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Which is Worse in Texas: DWI or DUI?

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Did you know that about one in three car accident deaths involve a driver that was drinking alcohol? Despite countless public campaigns about drinking and driving, it remains a serious issue all around the nation.

Texas is no different. Our state struggles to prevent hundreds of deaths each year by criminalizing drinking while driving. If you were arrested for such behavior, then you were probably charged with either a DUI or DWI. You’re likely wondering – what’s the difference between these two similar charges? Which is worse in Texas: DUI or DWI?

If you were recently arrested, then you need to get informed as soon as possible. Learn more about what exactly what your charges are, the potential penalties associated with the crime, and how to defend yourself below.

Have you been charged with a DUI or DWI in Texas? Attorney Brett Podolsky can help »

Getting Charged With a DUI in Texas

Did you get arrested and slapped with a DUI charge in Texas? DUI stands for driving under the influence. If you received this charge, then you’re probably 21-years-old or younger. That’s because DUIs are only levied against minors in Texas.

Our state has a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to underage drinking. If you’re underage and driving, then it’s illegal to have any amount of alcohol in your system. The law doesn’t care whether or not the alcohol actually impaired your ability to drive. If any alcohol is detected in your system, then you can get convicted of a DUI.

It also doesn’t matter whether alcohol was detected in your system or not, either. You can get charged with a DUI even if you haven’t been drinking! That’s because driving under the influence could be interpreted to mean driving under the influence of illegal drugs, too.

In Texas, a DUI is considered a Class C misdemeanor. Here are the potential penalties you could face if convicted:

  • Fines up to $500
  • A suspension of your driver’s license
  • Court-ordered participation in alcohol or drug courses
  • 20-40 hours of community services

While these penalties might not seem that bad, they can be life-changing. As a minor, you may have trouble getting into college or finding a job after getting convicted of a crime.

DWI Charges in Texas

Instead of getting charged with a DUI, were you charged with a DWI? DWI stands for driving while intoxicated. It sounds similar to a DUI, and the terms are often used interchangeably outside of the courtroom. Despite that, these charges are very different according to the law.

You could get charged with a DWI if you’re operating a car while:

  • You have a BAC of .08% or more
  • Appearing intoxicated due to consuming alcohol
  • Appearing intoxicated due to consumption of a controlled substance or prescription drug

When you’re approached by an officer, the police must have probable cause to believe that you’re intoxicated. Probable cause may mean the officer witnesses signs of impairment. The police officer might also see empty alcohol containers or signs of drug use. The officer might also claim to smell alcohol or drugs when they walk up to your car.

Either way, the officer may decide to test you to see if you seem impaired. You could be subject to a field sobriety test, breathalyzer test, or get examined by a drug recognition expert. Officers may also draw your blood to determine your blood alcohol content. You have the right to refuse a field sobriety test, but refusal of a field sobriety test comes with additional potential penalties.

DWI charges are much more serious than DUIs. A DWI is considered a Class B misdemeanor in Texas. Here are the potential consequences you could face if convicted:

  • A minimum of 72 hours in jail
  • Up to 180 days in jail/Fines up to $2,000
  • Annual fees ($1,000-$2,000 per year) for up to three years
  • Suspension of your driver’s license
  • Court-ordered participation in a drug or alcohol program
  • Court-ordered community service
  • Mandatory probation period

Keep in mind that your crime could be upgraded to a more serious charge if your BAC is higher than .15. If that’s the case, then you’ll get hit with a Class A misdemeanor, which carries heavier penalties. If someone got injured by your intoxicated driving, then you could get charged with a felony crime, too.

What’s the Difference Between a DUI and a DWI Charge?

So, what’s the big difference between a DUI and a DWI charge in Texas? DUI charges are mainly levied against minors in Texas. Any amount of intoxication, whether by alcohol or controlled substances, can lead to a DUI charge. DWIs, on the other hand, are much more serious. The arresting officer must have probable cause to make an arrest, which usually means they have proof that you’re intoxicated.

Possible Defenses

If you’ve been arrested, then you’re likely already wondering how to defend yourself against your charges. Here are some of the most commonly used defense strategies after a DUI or DWI charge in Texas:

  • Unreasonable search and seizure – no cause for initiating a traffic stop
  • The police violated your rights during your arrest
  • Calling into question the accuracy of field sobriety tests or breathalyzer machines

Keep in mind that not all defense strategies will work in every situation. You need to analyze exactly what happened and determine what evidence the authorities have against you.

Learn how a criminal defense attorney can help. Get your free ebook today »

Which Is Worse in Texas: DUI or DWI?

So, which is worse in Texas: DUI or DWI? DWI charges are considered more severe in Texas because they carry heavy penalties. Despite that, a DUI charge isn’t something you want to deal with, either.

If you get arrested in Texas, then it’s important to hire a criminal defense lawyer to help you in court. Texas is notorious for being a very punitive state, which means they’re passionate about levying strict punishments against people who are accused of breaking the law. If you can’t afford to hire your own lawyer, then it’s wise to get a state-appointed attorney to fight on your behalf.

Are you ready to get started on a defense strategy? Are you working yourself up for court? If so, then our expert defense attorneys can help. Reach out to our office now to learn more about how we can help.

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