Drunk Driving Laws in the Lone Star State

There’s no shortage of country music lyrics that support having a nice, cold drink after a long, hard day of work. But no matter how hard you worked or how much you earned that post-work drink with your buddies, nothing ever justifies getting behind the wheel of a car when you’ve had one too many. Here in Texas, we’re sadly not getting that message.

In 2014, Texas had the unfortunate distinction of being the state with the most drunk driving-related deaths in the country, and the numbers that back this up are pretty upsetting. According to the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility, 1,446 people died in Texas in drunk driving accidents in 2014, and 193 of those involved a drunk driver under the age of 21. Additionally, the foundation estimates that 70% of drunk drivers who caused fatal accidents had a BAC (blood-alcohol concentration) of 0.15 or higher (for comparison, the legal limit is 0.08), and every one of these drivers had prior offenses on their record.

Breakin’ the Law

So what is Texas doing to try and curb such widespread, dangerous behavior on the part of its drivers? With the influence of advocacy groups like MADD, Texas has enacted some pretty comprehensive anti-drunk driving laws in an attempt to punish those who do drive drunk and keep them off the road, and deter would-be drunk drivers from making such a dangerous, irresponsible decision:

DWI vs. DUI

Texas has two alcohol-related criminal charges for drivers: DWI and DUI. So what’s the difference, other than their name? Really, the main difference is related to the age of the driver. DWI stands for Driving While Intoxicated, and it’s a criminal charge that’s assigned to adults who are 21 and over who are arrested for driving with a BAC greater than the legal limit of 0.08. Pretty cut and dry. Adults who are charged with a DWI can face a range of potential penalties, including:

  • Fines
  • Imprisonment, even for first time offenders
  • Loss of driving privileges (temporary or permanent)
  • Community service
  • DWI education programs
  • Higher insurance premiums
  • Installation of driver ignition interlock device in a vehicle

DUI, on the other hand, stands for Driving Under the Influence, and is a charge reserved for individuals under the age of 21 who are driving with ANY detectable amount of alcohol in their system. Texas is a “Zero Tolerance” state, which means if you’re not 21, you can’t have any alcohol in your system when you’re behind the wheel of a car. Even if your BAC clocks in at 0.01, you are looking at DUI charges. Individuals charged with DUI can face:

  • A year of license suspension
  • Community service
  • Mandatory alcohol education programs
  • Fines

An important note when it comes to underage drinkers—if a minor is pulled over and their BAC exceeds the legal limit of 0.08, the arresting officer can make the choice to charge them with either DUI or DWI, which comes with much more serious potential penalties.

All of the penalties associated with DUI and DWI will increase based on extenuating circumstances, like the presence of other people in the car, the presence of a child in the car, and whether or not the driver caused an accident that injured or killed another person. Additionally, penalties increase significantly for each repeat DUI or DWI offense on a person’s record.

Despite the best of intentions of law makers and law enforcement officers, drunk drivers continue to be a threat on roadways throughout Texas, and Houston is sadly no exception. If you or someone you love has been injured in an accident caused by an intoxicated driver, our team of dedicated DWI lawyers at Chenkin Law Firm want to help you see that justice is served and that the responsible party is held accountable for their inexcusable actions behind the wheel. Give us a call at (800) 721-7472 to find out what our aggressive team is prepared to do to defend your rights and help you pursue justice.

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