DUI Laws in Texas

Drinking and driving in Texas DUI laws in Texas and the penalties you may face if you’re caught driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

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ARTICLE OVERVIEW: Have you been caught driving under the influence? You are not alone. Voluntary rehab can help. In this article, we’ll review the laws, penalties, and general legal procedures for DUI in Texas.



DUI = “driving under the influence”

DWI = “driving while intoxicated”

OWI = “operating while intoxicated”

What’s the difference?

When you’re arrested for a DUI or a DWI, it means the same thing in the state of Texas. Both acronyms describe a person who drives with a blood alcohol count, or a BAC, over the legal limit. If the police officer wrote a DWI on your ticket, they’re saying you were“driving while intoxicated”. [1]

In the state of Texas, these two terms are interchangeable. Both are referring to alcohol and drug-related driving incidents.

There’s often confusion between these two terms as people get the notion they have different meanings. In all fairness, some states will use a DUI when solely discussing alcohol and use DWI when talking about drugs.

BAC Limits

However, one thing is standard. Throughout the United States, the legal limit for those 21 or older is 0.08%. If you’re under 21, in the state of Texas, the legal limit is 0.01%.

It should be noted that there are certain rules to a BAC count in the Lone Star State. For example, if your BAC is 0.15% or higher, then you’ll receive a Class A misdemeanor rather than a Class B under the Texas Penal Code. [2] In turn, this will result in harsher penalties.

Sobriety Checkpoints

Standard sobriety checkpoints are illegal in the state of Texas, as they’ve been judged to be unconstitutional. The issue is whether or not this violates a citizen’s Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable search and seizure.

However, if a police officer has a reason to believe that a driver is intoxicated, that driver may be asked to take a sobriety test. If arrested, a driver may be given a blood test.

Sobriety checkpoints still exist in the state. They are usually in a highly visible location where a police officer will stop and inspect cars for impaired drivers. Checkpoints are usually set up on nights when people are expected to be drinking, such as Friday and Saturday. Generally, these are located in areas where people are expected to be partying, such as Dallas, Houston, or Austin.

Though police may not inspect all cars, they will inspect all suspicious looking vehicles. When an officer stops you, you can expect to be given a breathalyzer test to measure your blood alcohol content. This is because, in Texas, all drivers must abide by “complied consent” laws. Complied consent means that by driving, you “consent” to take these sobriety tests if arrested. So, if you are driving on the road, you have already given your consent.

While you may be able to refuse to take a blood test (except for in limited situations), it will result in the administrative suspension of your license. It is important to emphasize that police must possess a valid reason for conducting a test or arrest for DUI/DWI in Texas.

Legal Process

So, what happens an on-road comes back drunk or high? Or, what if you refuse a breathalyzer all together? To put it simply, you’ll be arrested and charged on the spot.

These charges will then be sent to the department of motor vehicles, where your license will most likely be suspended. From there, you’ll have to go to court on your specific date. The court will then penalize you under the circumstances of your charges. The most common penalties for DUI/DWI in Texas are:

  • Mandatory completion of DUI school
  • Mandatory use of an interlock ignition device
  • Delay in driver’s license return
  • Fine
  • Jail time

It should be noted that these convictions will be placed on your public record. This is to track charges and inform the court if you are charged again in the future. Penalties can be expected to worsen if you’re caught driving under the influence again.

Misdemeanor or Felony?

When you receive your first DUI in the state of Texas, you’ll be charged with a misdemeanor. The same is true for your second DUI. However, upon your third DUI, you can expect to receive a felony charge instead.

Also, just because it’s your first offense, doesn’t mean you’re automatically charged with a misdemeanor. There are cases where first-time offenders will receive a felony. For example, if someone is seriously injured from an accident caused by your DUI, then that’s automatically considered a felony.

The difference between the two charges is misdemeanor charges are usually small monetary fines and minimum jail time while a felony charge can result in large fines and a prison sentence. [3] Furthermore, felonies are much harder to expunge off your record in comparison to a misdemeanor.

1st DUI

Upon receiving your first DUI in the state of Texas, you’ll receive a misdemeanor and penalties. [4] These include:

  • A fine of up to $2,000
  • An annual surcharge of up to $2,000 for 3 years to keep your license
  • DUI School and Classes
  • DWI Intervention Program
  • Jail time of anywhere between 3 to 180 days
  • License suspension of up to 2 years
  • Potential ignition interlock device, IID

It should be noted, those who receive their first-offense DUI and are under the age of 21 will face different penalties from those above.

2nd DUI

Upon receiving your second DUI in the state of Texas, you’ll receive a misdemeanor and the following penalties:

  • A fine of up to $4,000
  • An annual surcharge of up to $2,000 for 3 years to keep your license
  • DUI School and Classes
  • DWI Intervention Program
  • Jail time of anywhere between 1 month and 1 year
  • License suspension of up to 2 years
  • Potential ignition interlock device, an IID

3rd DUI

Upon receiving your third DUI in the state of Texas, you’ll be charged with a felony and receiving the following penalties:

  • A fine of up to $10,000.
  • An annual surcharge of up to $2,000 for 3 years to keep your license
  • DUI School and Classes
  • DWI Intervention Program
  • License suspension of up to 2 years
  • Potential ignition interlock device, an IID
  • Prison time of anywhere between 2 to 10 years

Jail Time

As the above information reveals, jail time is a very real possibility when it comes to DUI in Texas. Even first time-offenders risk up to 180 days in jail. The amount of time you spend in jail depends on your DUI situation. The following are reasons why you might spend more time in jail in comparison to others:

  • Someone was seriously injured in an accident
  • You enter a plea bargain
  • You had a BAC of over 0.15%
  • You had a child in the car under the age of 13
  • You refused a sobriety checkpoint testing
  • You were driving well over the speed limit

If another person is killed in an accident due to your DUI, you will automatically be charged with a 2nd-degree felony under Chapter 12 of Texas Penal Code. [5] The penalties for this felony are as follows:

  • A fine of up to $10,000
  • A prison sentence of anywhere between 2 to 20 years.

