Drunk Driving Accidents and Jail Time in Texas
Anderson Injury Lawyers | September 26, 2022 | Car Accidents
Texas consistently ranks first in the nation for drunk driving deaths. Over 1,500 people die that way every year in Texas. If you cause a car accident while driving drunk, trouble awaits. If someone died in the accident, you could simultaneously face a manslaughter criminal charge and a wrongful death civil claim.
The primary evidence in a Texas driving while intoxicated (DWI) case is your Blood Alcohol Content (BAC). The minimum illegal BAC depends on who you are.
- For most adults, a BAC of 0.08% or above is illegal.
- For motorists who hold a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL), a BAC of 0.04% or above is illegal.
- For minors (under 21), a BAC of even 0.01% (in other words, any measurable amount) is unlawful.
- A BAC of 0.15% or above leads to enhanced penalties.
- Your DWI is a felony with a possible prison time of up to two years if you carry a passenger under 15 years old while drunk.
Texas courts routinely sentence even first-time DWI offenders to at least some jail time.
Jail Time for a Texas DWI
In case you were wondering, “DWI” is the Texas way of referring to what most of the country calls a DUI. Penalties for DWI alone (in the absence of an accident) still rely heavily on your prior criminal record, especially any previous DWIs.
- A first offense results in 3 to 180 days in jail.
- A second offense results in 1 month to 1 year in jail.
- A third offense results in 2 to 10 years in prison. Third-offense DWI is a felony in Texas, even if your first two DUIs occurred in other states.
Texas also imposes other penalties such as fines and driver’s license suspensions.
The DWI “Lookback Period”
If you had a DWI in 1972, and then Texas arrested you for another DUI in 2022, is it your first or second offense? Most states would count it as a first offense because few states will hold a 50-year-old conviction against you. But Texas will; it has no lookback period. That means they can hold a previous DWI against you no matter how long ago it occurred.
How an Accident Changes the Situation
Causing an injury or death because of drunkenness is a serious crime, even if it is your first DWI. Following is a list of some criminal offenses Texas can charge you with if you cause a DWI accident.
DWI Accident Causing Damage to Property
If you drive drunk and cause an accident that causes property damages (typically someone else’s car) but no injuries, your offense is a misdemeanor known as “reckless damage or destruction.” You might not go to jail, but the judge could sentence you to a variety of penalties. You could also face significant civil liability.
You commit felony DWI if you drive drunk and cause an accident that hurts someone, even if the injury is not very serious, and even if you have never been in trouble with the law before. You could spend up to 180 days in jail this way.
You commit Intoxication assault if you cause an accident that results in “serious bodily injury” to someone (other than yourself). Serious bodily injury means life-threatening or causing long-term disability. Prison time ranges from 2 to 10 years.
- The maximum prison sentence increases to 20 years if the victim suffered a severe traumatic brain injury or was emergency medical services personnel or an on-duty firefighter
- If the victim was a judge or on-duty peace officer, prison sentences range from 5 to 99 years in prison.
Intoxication assault is always a felony, even if you have never committed a crime before.
You commit intoxication manslaughter if you cause a fatal accident due to intoxication.
- Ordinarily, prison time ranges from 2 to 20 years.
- The penalty range increases to 5 to 99 years if the victim was an on-duty firefighter or emergency personnel.
If you have ever been convicted of intoxication manslaughter, any future DWI will result in a felony DWI charge, even if it is your second offense.
Find a Lawyer Quickly
If Texas has charged you with DWI or a DWI-related offense, you need to find a skilled criminal defense attorney immediately. If, by contrast, you are the victim of a drunk driving accident, seek a personal injury lawyer to represent you. Unlike most criminal defense lawyers, most personal injury lawyers won’t charge you any legal fees unless they win the case.