What Is the Difference Between a DUI and a DWI under Texas Law?
You are no doubt familiar with the terms DUI and DWI, which are short for driving under the influence and driving while intoxicated, respectively. You may not, however, fully understand how the two terms are similar and how they are different. In Texas, a DUI and a DWI refer to an individual operating a vehicle while intoxicated, which means not having the normal use of mental or physical faculties by reason of the introduction of alcohol or a drug.
The main difference between a DUI and a DWI boils down to the age of the driver. Under Texas law, a person operating a vehicle who is 21 years of age or older and who is legally intoxicated (has a .08 blood or breath alcohol concentration or is impaired by drugs) can be charged with a DWI. On the other hand, if a person under the age of 21 is pulled over and has any alcohol in his system then the individual can be charged with a DUI. It is irrelevant whether the minor is impaired by the alcohol in his system. In Texas, if a driver is under 21, it is illegal to drive with any detectable amount of alcohol in his system. This is Texas’s zero-tolerance policy. Importantly, a person under the age of 21 can still be charged with a DWI, as long as the driver has a blood or breath alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or greater.
Another difference between a DWI and DUI is the penalties imposed for each offense. For a first time DWI offense, one may receive a fine up to $2,000, a jail sentence between 3 and 180 days, a loss of one’s driver’s license up to a year, and an annual fee of $1,000 or $2,000 for 3 years to retain one’s driver’s license. Conversely, a minor stopped for drinking and driving may receive a fine up to $500, a 60-day suspension of his driver’s license, 20 to 40 hours of community service, and mandatory alcohol-awareness classes. For subsequent offenses, the severity of the penalties increase for both a DWI and DUI.
If you have any questions regarding underage DUI or DWI laws in Texas, it is important to reach out to an experienced DWI or DUI attorney who can help you understand and protect your rights.
At Johnson, Johnson, & Baer, P.C. we have over 3 decades of experience handling DUI cases. Call today at 713-222-0400 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation with our DWI defense lawyers. When your future is at stake, Johnson, Johnson, & Baer are the attorneys you want on your side.