Texas Drunk Driving Laws

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Drinking and driving is a serious crime in Texas. Each year there are approximately 90,000 arrests for driving under the influence in the Lone Star state. In addition, Texas leads the nation in drunk driving crashes and fatalities. Unlike a minor Texas traffic violation, a DUI conviction can haunt you for years to come.

What Is Considered Legally Drunk In Texas

The Texas Alcohol and Beverage Commission further defines intoxication as “not having the normal use of mental or physical faculties by reason of the introduction of alcohol, a controlled substance, a drug, a dangerous drug, a combination of two or more of those substances, or any other substance into the body.” In the simplest terms, driving under the influence is defined as operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. For drivers in Texas, if you operate a vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.8% or higher, you are considered legally drunk and can be arrested.

Penalties for Drunk Driving in Texas

Texas is an implied consent state, which means if you are pulled over for suspicion of driving under the influence, you are required to comply with a request for a chemical test. If you don’t, your license can be suspended for up to 180 days on the spot.

Even on your first drunk driving offense in Texas, you can face hefty fines, jail time, and a suspended driver’s license. In addition, Texas requires drivers to pay an annual surcharge, on top of their traffic ticket fine, as part of their restitution for their crime.

Here’s a breakdown of the punishments for up to 3 DUI convictions:

First Offense

  • Class B Misdemeanor
  • Fine: up to $2,000
  • Jail time: 72 hours up to 6 months
  • License suspension: up to 1 year
  • Annual surcharge: $1,000 for 3 years

Second Offense

  • Class A Misdemeanor
  • Fine: up to $4,000
  • Jail time: 30 days up to 1 year
  • License suspension: up to 2 years
  • Annual surcharge: $1,500 for 3 years

Third Offense

  • Third Degree Felony
  • Fine: up to $10,000
  • Jail time: 2 10 years
  • License suspension: up to 2 years
  • Annual surcharge: $2,000 for 3 years

Keep in mind that this is just the beginning of your troubles. A DUI conviction can also include additional court fees, possible attorney’s fees, court ordered classes, higher insurance rates, and license reinstatement fees.

Drivers Under 21

Just as Texas adheres to the national standard of .08% BAC for adults over 21, the state also follows the zero tolerance policy for minors. Any driver under the age of 21 can be arrested for DUI if their BAC is .02% or higher while they are operating a moving vehicle.

Driving With a Child Passenger

Putting yourself at risk is one thing, but driving under the influence with a child under the age of 15 in the car is a felony in Texas. Punishment will include a minimum jail term of 180 days and a maximum of 2 years. Think that’s bad? You could be faced with a fine of up to $10,000!

Alcohol Education Course

As part of your license reinstatement process after a DUI conviction in Texas, you will be required to fulfill an alcohol teaching and prevention program. This type of course is different from a Texas ticket dismissal course. The course option may be suggested as a way to avoid certain fines or to eliminate or shorten a jail sentence.

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