What Is the Difference Between DUI and DWI in Texas

In Texas, navigating the legal distinctions between Driving Under the Influence (DUI) and Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) is crucial given their different implications. A DUI usually refers to minors under 21 with any detectable alcohol, aligning with the state’s zero tolerance stance on underage drinking and driving. On the other hand, DWI typically concerns individuals over the age of 21 operating a vehicle with a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or impaired capabilities due to substance use. Understanding what is the difference between DUI and DWI in Texas can guide you through the potential legal ramifications of each offense.

Key Takeaways

  • In Texas, DUI charges apply to minors under the age of 21 who have any detectable amount of alcohol in their system, while DWI charges are for adults with a BAC of 0.08% or higher, or those whose driving ability is impaired due to substance use.

  • Penalties for DUI/DWI in Texas vary based on the offense and can include fines, license suspension, mandatory educational programs, and jail time; with repeat offenses leading to increasingly severe punishment.

  • Legal defense strategies for DUI/DWI charges may involve challenging the accuracy of BAC tests and the legality of police procedures, emphasizing the need for experienced legal counsel in these cases.

DUI vs. DWI: The Key Differences in Texas

drinking driving warning

In Texas, the terms DUI (Driving Under the Influence) and DWI (Driving While Intoxicated) have distinct legal meanings. For individuals under 21 years of age, a DUI charge is issued for driving with any level of detectable alcohol in their system, reflecting Texas’ zero tolerance approach to underage drinking and driving. This means it is unlawful for minors to drive with even a trace amount of alcohol present.

Conversely, adults face DWI charges if they are caught operating a vehicle while having a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) that reaches or exceeds 0.08%, or if drugs or alcohol impair their ability to drive safely. The consequences for receiving a DWI charge tend to be more severe compared to those associated with DUI infractions due largely because such incidents suggest higher levels of intoxication and potentially greater risk posed by impaired driving behaviors.

Defining DUI in Texas

In Texas, the phrase ‘Driving Under the Influence’ (DUI) is used exclusively for individuals who have not reached the legal drinking age of 21. A detectable amount of alcohol in their system while driving can lead to severe repercussions due to strict enforcement by authorities. The state’s zero tolerance policy toward underage drivers consuming alcohol means that any measurable level could result in them facing a DUI charge.

This tough stance reflects this. Texas’s commitment to combating and deterring minors from engaging in the act of driving after having consumed even minimal quantities of alcohol.

Defining DWI in Texas

In Texas, the phrase ‘Driving While Intoxicated’ (DWI) is specifically used for adults who are found operating a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) above the established legal threshold. Should an adult’s BAC measure at or exceed 0.08%, they may be charged under this law.

It’s important to note that in Texas, even if one’s blood alcohol concentration falls below this limit, charges of DWI can still apply if there is evidence suggesting impairment of either mental or physical faculties due to the influence of drugs or alcohol while driving.

Penalties for DUI and DWI Offenses in Texas

Under Texas law, any form of physical pain, illness or harm to the body is considered a type of bodily injury. Serious bodily injuries are especially detrimental due to their ability to potentially lead to death. They can also cause permanent disfigurement and long-term impairment. The extent of the damage incurred from such an offense will be examined closely when constructing a defense strategy for cases involving ABI charges and any medical evidence show to the injury affects daily life activities. Illness may not necessarily seem like an obvious culprit for this kind of charge in court, but illness if intentionally, knowingly or recklessly caused by another could qualify as injury under Texas law. If intoxication is involved in the incident, then representation from an experienced DWI lawyer will prove invaluable. Understanding these factors on all levels is highly essential to moving forward with tackling any assault defense.

illustration of a judge's gavel

In Texas, the repercussions for DUI or DWI offenses are notably stringent and encompass various forms of punishment. These can include:

  • monetary fines

  • revocation or suspension of driving privileges

  • compulsory attendance in programs dedicated to alcohol education

  • incarceration

These penalties typically escalate based on the gravity of the offense as well as any prior incidences recorded against the individual. Harsher consequences may be imposed if there were exacerbating circumstances during the infraction, such as carrying a child passenger or possessing an open alcohol container.


These punishments extend their impact beyond just immediate effects. Suffering from a DUI conviction could lead to soaring insurance premiums, barriers to certain job opportunities, and enduring marks on one’s criminal record. As such, it is critical for individuals facing a charge related to DUI or DWI to comprehend these implications fully and pursue measures that protect their legal rights while potentially mitigating detrimental outcomes linked with such charges.

DUI Penalties

Minors charged with their first DUI offense can expect penalties including a maximum fine of $500, suspension of their driver’s license for 60 days, and an obligation to complete between 20 and 40 hours of community service, along with compulsory attendance in alcohol awareness courses. Should minors offend again, the repercussions escalate dramatically. For example, upon a minor’s third DUI charge at the age or older than 17 years old, they could incur up to a $2,000 fine and be subject to spending as many as 180 days behind bars while also facing the possibility of having their driving privileges suspended anywhere from two months to half a year.

