In most US states, including Texas, driving while intoxicated is a serious offense. According to data, Texas saw 5,129 drunk driving deaths in the last three years alone. Unfortunately, many of these deaths were made up of passengers, pedestrians, and bicyclists. So it’s no wonder why Texas DWI laws are very strict, as they are designed to punish drivers who ignore the dangers of intoxicated driving.
While many local drivers are familiar with DWI regulations, they often underestimate the severity of the consequences. In fact, a DWI can not only result in a fine, or jail sentence, but it can also affect the driver’s career and ability to commute. Therefore, it is essential to know the DWI laws, including how the points system works.
What Is the Point System?
In order to keep track of driver behavior, the Texas Department of Public Safety came up with a point system that records traffic violations. More specifically, when a driver commits an offense, the DPS adds points to their driving record. The number of points scales depending on the severity of the violation. If the driver accumulates a certain number of points, their license will be suspended.
It’s important to mention that not every traffic violation leads to points. For example, getting a ticket for traveling five miles below the speed limit or a minor seatbelt violation won’t add any points to a driver’s record.
The point system is quite straightforward, as DPS assigns points to a driver for each conviction as follows:
● 2 points for any moving violations such as reckless driving and speeding
● 3 points for moving violations that result in a crash regardless of its severity
Each conviction that results in points remains on a driver’s record for 3 years and will not replace revocation, cancellation, or suspension actions resulting from the same conviction. If a driver gets four moving violations in a 12-month period or seven in a 24-month period, the DPS will suspend their license.
It’s important to note that drivers will have to pay surcharges if they manage to accumulate six or more points in a three-year period. These surcharges are worth $100 for the first six points and $25 for additional points. For instance, if a driver accumulates 9 points in the last three years, they owe $175 to the government.
What About DWI?
Some violations, including DWI, don’t award points. Instead, they require drivers to pay a special conviction-based surcharge each year for three years. For DWI or related convictions, the cost of a surcharge is very steep due to the severity of the crime. A first-time DWI will cost drivers $1,000 per year — the price increases to $1,500 for a second offense.
Drivers should remember that the DWI charges are cumulative. In other words, if they get a second DWI conviction within 3 years, they will have to pay $2,500 to the State for the next three years. These payments are separate and are an addition to other administrative and reinstatement fees that may apply.
Negative Consequences of Points on a Driver’s Record
Besides the suspension of the driver’s license, accumulating points can have other negative consequences:
● Insurance Rates Increase: In most US states, insurers increase premium rates for high-risk drivers. Insurers believe that the more points a driver accumulates, the higher the risk drivers pose to the company.
● Jail Time: In extreme cases, drivers can receive jail sentences for moving violations along with points on their driving record. As a matter of fact, DWI offenses result in a minimum 3-day jail sentence for first-time offenders who end up convicted.
Should Drivers Get a Lawyer?
At the end of the day, the purpose of the point system is to protect people from dangerous drivers. However, that doesn’t mean that the system is perfect. In fact, there are many cases of wrongful DWI convictions all throughout the country. That usually happens due to faulty evidence or false testimony. And since these convictions can affect a driver's record, it’s vital to avoid them at all costs. Fortunately, the top DWI attorney in Fort Worth can help drivers reduce their sentences or dismiss the cases entirely. (Find out what can a DWI be reduced to in Texas)
Having a good lawyer by your side can also determine if one can get off probation early in Texas for DWI.