For anyone who's battling a DWI in Texas, one of the most common concerns is the costs that are associated with it. Some of the general happenings stemming from DWI charges are well known, such as:
Punishments vary based on how many times someone has committed a DWI offense
You have a blood alcohol concentration above the legal limit
The Texas Department of Public Safety hands out an administrative driver's license suspension
If convicted of a DWI, jail time may be on the horizon
DWI convictions can ruin your life
A Texas DWI can ruin you financially
The last point is the one of focus, especially since you may not realize how things can stack up. The legal process involves more than the fines for the act.
There may be lawyer fees, overheads, etc. Note that Texas DWI laws yield some of the harshest penalties in the USA. For example, the Texas Department of Public Safety imposed surcharges on top of court fines. Though these have largely been restructured, you're still looking at a lot of money.
It's not hard to imagine then why DWI defense is so crucial. If you're battling a Texas DWI in Fort Worth, allow an experienced DWI lawyer to represent you. Call Sparks Law Firm at (817) 381-7846 today to schedule a free consultation.
Identifying a DWI in Texas
First, drunk driving is prohibited under Texas law, as is the case in other locations. You are never supposed to operate a motor vehicle while intoxicated. The legal limit for blood alcohol concentration is 0.08%.
You should also note that intoxication offenses are not limited to alcohol, though it is primarily at the fore. Based on the Texas Penal Code 49.01, intoxication can mean one of two things, and the state needs only prove that you are guilty of one. These are:
A blood alcohol concentration that exceeds the legal limit
A lack of normal use of mental or physical faculties, thanks to the presence of drugs, alcohol, or any substance in the body, or any combination of substances
As you can see, a DWI charge is quite broad. Worse even, if you have prior DWI convictions, things take a turn for the worst.
Refusing Your Chemical Test
If the police in Texas pull you over for a suspected DWI offense, one of the first orders of business is to administer chemical testing. The testing can take the form of a breathalyzer, a blood test, or a urine test.
Typically, the breathalyzer is preferred, though its reliability is the mid-point. Blood tests are more reliable, and urine tests are less reliable.
Driving means you are subject to the implied consent rule under Texas law. This means you must submit to chemical testing. Should you refuse, the Texas Department of Public Safety can order a license suspension, as it does if your chemical test results indicate a failure.
Bear in mind that this suspension is different from those imposed as criminal law penalties after a DWI arrest. This suspended license is classified under the umbrella of administrative penalties.
If you so desire, you can appeal the driver's license suspension. To do this, your attorney can request an ALR hearing.
After you've been arrested for a DWI in Texas, the initial hearing is known as an arraignment. This is not the same as the trial phase as no proof of guilt is expected here, nor are any punishments meant to be handed out.
However, you can choose to plea guilty at this stage, which would eliminate the need for a subsequent trial. The actual purpose of this initial court appearance is to formally advise you of your charges. Your attorney also procures a copy of the charges laid against you, witness statements, etc.
With a not guilty plea, the process continues to pretrial, then the actual trial.
It's not possible to overemphasize how important it is to ensure that the lawyer you choose to fight your DWI charge has experience battling these kinds of cases. Depending on the factors at play, you could be dealing with a class B misdemeanor, a felony, varying penalties, etc.
A solid DWI defense strategy is required for the best possible outcome. During the trial, the prosecution aims to prove that you were indeed intoxicated behind the wheel. A "fair" punishment that fits the crime tends to be requested.
If you have a criminal record, prior DWI offenses, or if there were aggravating factors present, penalties get steeper.
DWI Conviction Criminal Penalties
As is the case with most crimes, a DWI in Texas can be accompanied by criminal penalties. The harshest of these include jail time and very high costs. Administrative penalties are also a factor and are covered below. The idea here is to get you acquainted with DWI penalties on the criminal law side.
First Offense DWI Conviction
This is regarded as a Class B misdemeanor in the absence of certain factors, which means it's on the lower end of the punishment spectrum. There's typically greater leniency for a first offense, which means negotiating for penalty alternatives such as community service is practical.
