A night out on the town in Houston with friends can wind up being a lot more costly than you had hoped if you are arrested for driving while intoxicated (DWI). While it's no secret that a DWI conviction can lead to substantial jail time and even cost you your driver's license, you also face the possibility of a substantial fine if you are convicted. And while typically first-time offenders are given lighter sentences than serial offenders, the maximum fine for a first-time DWI is still substantial.
Your best bet in avoiding costly fines and fees associated with a DWI is to avoid being convicted in the first place. That may sound easier said than done, but the truth is Texas DWI cases are defensible. Skilled and talented defense attorneys prevail at trial on DWI cases every day, and you may be able to obtain the same result depending on the circumstances of your case.
Beating a DWI charge in Houston starts with hiring the right DWI defense attorney. Attorney Doug Murphy is recognized as one of Houston's best DWI lawyers. Doug Murphy is a board certified expert in both DWI law and criminal defense law, he is one of only two attorneys in the state to hold such a distinction. If you are ready to discuss how to beat your Texas DWI charge, contact the Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C. today.
What counts as a DWI under Texas law?
In order to be fined for a DWI charge, you must be first be convicted by a judge or jury of your peers. The prosecutor in your case will have to prove one of two things to obtain a conviction in addition to other standard DWI elements:
- That you lacked the normal use of mental or physical faculties due to the introduction of alcohol, a controlled substance, a drug, a dangerous drug, a combination of two or more substances, or any other substance in the body; or
- That you had a breath or blood alcohol concentration that exceeds the legal limit of .08 percent.
This means that you can be convicted of DWI for either having a high blood alcohol concentration (BAC), or you can be convicted due to the loss of your mental or physical faculties caused by a foreign substance. It is possible that you can be convicted for DWI in cases in which your BAC is below the legal limit, or even in cases where you refused to submit a sample at all.
The Fine for a First Offense DWI in Texas
If you are convicted of a first offense DWI in Texas, your potential fine must fit within a range specified by statute. A first offense DWI carries a maximum fine of up to $2,000.
While you will typically face a fine for a DWI conviction, it won't necessary be for the maximum. In fact, the court can choose to simply sentence you to jail and avoid a fine altogether. It is also possible that some or all of your fine is probated, meaning that as long as you meet certain requirements after your conviction you will not be required to pay.
Other Potential Costs of a DWI Case
The fines for a first offense DWI conviction can be a lot for many Texans. However, fines only represent a fraction of the potential costs you could face during a DWI case. Some of the other economic costs of a Texas DWI include:
Court Costs and Restitution
In addition to your fines for DWI conviction, the court may also order that you pay court costs and restitution. Court costs involve you paying for what it cost the State to prosecute your own case. Court costs vary from court to court, but can end up costing hundreds of dollars.
If you damaged the property of another person while driving under the influence, you may be required to reimburse that person as a part of your sentence. Restitution involves pay for the medical bills or property damage repair costs that you were ultimately responsible for.
Administrative Fees and Costs
One of the most costly aspects of a DWI conviction are the costs related to getting your license back after your suspension ends. The most severe of these charges is the license surcharge fee, which includes payments of thousands of dollars over the course of three years. These surcharge fees are mandatory if you want your license back. If the court requires you to install an ignition interlock device in your vehicle, you will also be responsible for those costs as well. An ignition interlock device is a device installed in your vehicle that requires you to give a breath sample before you can turn on your vehicle. If the interlock device detects any hint of alcohol on your breath, your vehicle will not start.
Increased Insurance Rates
After a DWI conviction, your car insurance rates will likely spike. The state may require you to provide proof of insurance to get your license back, and a DWI conviction will label you as a high-risk driver. Because of your prior conviction, your insurer is likely to charge you higher premiums than before.
Impound and Towing Costs
Another cost that might not immediately cross your mind is the impound and towing costs for your vehicle. When you are arrested for DWI, law enforcement has to do something with your vehicle other than leave it on the side of the road. Your vehicle is therefore towed and impounded, and it will not be released to you until you pay the bill. Towing can cost up to $500, and impound is often approximately $20 per day.
Hiring an Attorney
Finally, you will need to prepare for the cost of hiring an attorney to defend you in court. Legal fees vary from attorney to attorney, but in most cases a DWI defense attorney will cost you thousands before your case is completed.
An Experienced DWI Defense Attorney is Worth Every Penny
Hiring a skilled DWI defense attorney isn't a cost, it's an investment in regaining your freedom and your reputation. Your best chance at staying out of jail and avoiding the high costs associated with a DWI conviction come from hiring the best DWI defense lawyer available. If you have been arrested for DWI in Houston, contact the Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C. for your free consultation.