In order to get a true sense of the amount of jail time you risk, you’re going to need to talk to a lawyer. A lawyer will know your situation and best be able to calculate the consequences which may follow.

Classes and DUI School

After receiving a DUI in Texas, you’ll most likely be required to attend DUI school and classes for a certain amount of time. It’s vital you know that online classes might not be eligible for completion in the state of Texas. In fact, they need to be approved before you enroll. It’s important you speak to someone on this matter first.

The purpose of DUI school is to inform you of the dangers of drinking and driving. It’s in Texas’s best interest to keep people from committing DUI crimes multiple times. Therefore, education is vital in keeping awareness around the community. You may also learn about the dangers of alcohol addiction and how to practice safe driving.

Typically, a first-time offender will need to complete up to 12 hours of DUI education classes. This will cost them just under $200. Depending on your situation, the judge may ask you to complete more or less time in a DUI school. [6] If so, the following are the prices for DUI classes in the state of Texas:

  • 8 Hour DUI Class – $139
  • 10 Hour DUI Class – $169
  • 12 Hour DUI Class – $189
  • 14 Hour DUI Class – $229
  • 16 Hour DUI Class – $269
  • 18 Hour DUI Class – $299
  • 20 Hour DUI Class – $329
  • 24 Hour DUI Class – $379
  • 32 Hour DUI Class – $479
  • 36 Hour DUI Class – $529
  • 45 Hour DUI Class – $589
  • 60 Hour DUI Class – $779

You also might need to attend a Victim Impact Panel. If so, this will cost you $55.

Statute of Limitations

In the Lone Star State, a DUI which results in a misdemeanor will have a statute of limitations for 2 years. A DUI which results in a felony will have a statute of limitations for 3 years. This means that if the state prosecutors don’t file a criminal charge within these limits, you’ll be free from prosecution. The purpose of this is to make sure eyewitness memory doesn’t weaken over time and evidence doesn’t deteriorate over time.

It should be noted, a statute of limitations DOES NOT mean a DUI charge will be erased from your record after the time has passed. In fact, within Texas, a DUI will stay on record indefinitely until you either expunge or erase it. This means that a court of law and employers will have access to this knowledge.


The truth is most people who receive a DUI or DWI in the state of Texas aren’t allowed to get it expunged. There are incidents where DUIs are expunged depending on your situation. These include:

  • A not guilty verdict
  • Case was deferred in accordance to Texas Law
  • Were arrested as a minor and only had a DUI offense as a minor

If you happen to fit one of the above scenarios, you’ll want to contact a lawyer in order to learn how to expunge a DUI off your record.

DUI Lawyer Costs

It should come as no surprise that a lawyer can be very expensive. If you’re currently considering one, you may want to reconsider. Depending on your situation, you may benefit from simply accepting the penalties. For example, if you’re a first time offender facing little jail time and a reasonable fine, a lawyer isn’t necessary.

More often than not, people only seek out a DUI lawyer if they’re facing a large amount of jail or prison time. An average lawyer will cost you around $2,500 while an experienced lawyer will cost you around $6,000. When considering this with other expenses – such as fines, license fees, DUI school, etc. – you’ll begin to notice why some people opt to just accept the penalties.

Is Rehab an Option?

Alcohol or drug rehabilitation is always a smart option. The truth of the matter is, you can look at your DUI as a wakeup call for a bigger problem at hand. This might be your opportunity to make a change that has long been waiting. Even if you must face criminal penalties for your DUI doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider reconstructing your life.

Still, as mentioned above, it’s in Texas’s best interest to help criminals. Therefore, you may want to seek out a Drug Court. These are specialized courts which stray away from traditional punishment and seek to rehabilitate you. Through these courts, instead of being penalized with jail time, you’ll be placed on probation and sent to a drug treatment facility.

It should be noted, not everyone will qualify for a drug court. For example, people who receive felonies for their DUI are automatically not allowed. You can speak to a lawyer to see where you stand.

Your Questions

If you have any further questions pertaining to DUI laws in the state of Texas, we invite you to ask them below. If you have any further information on Texas DUI laws, we’d also love to hear from you. We try to reply to each comment in a prompt and personal manner.

Reference Sources:[1] NHTSA: Drunk Driving
[2] Texas Constitution and Statutes: Home
[3] Justice.gov: Federal Laws vs. State Laws
[4] DMV.org: DUI & DWI in Texas
[5] Texas.gov: Penal Code Title 3. Chapter 12.
[6] DUI Law Center: Texas DWI Offender Classes Local & Online
About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.
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