It is a common refrain that the penalties for a first-offense driving while intoxicated (DWI) conviction are limited. Some believe that a first-offense DWI could happen to anyone, and the corresponding penalties reflect that. While it is true that in most cases you generally do not face additional jail time following a first-offense DWI conviction although it is permitted by law, the consequences related to a DWI conviction are significant.
If you have been arrested for DWI in Houston for the first time, it is important that you receive guidance from an experienced Houston DWI attorney. To discuss the pitfalls of a first-offense DWI and to learn why it is important to fight the charge, contact the Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C.
The Consequences of a First-Offense DWI Conviction in Houston TX
There are countless reasons why a DWI conviction is a big deal, even in the case of a first offense in Houston. While some of these consequences stem directly from the statute, others are collateral consequences that may come as a surprise to you. Some of the effects of a first offense DWI conviction are discussed below.
A Conviction Carries up to 180 Days in Jail
A first offense DWI in Houston is charged as a Class B Misdemeanor. If found guilty, the court could sentence you to a maximum sentence of 180 days. Additionally, the judge could also assess a fine of up to $2,000.
Remember, these are maximum penalties. For most first-time offenders, additional jail time is uncommon. However, there is no guarantee that you will not face time behind bars if you are convicted. In addition to these penalties, you could also face even more significant consequences depending on the nature of your arrest.
You Could Be Charged in Houston with a Felony DWI
In some cases, you could face felony DWI charges for a first-time DWI. Most of the time a DWI arrest will not result in a felony unless there are at least two prior convictions. However, some circumstances can enhance a DWI charge to a felony when there is an accident with serious bodily injury or a death involved. This is especially true when a DWI charge results from an accident.
If you are charged with DWI that involves a car accident, it could be a felony charge if anyone was seriously injured in the crash. A felony charge can be brought if a DWI crash causes a serious bodily injury to another person. A bodily injury is serious when it results in disfigurement, impairment, or it creates a high risk of death. Known as intoxication assault, these cases are treated as third-degree felonies that carry a prison sentence between two and ten years.
If a DWI involves a fatal vehicle accident, you could be charged with intoxication manslaughter. Intoxication manslaughter is a felony in the second degree. A conviction will result in a prison sentence of between 2 and 20 years. It could also include a maximum fine of $10,000. A case of intoxication manslaughter could be charged if a drunk driving accident result s in death. This is true regardless of when the death happens. Whether the death occurs at the scene of the accident or if a person succumbs to their injuries after months of failed treatment, a death can lead to intoxication manslaughter.
DWI with a Child Passenger
Finally, there are also major implications for anyone that drives drunk with a minor under 15 years of age in the car. While this is a separate charge from DWI, the facts of the two cases are inevitably intertwined. DWI with a child passenger is a state jail felony. A conviction will result in 180 days to 2 years behind bars. Under any of these aggravating circumstances, guidance from the right Houston DWI defense attorney could go a long way.
You Could Lose your Driving Privileges in Texas
There are technically two proceedings you will face following an arrest for your first DWI. The first is your criminal case that could result in jail time or fines. The second, however, involves an administrative hearing regarding your right to drive.
Within the 15 days following your arrest for DWI, you must request an administrative hearing in order to keep your driver's license. If you fail to do this, your license will be suspended automatically before you are ever convicted of anything at trial. This suspension could cost you your driver's license for as many as 180 days. Much like with a criminal trial, driver's license suspension hearings are winnable with the right legal counsel.
Your Work Life in Houston Could Suffer
There are many aspects of your life that could be impacted by a DWI conviction. For certain professions, a conviction could be a career-ending occurrence. Every employer is different, however. While some might have leniency for a first-time offender, others could have a strict policy against DWI arrests.
The first major impact a conviction could have is the risk it represents to anyone with a professional license. Most professional licenses have morals clauses or specific language about DWI convictions. In many cases, a conviction could result in the cancellation of your professional license. These licenses could involve anything from a medical license to a pilot's license.
A first-offense DWI may also impact your military career. Many people in the military require a certain level of security clearance. If you are updating your information or applying for an extension for your security clearance, a conviction for DWI could be a problem.
Generally speaking, too, a DWI conviction can be harmful to any type of employment or employment search because it results in a criminal record. For many employers, this is a liability and reliability issue, and as such, they'll pass over your application for another candidate.
Doug Murphy can Help with a First-Offense DWI Charge in Houston
There are a host of reasons to fight back against DWI charges – even for first-time offenders. Your freedom and your career could be at stake, and a conviction for DWI could have enormous consequences for each of them.
Taking on a Houston DWI case is too complex on your own. It is in your best interest to not only have an attorney on your side but to select one that has prevailed at trial on these types of cases. Attorney Doug Murphy is a Board Certified expert in both criminal defense law and DWI defense law. In fact, he is currently one of the only two Texas attorneys to hold both certifications. To discuss your options in further detail, reach out to Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C. today at (713) 229-8333.