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Texas DUI and Underage DWI—What’s the Difference?

Some states call getting arrested drunk driving “DUI” (driving under the influence) and others “DWI” (driving while intoxicated). In Texas, we use both terms but for difference cases. Both charges can result in a license suspension but with less time for the DUI suspension than the DWI.

DUI is used solely for those under the age of twenty-one who have any trace of alcohol in their system up to and including .07 percent blood alcohol content (BAC). Underage drinking is illegal, so unlike a regular DWI where the BAC limit is .08 percent, even a trace of alcohol is enough to result in an underage suspect being handcuffed and arrested and his or her car towed. Drunk-driving minors can be taken to a county jail or police station and offered a breath or blood test.

However, if a driver who is under the age of twenty-one has a BAC of .08 percent or more, he or she can be charged with DWI and face the same penalties as an adult would.

Texas takes both of these offenses seriously, and the penalties are steep. A DWI conviction can affect your job, college and housing prospects, insurance rates, and your finances for years to come. That being said, it is more difficult to prove a DWI or DUI than it is to accuse you of it. We see this every day at our defense law firm, and we can help if you’re facing charges.

DUI

A first-time DUI conviction means a class C misdemeanor with up to a $500 fine, license suspension, community service, and required alcohol education courses meant to deter a repeat performance. Additional convictions lead to steeper penalties, as do the following related offenses the underage drunk driver can face, such as buying, possessing, and consuming alcohol; public drunkenness; and lying about his or her age. Underage drunk drivers can also get others arrested for furnishing them alcohol as minors.

First DUI Offense

  • Class C misdemeanor
  • Fine up to $500
  • Alcohol awareness class
  • 20–40 hours community service
  • License suspension lasting up to 60 days

Second DUI Offense

  • Class C misdemeanor
  • Fine up to $500
  • Alcohol awareness class
  • 40–60 hours community service
  • License suspension lasting up to 120 days

Third or Subsequent DUI Offense

  • Not eligible for deferred adjudication
  • Over the age of eighteen can result in 180 days in jail
  • Fine between $500 and $2,000
  • Possible license suspension and the installation of an ignition interlock device

Underage DWI

A minor charged with DWI will be facing the same penalties as an adult in the same situation would. Punishment for DWI increases along with the number of convictions.

First DWI Offense

  • Max fine of $2,000\
  • Jail time of between three and 180 days
  • License suspension of up to one year
  • Annual fee of $1,000 or $2,000 for three years to keep drivers license

Second DWI Offense

  • Max fine of $4,000
  • Jail time of between one and 12 months
  • License suspension of up to two years
  • Annual fee of $1,000, $1,500, or $2,000 for three years to keep drivers license

Third or Subsequent DWI Offense

  • Max fine of $10,000
  • Prison time of between two and 10 years
  • License suspension of up to two years
  • Annual fee of $1,000, $1,500, or $2,000 for three years to keep drivers license

How to Protect Yourself from Drunk Driving Charges

You can always refer to this website’s quick online test, the eponymous Blood Alcohol Calculator to help you estimate how much alcohol your body can handle in one sitting. And you can educate yourself about the effects of drinking with the Blood Alcohol Education Course.

If you have already been charged with a drinking and driving offense in Texas, the good news is that a skilled defense lawyer can often get these charges reduced or dropped. Certain procedures have to be followed, and the equipment used has to be properly maintained. Many variable affect the accuracy of the readings as well. Click here if you’ve been arrested for failing a sobriety test.

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