How Much Does a DWI Cost in Texas?
Those who face DWI charges in Texas typically know that the process will be expensive–but many defendants aren’t prepared for the true cost of a DWI conviction, even for first-time offenders. In fact, the total cost of a first-time DWI conviction can reach $15,000, $20,000, or more. Here’s exactly how those costs break down.
Breakdown of Costs Associated with a DWI Conviction
- Legal & Lawyer Fees
- Court Fees
- Punishment Fines
- Restitution Fees
- Probation Fees
- Interlock System Installation Fees
- Cost of Bail
- Increased Insurance Rates
- Impound Lot Fees
If charged with DWI in Texas, you will certainly want to hire a lawyer specializing in DWI cases to handle your defense. The exact cost of this lawyer, however, can vary greatly depending on a number of factors.
First, different lawyers employ different fee structures that can affect the overall cost. Some attorneys charge an hourly rate, while others charge a single flat fee that covers all stages of the process. If your lawyer charges per hour, your total cost of representation will ultimately depend on how much work he needs to do to prepare your defense; arranging a plea bargain with the district attorney will take significantly less time than going to trial, for example.
Second, the background and experience of your lawyer and his law firm will affect the cost of representation. The more established the law firm, the more your lawyer is likely to charge.
Third, the exact details of your specific case will influence cost. Complex cases require more work on your lawyer’s part, which in turn leads to higher costs for you.
Lastly, whether or not your case goes to trial will heavily influence the cost. Most DWI cases–particularly first-time offenses with no additional aggravating factors–end in a plea arrangement rather a trial. However, if your case is one of the small percentage that does reach the trial stage, your attorney fees will go up significantly, often even doubling.
In short, your DWI lawyer costs are highly dependent on your particular lawyer and the facts of your case. However, you can expect to easily pay between $1,000 and $5,000 for a simple case that doesn’t go to trial, and up to $10,000 for a case that does go in front of a judge.
Court and Administrative Fees, Penalties & Fines
The Texas state court system itself can also impose a significant number of fines, penalties, and costs on anyone convicted of DWI.
Whether a defendant appears before a judge only for arraignment and a bail hearing prior to working out a plea arrangement or they end up going to trial, the cost of appearing in court is passed on to the defendant if convicted. These court costs vary, but often range between $200 and $1,500.
Texas state law has also established a schedule of DWI fines for those convicted of driving while intoxicatedI in addition to other non-monetary penalties. First-time offenders arrested with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of less than 0.15 face a maximum fine of $2,000, though the exact fine is based on either the plea arrangement made with the prosecution or the judge’s discretion (if the case goes to trial). Aggravating factors increase this statutory maximum fine amount. For example, a second-time offender can be fined up to $4,000, and third-time offenders or those that commit intoxication assault or manslaughter can be fined up to $10,000.
Most defendants convicted of DWI have their licenses suspended. In order to have a license suspended for DWI reinstated, the driver will be required to pay an annual surcharge to the state for three years.
Texas Driver’s License Surcharge Costs
- First-time offenders face a $1,000 yearly fee (for a total of $3,000)
- second-time offenders are levied a $1,500 annual fee (for a total of $4,500)
- anyone convicted of DWI with a BAC of more than 0.15 will have to pay a $2,000 yearly fee (for a total of $6,000).
While not everyone convicted of DWI faces jail time (particularly for a first offense), probation is mandatory for all DWI convictions. First-time offenders can expect a minimum probation period of six months, though a year is more typical; repeat offenders or those with aggravating circumstances may face longer probation periods. While on probation, those convicted of DWI are required to pay monthly probation fees of between $60 and $100.
Alcohol Education Program Fees
Anyone who has been convicted of a first-time DWI offense in Texas can be ordered to participate in an Alcohol Education Program. This 12-hour course typically costs $70. Repeat offenders can be required to attend a DWI Intervention Program, a more extensive version of the class for first-time offenders. This 30-hour class carries a cost of $185.
