2 years if prior conviction of DWI, BWI, or flying while intoxicated

Intoxication Assault, enhanced

2 - 20 years

Up to $10,000

  • 90 days - 1 year, or
  • 1 - 2 years if prior conviction of DWI, BWI, or flying while intoxicated

Intoxication Manslaughter

2 - 20 years

Up to $10,000

180 days - 2 years

If you are arrested for DWI or related DWI offenses and refused to take a breath test initially, then your driver's license suspension will likely be set at the maximum recommendation for the offense. For instance, if the driver's license suspension range is 120 days to 2 years, the suspension will be set at 2 years.

Alternative or Supplemental Penalties

Also, if convicted, the sentencing judge has some discretion to supplement the sentence with an alternative punishment.

  • Probation
  • Community service (up to 60 hours for DUI offenses and up to 1,000 for felony offenses)
  • Installation of an ignition interlock device
  • Completion of an alcohol or drug education course
  • Attendance at a DWI school or repeat offender DWI school
  • Any additional fees required by the court, including restitution where you caused an accident and property damage and/or bodily injury resulted.

Determining the Extent of Penalties

The State will seek penalties on the higher end of the scale in cases where any of the following exist:

  • Prior felony convictions generally
  • Prior DWI convictions specifically
  • An accident that causes serious bodily injury to a child passenger, another passenger of the same or different vehicle, a pedestrian, or bicyclist
  • An accident and a passenger, pedestrian, or bicyclist is killed.

The actual penalties will depend on the facts of your case, and how well your lawyer mitigates those facts. A Harris County DWI lawyer like Doug Murphy, however, can help you beat the charges or -- in the worst case scenarios -- lessen the sentencing.

What happens if you are under the age of 21 and get a Texas DWI?

A lot of people get confused with what a DWI (driving while intoxicated) is versus a DUI (driving under the influence). The difference is really up to each state. Some states use only DUI to refer to its drinking and driving offenses, and others -- like Texas -- use both.

In Texas, what is the difference between a DWI and DUI? DWI refers to all cases where the alleged offender is an adult or charged as an adult (for persons the age of 17 to 20 years). DUI refers to all cases where the alleged offender is underage, i.e., 16 years or younger, but could include alleged offenders between the ages of 17 and 20 if those persons are not charged as an adult. The penalties for a DUI are less harsh than the penalties for a DWI conviction.

How long does a DWI stay on your record?

Until recently, a DWI stayed on your record forever. In terms of what that meant criminally, a prior DWI can be used to increase your penalties of a new DWI conviction if it was within the last ten years. Socially, economically, and emotionally, the long-lasting presence of a DWI criminal record can be for some more damaging than the more immediate penalties.

For instance, whenever someone conducts a background criminal check on you -- maybe at the age of 35 -- your prior DWI -- maybe from the time you were 21 years old -- will still show. This can be disappointing and life-changing. You may be a completely different person than what you were at the age of 21, or you may be the same person but just made a stupid mistake when you were 21. Now, that conviction haunts you and prevents you from attaining a job or loan you want and deserve.

In Texas, however, the law on nondisclosure has recently changed to include most first-time DWI offenses. So, if you have been convicted of a first-time DWI, see a Board Certified DWI attorney to inquire into your eligibility for nondisclosure.

Of course, never getting convicted is your best prevention of hefty penalties and life-changing criminal records. At Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C., we don't believe a mistake at the wheel should be a life-long impediment to attaining your life goals. That said, if you do have a conviction, here's what you can expect.

Your DWI will stick around until:

  • Your case is dismissed. You are innocent until proven beyond a reasonable doubt that you are guilty. If a judge finds there is not enough evidence to convict or of if the evidence was obtained illegally, then an experienced DWI defense attorney in Harris County will move the court to dismiss your case.
  • You complete deferred adjudication. For first-time DWI cases, a judge may provide you an opportunity to participate in deferred adjudication. If you successfully complete it, it will ultimately result in the dismissal of your charges. But you will have to first plead “guilty” or “no contest” to the charges. This means, if you fail to complete deferred adjudication successfully, your guilty plea will remain and you will be sentenced accordingly. This is a problem. Deferred adjudication can be expensive and is very time-consuming. The requirements can be unforgiving and are akin to straight probation. Your attorney will discuss the same with you and weigh the benefits of deferred adjudication and fighting the charge so you never have to plead guilty.
  • You qualify for expunction. If you were charged but never convicted or convicted but later found to be factually innocent or pardoned, you are eligible to have your arrest and court records expunged. To be eligible for expunction, though, there must not be other convictions -- misdemeanor or felony -- related to the same DWI charge. There's a waiting period, too, for persons who were charged but never formally arrested, before you can request expunction: 180 days for Class C misdemeanor, 1 year for Class A or B misdemeanors, and 3 years for felonies.
  • You are acquitted. If you go to trial and your Houston DWI attorney successfully challenges the State's case against you by providing a strong DWI defense, and you are found innocent, then the DWI will not remain on your criminal or driving record. So the real answer to the question of “How long will a Harris County DWI stay on your record?” should be: However long it takes your attorney to successfully challenge the State's case against you.