Intended both as punitive measures and deterrents against underage drinking followed by driving activities are these penalties. Nevertheless, it is crucial for those accused under such circumstances to consult immediately with legal professionals well-versed in DUI cases who may possibly assist them in lessening any resulting disciplinary actions.

DWI Penalties

In the state of Texas, a DWI charge carries more stringent penalties than those for DUI offenses. The consequences imposed on DWI charges are typically severer within the jurisdiction. A Class B misdemeanor is applied to individuals convicted of their first DWi offense, which comes with various punishments including:

  • Monetary fines

  • Time in jail

  • Suspension of one’s driving license

  • Compulsory participation in educational programs about substance use

Those found guilty can expect no less than 72 hours behind bars and at most half a year. They could also face driver’s license suspension ranging from three months to an entire year along with monetary penalties as much as $2,000 plus additional financial burdens extending over three subsequent years.

Penalties escalate when dealing with repeated incidents involving DWI in Texas. Penalties increase according to the number of occurrences.


  1. For a person’s initial transgression: Classified under Class B misdemeanor resulting up to six months incarceration, maximum fines totaling $2,000 and potentially losing driving privileges for twelve months.
  2.  If it’s someone’s second instance: It escalates to a Class A misdemeanor where one may spend up to one full year in jail coupled with doubled fine amounts reaching $4k. Extended probation duration might be enforced alongside compulsory alcohol education sessions.
  3. In cases concerning third-time offenders: They’re charged with third-degree felonies that carry hefty fines possibly amounting to $10k and imprisonment durations between two years and ten.

Thus, obtaining competent legal advice becomes critical when confronting any allegation related to dwi within the Texas borders.

Legal Limit and Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC)

In the state of Texas, a person is legally considered intoxicated if they have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) at or above 0.08 percent. This threshold varies between adults and minors as Texas enforces a zero tolerance policy regarding alcohol consumption by individuals under the legal drinking age.

We will delve deeper into these various limits and what they entail.

Photo of a breathalyzer test being administered to a person suspected of DUI or DWI

BAC Levels for DUI

In Texas, individuals younger than 21 years old are subject to a zero tolerance policy for DUI offenses. Should they operate a vehicle with even trace amounts of alcohol detected in their system, it could result in receiving a charge for driving under the influence (DUI).

Thus, it is critical that minors understand the gravity of drinking any level of alcohol before getting behind the wheel. Doing so may carry harsh penalties such as having their driver’s license suspended.

BAC Levels for DWI

Adults facing a DWI charge are at the legal threshold with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 percent or more. Nevertheless, it’s possible to be prosecuted for DWI if alcohol or drugs impair one’s driving capabilities, regardless of whether their BAC falls under that limit.

Should an adult motorist record a BAC level of 0.15% or higher, what would typically be classified as a Class B misdemeanor could be upgraded to the more serious classification of a Class A misdemeanor.

Defense Strategies for DUI and DWI Charges in Texas

Facing a DUI or DWI charge in Texas can be an overwhelming experience. The guidance of a skilled DUI attorney can markedly affect the resolution of these charges. Such experts possess a comprehensive understanding of both state regulations and legal protocols, which they utilize to craft robust defense approaches for their clientele. They also offer free consultations to help individuals grasp potential legal tactics pertinent to their situation.

It’s important to recognize that in Texas, those accused of DWi have the right to dispute their charges through certain defenses. These defensive maneuvers may result in either diminished charges or an acquittal based on case specifics. Among typical defense strategies are contesting the accuracy of BAC test results and scrutinizing law enforcement practices during arrest procedures.

Illustration of a defense attorney discussing strategies with a client facing DUI or DWI charges in Texas

Challenging BAC Test Results

Evidence from breathalyzer tests, which often constitutes the core of drunk driving charges, may be subject to mistakes and unreliability. The possibility for errors in such assessments should not be overlooked. Defense strategies might question the calibration and execution related to these instruments, and underscore how variables like body heat or health disorders could lead to incorrect readings.

In parallel, defending against blood test results can include questioning.

  • the protocol employed when obtaining a sample

  • the expertise of those who were engaged

  • how the specimen was managed and preserved

  • technical complications with equipment used for analysis.

Questioning Police Procedures

One potential defense approach may be to carefully examine whether the police acted legally and followed proper protocol during the arrest. DWI charges in Texas require that a traffic stop is initiated lawfully, meaning the officer must possess ‘probable cause’ as dictated by the Texas Traffic Code. If these procedures were violated, it might result in dismissal of the charges.

This examination encompasses:

  • The circumstances under which an ignition interlock device is mandated as a term of bond,

  • Whether sobriety checkpoints meet constitutional standards,

  • The necessity and legality of obtaining warrants for blood draws specific to DWI cases in Texas.