Those who have been convicted of DWI two or more times within five years are typically required to have an ignition switch installed in their car. This device serves as a mini Breathalyzer, preventing an individual from starting their car if intoxicated. The individual convicted of DWI bears the cost of the switch, typically between $70 and $100 per month.
For those charged with DWI (as well as many other criminal charges), Texas employs a bail bond system. This system allows a defendant facing a DWI charge to go home rather than stay in jail once posting a certain amount of money as collateral for their court appearances. Either the defendant or his family can post bail, or a bail bonding agency can be employed to post bail on behalf of the defendant. In either case, the entire bail amount will be returned at the end of the case as long as the defendant makes all required court appearances and follows any temporary court orders issued by the judge.
The exact amount of bail required depends on a number of factors, including:
- The defendant’s past record of DWI convictions;
- Any other convictions on the defendant’s record that would suggest that the defendant could be considered dangerous, violent or at a high risk of fleeing the state upon release;
- The defendant’s willingness to submit to mandatory chemical testing to determine their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level; and
- Any aggravating offenses committed by the defendant during the DWI, such as intoxicated assault or intoxicated manslaughter.
A defendant charged with DWI for the first time will typically have their bail set between $200 and $1,000. However, the judge does have wide discretion to increase or decrease this amount, particularly if the charge being faced is a misdemeanor.
The required bail amount typically increases significantly if there are aggravating factors or if the charge is elevated due to additional circumstances. In such cases, many Texas counties maintain a predetermined bail schedule that outlines the precise amount of bail required to be posted by the defendant.
Harris County, for example, has a bail schedule for serious DWI offenses. Those facing a first-time felony DWI charge (i.e., those who drove while intoxicated with a child under the age of 15 or who were involved in a car accident that caused serious bodily injury to another) will have their bail set at $10,000, while those who are facing a misdemeanor DWI charge with another DWI conviction already on their record will have their bail amount doubled from their previous case.
If your license has been suspended due to your DWI conviction, you will be required to show proof of minimum liability coverage in order to get it reinstated. Texas requires that all such drivers carry insurance that meets the following minimum requirements:
- $30,000 for bodily injury or death of a single person in a car accident;
- $60,000 for bodily injury or death of more than one person in a car accident; and
- $25,000 for property damage in a car accident
Proof of insurance must be provided in the form of a Financial Responsibility Insurance Certification, also known as a SR-22. Such proof of insurance is usually required for about two to five years after a DWI conviction. All drivers convicted of DWI must show a SR-22 in order to maintain their driver’s license, whether they own a vehicle or not. If an individual convicted of DWI lets their SR-22 lapse (due to cancellation or non-payment of the underlying policy), the Texas Department of Public Safety will suspend that person’s driver’s license.
The filing fee for the SR-22 form itself is minimal and typically costs between $15 and $25. However, the need for a SR-22 form flags a driver as high-risk to insurance companies, and thus their cost for the underlying motor vehicle insurance policy is likely to go up significantly. Texas drivers typically see their car insurance premiums increase by almost 87 percent following a DWI conviction–equivilant to about $1,000 per year.
After being arrested on suspicion of DWI, law enforcement officials will have towed and impounded your car. Costs vary by jurisdiction within Texas and the exact size of your car. However, a towing fee of $250 to $450 and an impound fee of $20 is typical, and most impound lots charge an additional $5 to $20 dollars per day as a daily storage fee.
In short, a DWI conviction in Texas is expensive, and the costs outlined above do not even take into consideration the implicit costs of a DWI conviction, such as lost wages for time spent in court or while completing required community service.
1. Texas Department of Public Safety, SR-22 Insurance Certificate: https://www.dps.texas.gov/DriverLicense/sr22InsuranceCertificate.htm
2. Quote Wizard, Cost Benefit of Hiring a DUI Lawyer: https://www.dps.texas.gov/DriverLicense/sr22InsuranceCertificate.htm
3. TDLR, Towing & Impound Consumer Info: https://www.tdlr.texas.gov/towing/consumerinfo.htm
4. DWI Penalties: https://www.dwi-texas.com/texas-dwi-penalties/