But of course, in most cases, your DWI conviction will remain on your record forever because many DWI offenders do not fight the charge. If having no criminal record matters to you, then you must retain a Board Certified DWI defense lawyer who has the trial experience, insight, and resources to commit to your case.

What are the costs of a Texas DWI?

The total sum of all the costs of a Texas DWI conviction is significant, whether you retain a lawyer or not. In fact, attorney fees are the least of your worries. Your financial burden can encompass any of the following:

  • Bail -- depending on the facts and circumstances
  • Fines -- particularly if convicted, e.g., a first-offense can carry fines up to $2,000
  • Probation -- if placed on probation, there will be fees associated with it
  • Restitution -- if you caused a car crash and subsequent property damage or bodily injury
  • Surcharges -- this is related to your driver's license through the Texas Driver Responsibility Program
  • Insurance premium hikes -- this is related to your auto insurer
  • License reinstatement fees -- this is also related to your driver's license
  • Court fees.

These expenses can add up quickly. You could be looking at more than $15,000. Again, this is why it is so important to retain an experienced, dedicated, aggressive Board Certified DWI defense lawyer in Houston, Texas. The money you spend on quality, smart defense is worth it if the attorney is able to get the charges dismissed or you acquitted.

That's Doug Murphy's intention every time: dismissal or acquittal. He fights. He strategizes. He negotiates. And he does it until the best outcome in your unique circumstances is realized.

How do you get out of a DWI in Texas?

There's only one way of getting out of a Texas DWI, and that's fighting it. Never plead guilty, and in most circumstances, do not accept a plea deal. Fighting it also applies to an administrative license revocation hearing (ALR hearing). Never “just accept,” but always fight it.

Doug Murphy concurs. He believes you should fight the charge. He is one of only two Texas lawyers who have and have maintained over the years Board Certification simultaneously in DWI Defense -- through the National College of DUI Defense (NCDD) -- and Criminal Law -- through the Texas Board of Legal Specializations.

  • The NCDD is the only qualifying organization mandated by the American Bar Association to certify lawyers throughout the U.S. in DWI and DUI law.
  • The Texas Board of Legal Specializations is committed to highlighting the best lawyers in Texas in a limited number of specializations, and criminal law is one of those specializations.

To obtain certification, the attorney must undergo rigorous exams and provide documentation proving experience and knowledge. It is not an easy process and is one meant to separate the cream from the crop. 

Doug Murphy is a legal expert in both DWI and criminal defense. These are the two legal specialties relevant to your DWI case.

What should you do if you get arrested for a DWI in Texas?

If you get arrested for a DWI in Texas, the first thing you should do is take a deep breath -- it is not yet the end of the world. Then, you should consider or follow these things:

  • Do not speak to or answer a police officer's questions. They will attempt to befriend you, tell you they want to help you, and otherwise try to get you to trust them or manipulate your trust in them. Their trust -- whether sincere or not -- is not what matters. What matters is more harmful to you: they will use what you say against you, make no mistake about it.
  • Take the breath test. If you refuse to take the breath test, the police will get a warrant for a blood sample. Blood test results are harder to challenge than breath test results. Also, if you refuse, then your license will be automatically suspended and will remain so for a longer period of time.
  • Contact a Board Certified DWI lawyer in Houston, TX. You don't want to contact any lawyer, but a qualified, resourceful lawyer who handles DWI cases specifically and is certified as an expert in it. This attorney should be willing to -- but more so adamant about -- representing you at the ALR hearing as well as going to trial for your DWI, if that proves necessary.
  • Prepare for your arraignment. Meet with your attorney, understand fully what is at stake, and prepare for your arraignment. This hearing is the beginning of the DWI process and the beginning of what direction your life will take.

Aggressive, Smart Board Certified DWI Attorney in Houston TX

Doug Murphy is committed to DWI defense. It is not just something he does because he is a criminal defense lawyer; it is something he does because he is passionate about it. There is a real zeal behind his representation, a true desire to commit to your defense and successfully meet any challenges your case presents. It is in your best interests to start your defense today, not tomorrow. Contact Doug Murphy online or at (713) 229-8333 for a free initial consultation.

Contact Us Today

If you are facing DWI or other criminal charges in Texas, contact our office today to discuss your case, so we can begin working on your defense. Please provide only your personal email and cell phone number so that we can immediately and confidentially communicate with you.