If convicted, you face a maximum fine of $2,000. You could also do up to 180 days in jail. Note that if your blood alcohol content was at 0.15% or if there were an aggravating factor, it may become a Class A misdemeanor. At this point, the maximum fine becomes $4,000 and your possible county jail time becomes a year.
Second Offense DWI Conviction
Your second DWI offense is a Class A misdemeanor, which means it carries the same kind of penalty alluded to above. Therefore, you are facing $4,000 and up to a year in jail.
Third Offense DWI Conviction
Your third DWI in Texas is a third-degree felony. Here, your maximum fine is $10,000. At this point, you're also looking at a maximum sentence of 10 years. Instead of a county jail, it's a prison sentence in the state penitentiary system.
Fourth Offense DWI Conviction
DWI laws in Texas handle your fourth and any subsequent DUI penalties in the same way. Of course, it's considered a felony. Your maximum fine is $20,000 and the maximum prison sentence of 10 years applies here as well.
Note that while these maximums exist, typical DWI charges see your actual penalty being below them. Of course, a DWI lawyer in Fort Worth TX has a huge part to play in helping you minimize your penalties as much as possible.
Administrative DWI Penalties
Administrative penalties, while also meant to help you learn from your mistakes, do so quite differently from their criminal penalty counterparts. The idea here is to target your ability to drive around freely.
Mandatory fees are present here too, but they are also accompanied by driver's license suspensions. What remains constant is that the penalties get increasingly steep after your first DWI offense. (Find out how long can your license be suspended for 2 DUIs)
First Offense DWI Conviction
For this Class B misdemeanor, the state suspends your driver's license for a year, However, when that period ends, you don't just get your driver's license reinstated. Instead, a first-time DWI offender must pay a $2,000 annual surcharge for three years. Of course, this is in addition to any other license fees that may you may be required to pay.
Second Offense DWI Conviction
While the surcharge requirement stays the same as that of your first-time DWI offense, the suspension period is doubled. Therefore, your license suspension runs for two years this time around.
Third Offense DWI Conviction
Your third offense gets you a loss of your license for up to two years, with the three-year annual surcharge requirement present thereafter.
Fourth Offense DWI Conviction
The fourth or subsequent drunk driving conviction carries another loss of your license for up to two years. Again, the $2,000 surcharge applies for three years.
Note that getting your driver's license suspended doesn't necessarily mean you can't drive legally. During many DWI cases involving a license suspension, the defense lawyer requests an occupational license for the client being represented.
This license allows you to drive for essential reasons such as attending work or going to the grocery store. However, getting an interlock device installed is a requirement and that also comes with its own price tag.
Other Criminal Charges
Whether it's a first offense or otherwise, when people think about DWI costs, it's often limited to the court fees or criminal punishment-related costs. However, the reality is that there are other costs of a DWI that are often not factored in.
While some are minuscule, others are a bit steeper, especially when you add everything up.
A part of your bail hearing is the judge's determination of your bail amount. Like most court costs associated with a DWI, different elements come together to either place it on the mild or steep end of the spectrum.
The minimum bail amount is $100, which is nothing too serious. Of course, it's very unlikely that your alleged offense is going to net you the minimum. This is especially true considering how broad the range is.
On the other side of the fence, bail requirements for a DWI can reach and even exceed $100,000. Those who are facing misdemeanor charges for a first offense are not going to have to pay fees that are too exorbitant. In fact, you may even be granted a personal bond. When that happens, you aren't even required to pay a bond amount at all.
However, if intoxication manslaughter, a high blood alcohol content, multiple DWIs, vehicular assault, etc. are at play, then the bond amount begins to skyrocket pretty quickly. If a loved one can afford it, then bail may be posted. Alternatively, a bail bonding agency may need to get involved, which comes with its own requirements.
Should you be convicted of a DWI, your mere appearance in court requires you to make a payment. Bear in mind that this requirement applies even if you are just showing up for an initial hearing.
