What Is The Difference Between A DWI And A DUI In Texas?

In Texas the normal offense that people get charged with is called DWI, driving while intoxicated and that means that if you were driving while intoxicated by not having the normal use of mental or physical faculties, or having an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or greater. You’re guilty of the offense of driving while intoxicated.

DUI or driving under the influence is something different and it means that maybe you’re not intoxicated but you are somewhat under the influence, you have had something to drink, and that’s illegal in Texas for anyone under 21 because if you’re under 21 you’re not supposed to be drinking in Texas.

So if a person under 21 drives and they have been drinking and they have any amount of alcohol in their system then they can be charged with driving under the influence even though they haven’t become intoxicated. Now, if they have risen to the level of intoxication they can also be charged with driving while intoxicated.

DWI vs. DUI in Texas

It’s illegal to drive in Texas when you are intoxicated or under the influence of alcohol or other drugs. Individuals who are driving commercial vehicles aren’t supposed to drive if the blood alcohol content is above 0.04%. Persons under 21 years shouldn’t have any traces of alcohol in their system while driving.

Texas DWI

The Penal Code sect 49.04 describes DWI as driving a vehicle in a public while:

  1. Lacking normal physical and/or mental faculties because of drinking alcohol
  2. Lacking normal physical and/or mental faculties because of drinking/using a controlled substance/s including prescription, OTC counter medicines and/or illegal drugs
  3.  Having a BAC of 0.08% or higher for adults, and 0.04% or higher for commercial driver’s license holders.

If you are 21 or more, and a police officer has probable cause that you fall under any of the above categories, you can be charged for driving while intoxicated. In a DWI case, probable cause is obtained through field sobriety tests or blood tests.

First DWI offenses are treated as Class B misdemeanors unless the offender’s BAC is higher than 0.15%. If the DWI offense involves a controlled substance, the case can include drug charges.

Texas DUI

The Penal Code sect 106.041 describes DUI as driving a vehicle in public while intoxicated with any detectable % of alcohol in a minor’s system. So, drivers aged 16 who take a single sip of alcohol that is detectable using a breathalyzer can be charged for driving under the influence of alcohol. A DUI charge can also result simply when a police officer smells alcohol in the breath of a minor driver. Texas has a zero-tolerance policy on drugs and alcohol use among underage persons.

Besides age, there are other notable differences. For instance, a DWI charge on an adult must be accompanied by a lack of normal use of physical or mental faculties. The same isn’t true for DUI charges in Texas. Minors don’t need to demonstrate physical or mental impairments to be charged. A simple trace of drugs on alcohol on the breath of a minor driver is enough to attract a charge.

Penalties for DWI vs. DUI in Texas

DWI Penalties in Texas

DWI convictions attract jail time, fees, fines, and license suspension as well as treatment programs. As a first offender, you will get:

Jail time:

First offenders spend at least 72 hours in jail. If the charge is accompanied by an open container charge, you can serve up to 6 days in jail. Convictions attract up to 6 months in county jail.


First offenders can pay fines not exceeding $2,000. The exact amount of fine paid depends on the facts of an individual case.


DWI fees range from $1,000-$2,000 yearly for three years. The fees are paid to the DPS and are applicable if you wish to use your driver’s license. The exact amount of fees paid depends on the facts of an individual case.

  1. Driver’s license suspension

    Your license could also be suspended even if you are a first offender. Suspension periods range from 3 to 12 months. A positive breath or blood test result indicating the presence of drugs or alcohol in your system can cause an automatic suspension. The suspension is longer if you refused to submit to a test. However, you can ask for a hearing for the suspension to be lifted.

  2. Programs

    The circumstances of a case dictate the program you will be subjected to. First-time offenders can be ordered to go through classes or take part in drug or alcohol programs to address the underlying cause of their drug/alcohol behavior. DWI programs are usually strict, expensive, and time-consuming.

DWI offenses can also attract community service and/or probation. The above penalties increase in severity with every prior conviction. The severity ranges from the time spent in jail to the number of fines and fees you are supposed to pay.

DUI Penalties in Texas

DUI penalties in Texas are less severe. However, they are harsh for a minor. They include:

  1. Jail time: First-time offenders don’t get jail time. However, repeat offenders can expect it.
  2. Fines: First-time offenders can be subjected to fines up to $500. While this may be lower than those charged for DWI, $500 is a lot of money for a kid who is working part-time. It’s also a burden to a guardian or a parent.
  3.  Driver’s license suspension: You can also lose your license; however, this happens via an administrative process as opposed to the criminal court. If convicted, the license suspension can be prolonged using a sentencing order. First-time offenders can expect a 60-day license suspension.
  4. Programs: You may be subjected to an alcohol or drug program to correct your underlying problem.
  5. Community service: DUI’s in Texas attract community service ranging from 20 to 40 hours for first-time offenders. Subsequent offenses attract community service up to 60 hours.

While the consequences of DUI appear less severe than those of DWI, they are equally damaging. Criminal records attract serious problems in the future. That’s why you need a DWI lawyer or DUI lawyer in Texas when you get arrested. There are ways of avoiding serious consequences legally!

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