Texas DWI vs DUI. The Difference & How to Proceed

Drinking and Driving in Texas - Texas DWI vs DUI. The Difference & How to Proceed
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In Texas, the term “DUI” refers to Driving Under the Influence as a Minor. That is if someone under the legal drinking age of 21 is found to be driving a car after drinking alcohol – but is not intoxicated – they can be given a Class C ticket for DUI. If an adult or a minor is alleged to be driving while intoxicated, they will be charged with “DWI” which is either a Class A or a Class B misdemeanor. In many states other than Texas, our DWI is referred to as DUI and that can cause confusion for those who move here and don’t understand the legal distinction.

If you are charged with DWI in Texas, it is important that you speak to a DWI lawyer immediately. There are timing deadlines related to the potential suspension of your driver’s license that requires immediate action.

The Major Differences Between A DUI and DWI in Texas

A DUI Class C citation is a fine-only offense but it can have significant consequences for someone under 21 years old. It can lead to a suspension of the driver’s license and a requirement that a deep lung device be installed on any car driven by the person who was cited for DUI. “DUI” refers to a Class C ticket for operating a vehicle in Texas under the influence of alcohol while under the age of 21. If the person under 21 is actually determined to be intoxicated by the police officer, they can be charged with DWI instead of DUI.

DWI is the offense of Driving While Intoxicated. It is either a Class A or Class B misdemeanor, depending on whether or not the alcohol concentration is under or over 0.15. If it is a first offense with a BAC under 0.15, the case is charged as a Class B DWI. If it is a first offense with a BAC of 0.15 or greater, it is charged as a Class A DWI.

If a person is charged with a DWI and they are under 21 years old, they can face more severe consequences than an adult. These can include a driver’s license suspension and the mandatory installation of a deep lung device.

What Should You Do When Arrested with a DUI in Texas?

If a driver under the age of 21 receives a ticket for Driving Under the Influence, or “DUI”, in Texas, they will be required to appear in court to respond to the charges. This will be the time to try to work out a plea bargain with the prosecutor or set the case for trial.

Step 1: Contact An Experienced DUI Law Firm

The first step in responding to a DUI minor charge is to contact an experienced DUI law firm. There are different consequences for a person under the age of 21 charged with DUI than an adult charged with DWI in Texas. You need to hire an attorney experienced in handling DUI tickets who is familiar with alternative dispositions. It is important to avoid a conviction for DUI.

Step 2: Attorney Notifies Court, Then Gathers Evidence

The attorney will send a letter to the court letting them know that the attorney has been retained and either requesting a court appearance or notifying the court that the attorney will appear on the assigned court date. The attorney may then reach out to the prosecutor to discuss the evidence in the case and a plea bargain offer.

Step 3: Discuss Best Options and Proceed Forward

The attorney will review the evidence and the plea bargain offer and then meet with the client to discuss various options. One option is to accept a plea bargain on the ticket. The other option is to set the case for trial. Once a plan is in place, the case can proceed forward.

What Should You Do When Arrested with a DWI in Texas?

If a driver is arrested for Driving While Intoxicated, or DWI, in Texas, they need to hire an experienced DWI attorney immediately. There are very short, but important, timelines that start ticking after the arrest so time is of the essence.

Step 1: Request an Administrative License Revocation (ALR) Hearing

If the driver took a breath test and the result was 0.08 or higher, there are only 15 days to request what is called an Administrative License Revocation, or ALR, hearing. An ALR hearing is the opportunity to challenge the driver’s license suspension that otherwise will be automatic 40 days after the arrest. In other words, if you don’t request the hearing in a timely manner, you lose the opportunity to challenge the suspension.

If the driver refused a breath or blood test and the officer obtained a search warrant for a blood sample, the same rules described above apply. There are only 15 days from that date to request the ALR hearing.

If the driver consented to a blood test, no action is taken on the driver’s license until the results of the blood test are returned to the officer handling the case. If the BAC is under 0.08, no action will be taken on the license. If the BAC is 0.08 or greater, DPS will send a Notice of Suspension to the driver at the address on file with DPS. The driver will then have 10 days to request an ALR hearing.

It is extremely important that the address on the driver’s license be updated if the driver has moved. DPS will send all notices to the address they have on file and that mail is typically not forwarded.

Step 2: Attorney Notifies Court, Then Requests Discovery On the Case

The attorney will send a letter to the court letting them know that the attorney has been retained on the case. The attorney will then reach out to the prosecutor to request all of the discovery on the case. “Discovery” refers to all of the evidence in the case: police report, videos, lab reports, witness statements, etc.

Step 3: Discuss the Best Options, Possible Options and Proceed Forward

The attorney will review the evidence and any plea bargain offer from the prosecutor. It will then be time for the attorney and client to meet to discuss any possible defenses and how the client wishes to proceed. The client might opt to negotiate a plea bargain or the case may be set for trial. Once a plan is in place, the case can proceed forward.

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