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  • Writer's pictureJustin Sparks

Here's What Happens if You Get Three DWI Charges in Texas

A DWI in Texas is a very serious matter, which means it's not necessarily treated with the most leniency, especially if it's not the first one. By the time it gets to a third DWI conviction, it becomes incredibly steep.

Consider that a first-time offender could potentially face fines and jail time under the right circumstances. With that in mind, it's not hard to see how having a good DWI lawyer is all but non-negotiable.

For reference, a 3rd DWI in Texas is a third-degree felony, which means it is treated as such. Not only can a third or subsequent DWI conviction yield a prison sentence and fines in Texas, but other consequences are also a concern and are not immediately apparent.

Having a felony DWI on record can translate to challenges in landing gainful employment, for example. Find out how many DWI is a felony in Texas.

When facing charges while having previous DWI convictions on record, the best course of action is always to reach out to a qualified attorney in Texas to ensure the best possible outcome.

DWI defense law is not straightforward for the average person, which is why attempting to fight the charges in the absence of an attorney will likely lead to horrendous consequences.

It goes beyond just having someone that knows Texas law in the DWI space. A good attorney must be able to build a solid legal defense argument.

Sparks Law Firm has a criminal defense team that stands ready to handle your case while giving it the necessary attention. To set up a free consultation, simply call (817) 381-7846.

The DWI Threshold in Texas

The DWI Threshold in Texas

For clarification, it's essential to understand what constitutes a DWI in Texas. It boils down to operating a motor vehicle in a public space while intoxicated This can have two meanings.

First, the typical definition is having a blood alcohol concentration of at least 0.08%, which would mean exceeding the legal limit.

Beyond that, a person must be demonstrating less than normal use of faculties because of alcohol, other controlled substances, or some combination.

Under Texas law, some evidence would need to have been present to lead law enforcement to believe that a driver is intoxicated.

A Second DWI Conviction

Before getting to the third DWI in Texas, what does the second offense look like? While there is no worry about a felony conviction for the DWI itself, this is viewed as a Class A misdemeanor.

One of the major challenges is that Texas uses a "lookback period" rule. In another state, if the second DWI happened long enough ago, the third DWI wouldn't be treated as such. However, the lookback period rule will have an evaluation completed on the driver's entire driving history.

So long as there was a second offense, regardless of how long ago it happened, the next one will be treated as a third DWI. Of course, moving from the first to the second DWI charge, the rules will be the same.

Penalties for a Second DWI Offense

Punishments following a conviction can include:

  • A fine not exceeding $4,000

  • An ignition interlock device being required to be fitted to all vehicles driven by the accused

  • A term of at least 30 days in jail (five if probation is granted)

  • Suspension of driver's license for anywhere from 180 days to two years.

  • A driver's license retention surcharge of up to $2,000.

Understanding What Constitutes a Third DWI Offense in Texas

Again, because of the lookback period, two previous recorded convictions will make the third DWI a felony when it happens. While there is a cap for how "bad" the punishment can get, the lookback rule will mean the third or subsequent DWI charges will always be stacked atop the previous ones.

Texas DWI: Third Offense Punishments

A third DWI in Texas is still a DWI. Therefore, it uses the same misdemeanor punishment classifications. However, the actual punishments are more severe. For example, while one would probably go to county jail under the misdemeanor banner, a third-degree felony means a potential 10-year stint in prison may be on the horizon.


A third or subsequent DWI in Texas will always come with incredibly steep fines, even if they are not set at the maximum. The said maximum for a third offense is $10,000, and the amount that must be paid is purely up to the discretion of the court.

Bear in mind that the fine is not the only payment needed to be made in this situation. The ignition interlock device has a cost to be handled. Additionally, there are court costs, substance abuse evaluation costs, counseling fees, and more.

Jail Time

When convicted of a third DWI offense under Texas law, there is a prison sentence of between two and 10 years. The good news is that a court will often attach a probation clause to such a sentence.

In other words, provided that the offender meets the established rules, most of the prison sentence will not be served. Getting a probationary agreement granted is one of the most important things a DWI attorney will help with.

Nevertheless, regardless of a plea deal or probation being granted, there will be a mandatory 10-day jail sentence to be served.

Probation will usually be offered by the prosecutor as a plea bargain component. It's essential to stick to all the terms, which may include community service, among other stipulations.

Driver's License Suspension

After a third offense, a driver's license suspension is imminent. Technically speaking, even a first-time offender could have this happen. So, it's not hard to imagine that with each subsequent DWI, the extent of the penalty simply gets progressively worse.

For the third DWI, there will be a two-year suspension. It is possible to get the license back, but this will usually come with the requirement to have an ignition interlock device affixed to the vehicle.

For reference, this device requires the driver to breathe into it before the vehicle will start. If any alcohol is detected, it keeps the car from turning on.

Not only are the fees for reinstatement pretty steep, but the licensing fee surcharge is a whole $2,000 annually and will be paid for three years.

Other Penalties

Not every consequence of a third DWI will be handed down by the court. Some of these show up in everyday life, which can change drastically. Here are some of the most common problems:

  • Being stripped of the right to vote

  • Professional license loss in industries that require them to operate

  • Negative impact on reputation

  • Being barred from select government benefits

  • Loss of current employment or difficulty in finding gainful employment

  • Losing the right to own a firearm

  • Problems finding housing

While some are temporary, some of these non-administrative penalties will be a challenge for life.

What Can Probation Look Like after Developing a DWI Conviction History?

As indicated before, probation can be granted during a third offense case, especially if quality DWI lawyers were able to convince the prosecution that a plea deal would be the best way to go. The process will typically start with the completion of the minimum stipulated jail sentence after which several rules will need to be followed. These requirements can include:

  • Anywhere between 160 and 600 hours of community service for a third offense. For reference, a second offense requires between 80 and 200 hours of community service

  • Refraining from committing any crimes regardless of their nature

  • Abstaining from any alcohol consumption

  • Paying stipulated monthly probationary fees

  • Paying the required court costs and other fines

  • Submit to an alcohol or substance abuse evaluation process, and attend any required treatment following the outcome

  • At least once monthly, reports must be made to a probation officer

  • Take part in random alcohol or drug testing

  • Take part in and complete a repeat offender DWI intervention program

Depending on the unique situation, all of these or some combination of them will be required.

What Happens if the Probationary Terms Are Violated?

Like the DWI charges themselves, violating probation is taken incredibly seriously in Texas. Even on a first violation, the probation can be revoked. The decision typically depends on the nature of the violation. However, some of the known courses of action are:

  • Mandatory treatment

  • More fines

  • Extended community service

  • Jail time

  • Extension of the driver's license suspension

Out-of-state Convictions

Out-of-state Convictions

In Texas, while it is not a foregone conclusion, the possibility exists that out-of-state convictions can be used to enhance the current charge being faced.

You Need an Experienced Fort Worth Criminal Defense Lawyer for Your Third Offense DWI Case

A good DWI attorney is all but mandatory for anyone who may be facing a DWI charge in Texas. While there is likely no getting off without a warning at this stage, having a good defense can make the difference between 10 years of prison and 10 days of jail plus probation. They can also help with important questions, such as how the military finds out about DUI.

Schedule Your Free Consultation Today!

Have you been convicted of a third DWI in Fort Worth, Texas? You need a competent DWI lawyer to fight for the best possible outcome! Call (817) 381-7846 today to schedule a free case consultation with Sparks Law Firm!


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