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If you are facing a charge of Driving While Intoxicated in Texas, you may be confused about your next steps. Do you just plead guilty and take the punishment? Do you need an attorney? Before you decide to enter a guilty or no contest plea, you should fully understand the consequences.

What Is DWI?

In Texas, police can charge you with driving while intoxicated (DWI) if you operate a motor vehicle in a public place while intoxicated. Intoxicated means you either:

  • Lack the "normal use of mental or physical faculties by reason of the introduction of alcohol, a controlled substance, a drug, a dangerous drug, a combination of two or more of those substances, or any other substance into the body;"or
  • Have a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08% or more.

When law enforcement officers arrest you for most crimes, there are no penalties until you are convicted. However, if arrested for DWI, there are some penalties you may face immediately. Texas has an "implied consent" law, which means that by operating a motor vehicle in Texas, you agree to take a blood or breath test if lawfully arrested for DWI. Texas also has a zero-tolerance law prohibiting any blood alcohol level in a driver under the age of 21.

Blood Alcohol Tests

If police lawfully arrest you for DWI, the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles can revoke your driver's license if you fail a blood alcohol test or refuse a test. The police will confiscate your license on the spot. The DMV will then issue you a notice of suspension," which functions as your temporary driving permit. You have 15 days from the date of your arrest to contest the revocation of your license.

If you refuse to take a test when arrested for a first offense, the DMV will automatically suspend your license for an additional 180 days after your temporary license expires. If arrested for a second offense, if you refuse to take a test, the DMV will suspend your license for two years. You can only have this set aside if a court finds you not guilty of DWI. In some cases, you may receive an "occupational license" during your suspension to drive to and from work, school, or on essential household business. Still, this option is only available to each driver once in ten years. To obtain this, you have to prove your financial responsibility and have an ignition interlock device installed on every vehicle that you own or drive.

DWI Charges and Penalties

Penalties for a DWI conviction vary depending on whether this is your first offense.


Jail Time


License Suspension

1st offense

Class B misdemeanor;

Class A misdemeanor for BAC of .15% or more

3 days to 6 months;

1 year maximum for BAC of .15% or higher


$4,000 max for BAC of .15% or more

90 days to 1 year

2nd offense

Class A misdemeanor

30 days to 1 year

$4,000 max

180 days to 2 years

3rd offense +

Third degree felony or higher

2 to 10 years

$10,000 max

180 days to 2 years

In Texas, law enforcement officials take DWIs seriously. There is no "wash out" period like for many moving violations. In Texas, a DWI will stay on your driving record forever.

Because of the steep penalties, it can be tempting to just take a plea bargain for a lesser sentence in exchange for your guilty or no contest plea. Before pleading guilty or no contest to a DWI, you should fully understand the possible personal and professional consequences of a conviction.

Personal Consequences of a DWI

If you don't consult with an attorney, it can be hard to understand the full consequences of pleading guilty or no contest to a DWI aside from the penalties imposed by statute and a court of law. When you plead guilty or no contest, you give up your right to defend yourself despite the possible personal and professional consequences of a DWI.

  • Loans: A DWI can prevent you from obtaining a mortgage or even student loans, severely impacting the rest of your life.
  • Loss of Constitutional Rights: If convicted of a DWI felony or a DWI-related felony such as intoxication assault or intoxication manslaughter, you can lose some of your constitutional rights. You may lose the right to vote and your rights to purchase or own a firearm. Moreover, Texas bars felons from sitting on a jury. Once lost, you need a pardon for your crimes to regain your constitutional rights.
  • Child Custody: A DWI conviction can also affect child custody. Now, or in the future, the court can consider your conviction when determining the best interests of your children during a custody dispute.
  • Travel Restrictions: A DWI conviction can also prevent you from traveling to some countries such as Canada. A DWI can also affect an application for TSA Precheck and Global Entry, something frequent personal and business travelers consider essential.

Professional Consequences of a DWI

A DWI can affect your current job and your ability to find work in the future. Many jobs will require you to disclose felony convictions and other types of misdemeanor convictions. Even if you do not have a felony conviction, your future employers will probably run a criminal background check. When faced with a hiring decision between one person with a DWI conviction and another with a spotless criminal record, most employers will hire the person with no record.

Beyond being turned down for a job, if you have a professional license, a DWI can end your career. Affected professional licenses include:

Medical Licenses

In Texas, doctors must report both DWI convictions and arrests to the medical licensing board. While you may not automatically lose your medical license for a first non-felony DWI arrest, the medical board will initiate an investigation. The licensing board will investigate if there is any relationship between the DWI and your work conduct. The board is concerned if your DWI indicates any of the following:

  • Unprofessional conduct, including using alcohol or drugs;
  • Endangering a patient's life;
  • Addiction; or
  • Impairment to the point you could not have performed your professional duties.

Nursing Licenses

Nurses are also required to report DWI convictions to their licensing board. The Board of Nursing will investigate to determine if your DWI violates the Nursing Practice Act. Generally, any felony or misdemeanor that involves moral turpitude directly involved with the nursing profession is a violation of the NPA.

Pilot Licenses

Commercial and airline pilots must recertify their fitness to fly with medical certificates every six months to five years, depending on the classification. Recreational or flight instructors must recertify every two to five years. As part of this certification, you need to disclose any DWI convictions. The Federal Aviation Administration also mandates that you report any DWI arrest or license suspension. While there is no hard and fast rule about the penalties imposed for one arrest or conviction, two or more in three years will result in the denial of your aviation medical certificate.

CPA Licenses

In Texas, the Texas State Board of Public Accountancy governs license suspension and revocation for Texas CPAs when one violates the CPA Rules of Professional Conduct. These rules prohibit any conduct that would discredit the CPA profession. Discrediting conduct includes a criminal prosecution for alcohol abuse.

Teaching Licenses

The Texas Education Agency holds Texas educators to a high standard. Educator behavior is guided by the Texas Code of Ethics and Standard Practices for Texas Educators. A DWI conviction is a violation of this code of ethics. Moreover, lying about or failing to disclose a DWI conviction could be a separate violation, leading to disciplinary action and a loss of license.

Real Estate Licenses

To become a Texas realtor, you must meet the moral character requirements of the Texas Real Estate Commission (TREC) for honesty, integrity, and trustworthiness. You must disclose any criminal conviction, including a DWI, to the TREC. For a felony DWI conviction, the TREC may suspend or revoke your license, but a suspension is also possible with a misdemeanor DWI conviction.

Dental Licenses

The law requires dental professionals to disclose a DWI arrest or conviction to the Dental Board. If you fail to do so, many police departments notify the Dental Board if they have your fingerprints on file from your license application or renewal.

Security Clearance

If your job requires a security clearance, you can lose your clearance, or the government can deny a pending clearance application for offenses like a DWI. In many cases, if you lose your security clearance, you will lose your job.

Financial Industry

If you work in the financial industry as a registered representative, a criminal conviction can often prohibit you from working. Some financial institutions will not hire people with any criminal record.

Contact Our Houston DWI Business License Defense Attorney

If you are facing a DWI charge, you need skilled and aggressive representation, particularly if a conviction may affect your professional licensing. The attorneys at the Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C. are Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, an achievement very few Texas attorneys reach. Attorney Doug Murphy is also Board Certified in DWI Defense by the National College for DUI Defense. If you or someone you love faces professional repercussions from a DWI charge, call us at 713-229-8333 or contact us online.

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