What’s the Difference Between DUI vs DWI in Texas?

If you’re old enough to drive, you’ve certainly heard the terms DUI and DWI before. They have similar meanings, although the nuances of each vary. The basic gist is that you cannot operate your car while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. 

If you are charged with DWI, you are facing fines, loss of your license, and even prison or jail time depending on your prior record. Read on to clarify a DUI vs. DWI in Texas to make sure you are in compliance with all Texas traffic laws. 

What Is a DUI? 

You might hear people use DUI and DWI interchangeably, and in some areas, that’s ok. However, in Texas, they are two different offenses. 

A DUI offense, or driving under the influence, is often called a DUIA offense. This stands for driving under the influence of alcohol. Only minors (those under the age of 21) can be charged with DUI in Texas. This is because minors under 21 cannot drive with any alcohol in their system. 

If they are pulled over and are found to have a blood alcohol content (BAC) of any percentage, they can be charged with DUI. Adults, on the other hand, can have alcohol in their system while driving, as long as their BAC is less than .08. 

Because those under the age of 21 are not permitted to drink legally, they may not have any alcohol in their system while operating a vehicle. It doesn’t matter if the driver is impaired or not. The presence of any alcohol in their system is illegal. 

What Is a DWI?

DWI, or driving while intoxicated, occurs when a driver has a BAC of .08 or higher. When the BAC is .08 or higher, you are considered legally intoxicated and should not be operating a motor vehicle (or boat, airplane, or any other motorized vehicle).

DWI includes operating any vehicle without the “normal use of mental and physical faculties due to alcohol or drugs.” It’s important to note that DWI encompasses intoxication from both alcohol and drugs. 

DUI and DWI Penalties 

DUIs in Texas are misdemeanors and first and second DWIs are misdemeanors, but the third offense is a felony. The penalties reflect this difference. 

DUI Penalties 

A DUI is a less serious offense and is classified as a Class C misdemeanor in Texas. If you are under the age of 17, you will face the following penalties: 

  • No jail time
  • Maximum fine of $500
  • 20 to 40 hours of community service 
  • Alcohol education class (your parent may have to attend)
  • 60-day license suspension 

If you are between the ages of 17 and 20, the penalties are significantly more punitive, as the offense is a Class B misdemeanor. Penalties include: 

  • Maximum of $2000 fine
  • 72 to 180 days in jail
  • One-year license suspension 

For subsequent offenses, the penalties increase. For a second offense, penalties are similar, but the license suspension is anywhere from 180 days to two years. 

A third offense DUI is considered “delinquent conduct by a minor” and includes similar punishments. 

DWI Penalties 

A first DWI offense is a Class B misdemeanor. The possible punishment can include: 

  • A maximum fine of $2000
  • Jail for between 72 hours and 180 days 
  • Driver’s license suspension for a minimum of 90 days and a maximum of one year

The second offense is a Class A misdemeanor and comes with a larger fine (up to $4000), more time in jail (30 days up to one year), and a longer license suspension (180 days to two years). 

A third or subsequent offense is elevated to a third-degree felony. The biggest difference is in the fine and the potential prison time. For your third DWI offense, you could be facing a fine of up to $10,000 and a prison term of two years to up to ten years. You’ll also have your license suspended for up to two years. 

Intoxication Assault 

Beyond DWI, you can also be charged for more serious offenses associated with driving while intoxicated, including intoxication assault. You can be charged with this if you seriously injure someone while you are driving intoxicated. It’s automatically a third-degree felony, even if it’s your first offense. 

Penalties are the same as they are for your third DWI offense, which is also charged as a third-degree felony. 

Intoxication Manslaughter

Intoxication manslaughter, which occurs when you are driving while intoxicated and kill someone, is a second-degree felony, punishable by: 

  • A fine of up to $10,000
  • Prison for two to 20 years 
  • License suspension for 180 days to two years 

There are also mandatory fines associated with DWIs in Texas, such as: 

  • $3000 for the first DWI 
  • $4500 for any subsequent DWI within 36 months
  • $6000 for anyone with a BAC of .15% or higher

What to Do After a DWI or DUI 

If you are charged with either a DUI or a DWI in Texas, you should contact an attorney, like this Houston DWI lawyer. An experienced attorney knows the process, knows the laws, and can help defend your rights. 

Even if you end up pleading guilty, they can help negotiate a lesser sentence for you. Don’t try to navigate the criminal justice process on your own. 

DUI vs. DWI in Texas 

Now that you understand a bit more about DUI vs. DWI in Texas, you should have a better understanding of the law and the possible penalties you may face if you are charged with one of these offenses.

Your best option for avoiding these charges is to always designate a driver or take a taxi or rideshare service if you find that you’ve had too much to drink (or anything to drink if you’re under the age of 21). 

If you found this article helpful, be sure to check out more of our legal articles before you go.