Driving while impaired by alcohol or drugs poses a significant threat to public safety, but the cost of driving under the influence in Texas can easily reach $10,000 or more for a first-time offender. From fines, bail, and court costs to paying for insurance and your driver’s license reinstatement, costs for drunk driving add up quickly. Brad says, “The long and short of it is that a DWI conviction in Texas is expensive. There are also the implicit costs of a DWI conviction, such as lost wages for time spent in court or while completing required community service.” Laws in our state provide multiple methods to prove that a driver is intoxicated. There are several ways you can be convicted of driving under the influence; not just drunk driving.
Driving While Impaired, or DWI
In general, driving while intoxicated or impaired cases are built upon police officer observations of a driver’s behavior. If an officer can provide testimony to show the driver was operating the vehicle while impaired, the driver can be convicted of a DWI. Police officers commonly ask drivers to perform field sobriety tests to determine whether they are intoxicated. These often involve tests of balance, memory, and eye movement, as well as preliminary breathalyzer tests. An officer’s testimony as to how the driver performed under these tests can be used as evidence against the driver.
Driving Under the Influence, or DUI
Beyond the observations officers make of drivers, drunk driving cases can also be based on tests designed to determine how much alcohol drivers have in their system. This is often referred to as driving under the influence and is probably the most common scenario in which someone is arrested for and convicted of drunk driving. It is also known as “per se” DUI, or “legal limit” DUI because it has nothing to do with an officer’s evaluation. Per se DUI involves law enforcement officers testing a driver’s blood alcohol content (BAC). If the driver’s BAC is above a specific threshold, 0.08%, the state does not have to show additional evidence to convict that person of drunk driving.
Under 21 DUI
Because people under the age of 21 are not legally allowed to drink, they face stricter laws when it comes to drunk driving. The threshold in all states for drivers under the legal drinking age is much lower than the threshold for those of legal drinking age. Most states impose somewhere between a 0.00% to 0.02% BAC threshold for drivers under 21.
As with drivers under the age of 21, commercial drivers are held to a stricter standard under state drunk driving laws. Most states have laws that impose a 0.04% BAC threshold to drivers operating a commercial vehicle. Additionally, commercial drivers can face a suspension of their commercial driver’s license if convicted of a DUI when operating a noncommercial vehicle.
The majority of states have adopted drunk driving laws that impose harsher penalties against drivers who have a high BAC, such as increased jail time, longer license suspensions, or higher fines.
Some states impose specific amounts of different drugs that can be in a person’s system, while other states have adopted so-called “zero tolerance” laws that make it a crime to operate a vehicle with any presence of prohibited drugs. Unfortunately, there is currently no test to measure the amount of drugs in a driver’s system.
Financial Repercussions of Drunk or Drugged Driving
Any conviction of driving a motor vehicle while intoxicated is expensive. The reason why DUI offenses are so financially draining is because of the obvious danger that is present whenever an individual is driving under the influence of alcohol, and the need to try and deter individuals from drinking and driving. These are some of the costs associated with a drunk or drugged driving charge.
- Criminal fines for DUI can range from a few hundred dollars to several thousands of dollars.
- A sentence that includes incarceration is possible in any DUI case, including first offenses. Some states require brief mandatory jail sentences. While not all DUI sentences include incarceration penalties, those that do can require as little as one day in jail for first-time offenders, or as long as several years in a state prison for felony or repeat drunk driving offenders.
- Anyone convicted or charged with a DUI faces restricted driving penalties. First-time offenders can have their licenses suspended for as little as 30 days, while suspensions of 90 days or more are common. Repeat offenders can face multi-year suspensions or even permanent revocation of driving privileges.
- Many states allow for temporary or even permanent seizures or confiscation of a DUI offender’s vehicle.
- Every state has laws that allow (or require) the installation of an ignition interlock device for people convicted of drunk driving. Interlock devices test a driver’s BAC and prevent the car from starting if it is too high.
- DUI sentences can require drivers to participate in alcohol assessment or treatment programs. The cost of these is the driver’s responsibility.
- Probation is typically an option in most DUI cases, though it may be imposed in addition to a jail sentence. Probation sentences typically last one year or more, and failing to comply with the probation terms can result in extended probation sentences, additional fines, or jail time.
- Deferred prosecution, also known as diversion, is similar to probation. If the state agrees to a diversion program, the accused is required to comply with a range of probation-like terms for a specific period of time, typically a year or more.
Brad says, “It’s really simple. Make sure you have a designated driver. If you are out having a good time and over-imbibe, call a cab or take an Uber. It will save lives on the road and thousands of dollars in legal costs.”