Out-of-State DWI Can Follow You Back to TexasYou may be familiar with the Texas laws regarding driving while intoxicated, but what happens if you are charged and convicted for DWI in another state? Do the penalties from another state also apply in Texas? What if you are a visitor to Texas who is charged with DWI? Your criminal case would take place in the state where you are charged. If convicted, you could pay fines and serve jail time in that state. However, some DWI penalties, such as a driver’s license suspension, can be transferred to your home state.

Interstate Compact

Texas is one of 45 states that are members of the Driver License Compact Commission. Participating states agree to share information about any traffic violations and convictions with the subject’s home state. A state court’s authority is limited to your activities within that state. Thus, it cannot suspend your driving privileges within another state. With the Interstate Compact, your home state will know about your DWI arrest or conviction and has agreed to suspend your license as if you committed the offense in your home state.

Penalties in Texas

Texas has an automatic administrative license suspension of 90 to 180 days if you are arrested on suspicion of DWI. You can attend an administrative hearing to contest your suspension, even if your arrest took place outside of Texas. If you are convicted, your license will be suspended:

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Differences Between Juvenile, Adult Court in DUI CaseThe top concern for a youth charged with driving under the influence of alcohol is to prevent that charge from ruining his or her life. A criminal record could limit his or her options when going to college or looking for a job. Spending time in jail is a jarring experience that may do more to traumatize a youth than rehabilitate him or her. In Texas, the age of a youth charged with DUI makes a significant difference. A juvenile court hears DUI cases for defendants age 16 and younger, while defendants age 17 to 20 are tried as adults.

Juvenile System

A DUI charge for someone age 16 or younger is a class C misdemeanor, which is punishable by:

  • A maximum $500 fine;
  • A minimum 60-day driver’s license suspension;
  • 20 to 40 hours of community service; and
  • Required completion of an alcohol awareness course.

The goal of the juvenile court system is to rehabilitate the youths it convicts without hindering their ability to be healthy adults. Juvenile records are automatically sealed from most background checks and can be permanently sealed if the person does not receive any more criminal charges. A juvenile court is unlikely to sentence a defendant to jail time, even if the juvenile had enough alcohol in his or her system to qualify for a charge of driving while intoxicated.

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Prosecutors Predict Increase in New Year's Weekend DWI ArrestsTexas Department of Public Safety troopers made 400 arrests for suspicion of driving while intoxicated during the Christmas and New Year’s weekends last year. Local and state law enforcement always anticipate an increase in DWI incidents during holidays, but prosecutors believe there may be even more arrests than normal because of the day of the week that New Year’s Day falls on. Having the weekend followed by New Year’s Eve on Monday and New Year’s Day on Tuesday could mean a long weekend of drinking leading up to the holiday.

How Police Prepare

Local police departments often use public information campaigns to educate people about the dangers of drunk driving and the potential consequences if you are caught. For a major holiday, they prepare for an increased number of drunk drivers by increasing their own enforcement efforts:

  • More police officers are on patrol, watching for drunk drivers on roads they are most likely to use;
  • More prosecutors are available to advise officers on whether there is probable cause to make a DWI arrest;
  • More judges are on call to issue blood warrants, which require you to submit to a blood alcohol concentration test; and
  • More nurses are available to draw blood samples to be tested.

Law enforcement sometimes sets up DWI checkpoints, where officers stop all drivers to check for signs of intoxication. However, Texas has not authorized DWI checkpoints because they subject drivers to a search without establishing reasonable suspicion of committing a crime.

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Lawsuit Claims Texas's Driver Responsibility Program Unfair to Low-Income OffendersThe Austin Community Law Center has filed a lawsuit against the state of Texas, challenging the state’s Driver Responsibility Program that levies fines against drivers whose licenses have been suspended for violations such as driving while intoxicated. The lawsuit, filed in conjunction with the national civil rights organization Equal Justice Under the Law, claims that the DRP disproportionately punishes low-income offenders who cannot afford the fines they are required to pay to regain their licenses. The lawsuit states that 1.4 million Texas residents have suspended driver’s licenses because they have not been able to pay the DRP surcharge.

Fine System

A court may punish a person convicted for a traffic violation such as a DWI by sentencing him or her to prison, issuing a fine, and suspending his or her driver’s license. Texas’s Driver Responsibility Program imposes additional fines on people whose licenses have been suspended. As part of its program, the DRP:

  • Issues the fines as an annual surcharge for three years;
  • Requires the driver to pay the surcharge as a lump sum or in monthly installments; and
  • Will suspend the license of a driver who misses a payment.

The surcharge amount depends on the offense. There is a $1,000 annual surcharge for a first-time DWI offense, which increases to $1,500 for any subsequent offense. A DWI with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.16 or greater has a $2,000 annual surcharge.

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Posted on in DWI / DUI

Which Factors Contribute to a Higher BAC?A recent poll by the Texas Medical Center Health Policy Institute suggests that more Texans are in favor of stricter laws for driving while intoxicated than the national average. According to the results:

  • 60 percent of Texans support lowering the blood alcohol concentration limit to 0.05, as opposed to 54 percent of national respondents; and
  • 48 percent of Texans support lowering the BAC limit to zero, as opposed to 46 percent of national respondents.

Approving a zero-tolerance BAC law is unrealistic, but a 0.05 BAC limit has precedence. Utah is set to enact the country’s first 0.05 BAC limit at the end of the year, which may encourage other states to do the same. 

BAC Factors

How much alcohol does it take to reach a 0.05 BAC? That depends on several factors:

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