It stands to reason then that your bill begins to stack up when multiple court appearances are required. Thankfully, the actual court costs for appearances tend to stay fixed. On average, you're looking at somewhere between $300 and $500 for your court fees.
This is yet another reason why you need a solid DWI attorney in your corner. If the parameters of your case allow it, a lawyer may be able to get your charges dismissed or may even get negotiate the case in a way that requires no trial.
If you are convicted of a DWI in Texas, probation tends to be a part of the package. This tends to run for no less than a year. As far as costs are concerned, it gets worse. That's because probation comes with a monthly fee requirement. Typically, the charge you're looking at is somewhere between $60 and $100 monthly, which again, adds up over the probation period.
If you have a job that pays by the hour, there may also be the cost of a loss in income since you must regularly meet with a probation officer. Therefore, you likely are going to miss some time from work.
DWI Restitution Cost
Even if you manage to avoid dealing with intoxication manslaughter, you may have caused minor or serious bodily injury or even property damage while you were intoxicated. If so, then the court proceedings may lead to an order to pay restitution charges.
Of course, this is a wildly variable charge that is heavily influenced by the extent of the damage or harm. The best your attorney can do here is to ensure that your restitution costs align with the actual damages.
This is a necessary function considering district attorneys often use estimates to ascertain how much is to be paid instead of real charges.
If your vehicle is impounded by the government, the towing fees associated with this are worse than usual. The range is anywhere between $200 and $400. Additionally, there's usually about a $25 fee for each day your car remains uncollected at the impound lot.
You want a criminal defense law firm on your side as early as possible, considering these charges can add up so quickly. If not, you may end up in the same situation as others who ended up simply leaving their vehicles behind for affordability reasons.
Ignition Interlock Device
You may be ordered to fit an ignition interlock device to your car. It requires you to breathe into it, after which it analyzes your alcohol level. It's essentially a mobile breathalyzer that travels around with DWI offenders.
Only if the device deems a lack of alcohol in your system is the vehicle allowed to start. The cost of the device is purely yours to bear and it is not sold. Instead, you rent it, which tends to attract between $70 and $100 monthly.
Your DWI defense lawyer may aim to negotiate your not needing to get the device or at least reducing the amount of time you're required to have it for.
Auto insurance is something you probably didn't consider, but it stands to reason that it would find its way here. Remember that insurance is a business that is built on risk. When you apply for a policy from an insurance company, your premium typically costs an amount that is in line with whatever risk profile you're assigned.
That's why drivers with accidents in the past are more likely to get higher premiums, for example. A DWI conviction certainly makes you a greater liability. Therefore, your premium increases.
Additionally, you're required to carry SR-22 insurance for no less than two years, which runs between $20 and $100 monthly.
Retain an Expert Forth Worth DWI Attorney to Fight Your DWI Case
Having a DWI on your criminal record is bad enough after having been proven guilty. You could end up with a jail sentence and lose the ability to drive. However, it could end whatever financial freedom you have and plunge you into a world of debt.
Alternatively, you could get a well-regarded law firm in your corner. Sparks Law Firm can provide you with one of the top criminal defense lawyers in Fort Worth. Your attorney-client relationship protects all your confidential information and you get top-tier legal representation for the best possible outcome. Their expertise can help with various concerns related to DWI cases, including how to get a DWI expunged in Texas.
Depending on the circumstances, that could mean community service, reduced jail time, restoration of driving privileges, or a reduction in the amount the whole ordeal costs you. Schedule a free consultation today by calling (817) 381-7846.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
How Can a DWI Attorney Fight the Case?
Your attorney fights the case by attacking the strength of the prosecution's arguments and the circumstances surrounding your arrest. Was the breath test sample accurate? Did the arresting officer carry out the process correctly? Additionally, negotiations are done on your behalf for a solid plea bargain and punishment reduction where necessary.
Why Should I Take a DWI Breathalyzer Test?
It's easier to build a defense considering the test results are less accurate than those ascertained from blood samples.