Texas DWI Laws and Penalties [2024 Updated]

03 May 2024
Greco Neyland, PC

Driving while intoxicated (DWI) is a crime that can have lasting effects on your future if you are arrested and charged. You may feel that having a couple of drinks and heading home is no big deal. If you are pulled over and tested, the police may feel otherwise. After being arrested for a DWI, it is important that you understand the Texas DWI laws and penalties and then speak to a DWI lawyer.

What Will Happen If I Am Pulled Over for a DWI?

Texas state law prohibits the operation of a motor vehicle while the driver is intoxicated or high. The penalties for being caught driving a vehicle while intoxicated can be severe, especially if you are a repeat offender. An experienced DWI lawyer can help you figure out your most effective defense and provide you with any options you may have.

When you are pulled over for a suspected DWI, your interaction with the police will likely go a predictable route. If you notice the lights behind you, you should always pull over. If you try to evade the police, all you will do is turn a bad situation into a much worse situation. Even if you know you are drunk, pull over anyway.

The officer will ask for your license, which you should provide. They will likely then ask you to take a breathalyzer test, which you are allowed to refuse, but not without consequences. A breathalyzer analyzes the alcohol content present in your blood. Anything above 0.08% blood alcohol content is considered intoxicated.

Since Texas is an “implied consent” state, it is assumed that by obtaining a driver’s license and driving your car on state-funded roads, you are consenting to a breathalyzer test automatically. If you refuse to take the test, your license will automatically be suspended for 180 days. If this is your second or third offense, your license will be suspended for two years. The police can also just arrest you for failing to comply, and then make you take the test anyway.

If you consent to the breathalyzer test, the officer may then make you take a field sobriety test. This means that you will step out of your car and perform a series of tests to prove to the officer whether you are sober or drunk. Some of these tests include:

  • One-Leg Stand: You will stand on one leg and count out loud for about 30 seconds. This will test your balance. If you are drunk, you will likely not be able to maintain your balance for that long.
  • Walk and Turn: You will take a total of nine steps along a nonexistent line, then turn and take nine steps back. These steps must be taken heel-to-toe. You will keep your arms at your sides and count the steps out loud for yourself and the officer. If you lose your balance, mess up the count, or stop walking, it will be assumed that you are intoxicated.


For non-minors upon a first offense DWI, the penalties may include:

  • A fine of up to $2,000.
  • A jail sentence between three days and 180 days.
  • A suspension of your driver’s license for up to two years.
  • An ignition interlock device that requires you to breathe into it to start the car. If you’re drunk, the device won’t let you start the car.

Upon a second offense, the penalties rise:

  • A fine of up to $4,000.
  • A jail sentence between one month and one year.
  • A suspension of your license for up to two years.
  • An ignition interlock device.

Upon a third defense, the penalties get worse:

  • A fine of up to $10,000.
  • A prison sentence between two years and 10 years.
  • A suspension of your license for up to two years.
  • A DWI education program.
  • An ignition interlock device.


Q: What Are the Penalties for a DWI in Texas?

A: The penalties for a DWI in Texas depend largely on the circumstances surrounding your arrest. The factors that are taken into consideration include whether or not this was your first offense and whether there was a minor in the car with you. Penalties can range from hefty fines to a suspension of your license, significant jail time, a breathalyzer device being attached to your car, and a DWI education program.

Q: What Are the New DWI Laws in Texas?

A: One of the more recent DWI laws went into effect in Texas in September 2023. The law, called Bentley’s Law, requires drunk drivers to pay up to 18 years of automatic child support if their drunken actions lead to the death of that child’s parent or guardian. According to the law, payment would begin upon the driver’s release from prison and will continue until the child is 18 years old.

Q: Is Jail Time Mandatory for a First Offense DWI in Texas?

A: No, jail time is not mandatory for a first offense DWI in Texas. However, it may be taken into consideration if the situation is serious enough to warrant jail time. For example, if the drunk driver’s actions led to the death of someone else, jail time will likely be considered a just and appropriate punishment. Typically, a first offense would see you pay a fine, possibly serve brief jail time, and likely land you with probation.

Q: Do You Permanently Lose Your License for a First DWI in Texas?

A: No, you will not permanently lose your license for a first DWI in Texas. You will likely have your license suspended for up to one year, but it could be less. If you repeat your actions with many further DWIs, you will likely see your driver’s license permanently revoked. You may also face a fine of up to $2,000 and jail time of up to 180 days for a first offense.

Reach Out to a DWI Lawyer Today

Facing a DWI charge can be embarrassing and somewhat intimidating. It is important to have someone in your corner who knows how to handle your case and understands your plight. The legal team at Greco Neyland can be there for you, providing you with sound legal counsel and the opportunity to build a defense. Contact us to schedule a consultation as soon as you can.

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