DUI

A DUI stands for “Driving under the Influence” and applies only to minors (under the age of 21) who are suspected of driving after having consumed alcohol. Texas is a “zero tolerance” state, meaning that minors are not allowed to consume ANY amount of alcohol and operate a motor vehicle. A DUI is not covered under the Texas Penal Code, but rather the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code.

There are two types of DUIs: civil and criminal. The first type of DUI is a civil case (in which a citation was issued, and no arrest was made). In a civil DUI, the Texas Department of Public Safety (“TDPS”) will hold a hearing in which the police officer need only prove that he or she had reason to stop the minor while driving, and had reason to believe the minor had ingested a small amount of alcohol (but was not intoxicated). Once this is proven, TDPS has the discretion to automatically suspend the minor’s driver’s license between 60-120 days.

However, if the police officer believes that the minor ingested more than a small amount of alcohol, and is actually intoxicated, he or she may arrest the minor, take them into Austin Police Department custody, and charge him or her with a criminal DUI. A criminal DUI is charged as a class C misdemeanor, punishable by a minimum fine of $500.00. If the minor is a first-time offender, no jail time will be served.However, if the minor is a repeat offender, he or she could be subject to higher fines, actual jail time, probation, community service, counseling, and/or alcohol assessments. Also, depending on the severity of the offense, a criminal DUI may be paired with a criminal DWI, as described below.

DWI

A DWI stands for “Driving While Intoxicated” is a criminal case in which a person (minor or adult) is suspected of driving a motor vehicle while intoxicated. A person is considered intoxicated if their blood, breath, or urine shows a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or greater at the time they are driving the motor vehicle (or immediately after arrest). Intoxication can occur when a person ingests alcohol, illegal drugs, prescription medications, or a combination thereof. If someone is suspected of operating any kind of motor vehicle, boat, plane, amusement park equipment and/or other water vessel while intoxicated, they may be charged with a DWI. A first time DWI is charged as a class B misdemeanor, which carries a punishment range of at least 3 days in jail and a $2,000 fine, most likely paired with alcohol education classes, counseling, community service, probation, and/or court costs.

A DWI criminal case is also automatically paired with a civil case in which that person’s license may be temporarily suspended by TDPS. If a person submits to a breath or blood test has a BAC at or above a 0.08, TDPS will try and suspend the person’s driver’s license for a minimum 90 days to a maximum 1 year (for first time offenses) or for a minimum of 1 year (for repeat offenders). If a person refuses to provide a breath or blood sample, TDPS will try to

suspend that person’s driver’s license for no less than 180 days, but no more than 2 years (unless they are a repeat offender, in which case they will try to suspend that person’s license for no less than 2 years).

The Texas Department of Public Safety will also collect a $1,000 to $2,000 surcharge from any individual convicted of DWI (the amount depends on whether the person refused to provide a specimen, or if they did provide one, what their BAC level was). If this surcharge is not paid, further license suspensions or possible revocation can occur.

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