Impact of Prior Convictions on DUI and DWI Cases

In Texas, the severity of punishments for subsequent DUI and DWI offenses is significantly affected by an individual’s history of prior DUI convictions. The state’s legal framework, as outlined in the Texas Penal Code, categorizes individuals with previous convictions for DWI, Intoxication Assault or Intoxication Manslaughter as repeat offenders who face increasingly severe consequences with each additional offense which can ultimately lead to classification as a habitual offender.

For those reoffending within a certain period, harsher sanctions are applied. This includes higher fines and court fees along with extended prison sentences upon conviction. If found guilty again in Texas courts, repeat DWI offenders encounter much longer periods of license suspension compared to those facing their first infraction.

judgement, punishment, justice

Repeat DUI Offenders

It can be inferred that in Texas, while there may not be explicit details about enhanced penalties for recurrent DUI offenders as opposed to those charged with DWI, the consequences are likely to become more severe following each additional offense. Typically, individuals who offend multiple times incur steeper fines, extended periods of license suspension, and possibly a greater number of required community service hours.

This highlights the importance of securing legal counsel when confronting charges related to DUI or DWI – whether it’s your first encounter with such allegations or if you’ve faced them before.

Repeat DWI Offenders

In Texas, individuals who commit a DWI and then reoffend face more severe repercussions with each additional conviction. For those committing a second offense, the consequences are heightened to include:

  • Classification as a Class A misdemeanor, which may result in incarceration for up to one year.

  • Fines that can reach $4,000.

  • An extended duration of probationary supervision.

  • Compulsory participation in educational programs regarding alcohol use.

Subsequent offenses beyond the third bring about even steeper penalties including elevation to a third-degree felony charge. With continued violations leading possibly to:

  • Charges increasing to the severity of a second-degree felony.

  • Monetary fines escalating up to $10,000.

  • Terms of imprisonment stretching from two years minimum up until ten years maximum

And if any transgressions occur post-incarceration, there is potential facing life sentences with 25-year terms for fourth-time or more offenders.

Finding Legal Help for DUI and DWI Cases in Texas

Navigating the complexities of a DUI or DWI charge in Texas can be daunting and confusing. Securing proper legal assistance is critical to managing the situation effectively. Attorneys with expertise in DUI law, such as Paul Looney and Edgardo Rafael Baez, have a profound impact on the resolution of DUI charges through their deep understanding of local laws and judicial processes.

In dealing with a Texas DUI or DWI charge, having an adept legal team is vital for devising robust defense tactics aimed at reducing the ramifications of such charges. Notable lawyers like Ashley Morgan is celebrated for her proficiency in defending against DUI/DWI offenses, offering those accused skilled representation within the state’s judicial system.

Contact us today by calling 210-390-0000 or filling out our website form.

Choosing the Right Attorney

When facing a DUI or DWI charge, it is essential to select an attorney who has considerable experience in handling such cases. An experienced professional like Ashley Morgan can have a significant impact on the outcome of your case. It’s crucial to choose someone like Ashley Morgan, who provides individualized attention and cultivates a trustworthy relationship with clients.

Attorneys that show relentless dedication and swift action in their approach are often more successful in preventing formal charges from being filed and concluding criminal investigations swiftly.

Free Consultations and Evaluations

 Ashley Morgan provides complimentary evaluations and strategy session aimed at helping prospective clients grasp the legal support and tactics involved in cases pertaining to DUI (Driving Under the Influence) and DWI (Driving While Intoxicated). These preliminary meeting serves as a no-cost means for individuals facing charges of DUI or DWI to determine if an attorney is right for their case.


In summary, comprehending the intricate details of DUI and DWI statutes in Texas is essential for those confronted with these charges. The severe consequences, strict legal BAC thresholds, influence of previous offenses, as well as potential defense tactics, are all critical elements within the judicial proceedings. Securing competent legal assistance is imperative to traverse this challenging terrain successfully and secure a favorable result for your situation. It’s important to recognize that each case presents its own set of circumstances. Grasping these nuances and selecting appropriate legal counsel is pivotal when dealing with a charge related to DUI or DWI.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is considered a DUI in Texas?

In Texas, if your blood alcohol concentration hits 0.08 percent or higher, or if drugs or alcohol impair your ability to drive, fly, or boat safely, you may be charged with a DUI.

It’s crucial to keep your alcohol concentration below the legal threshold to dodge severe repercussions.

What happens on your first DWI in Texas?

Being found guilty of a first-time DWI offense in Texas may result in penalties that include a maximum fine of $2,000 and the possibility of serving as much as 180 days in county jail. This infraction is categorized as a Class B misdemeanor within the state.

Do you lose your license for first DWI in Texas?

Indeed, in Texas, a first-time DWI offense with a failed BAC test may result in a license suspension for up to 90 days. Should there be additional DWIs following the initial one, the duration of the suspension is likely to extend beyond this period.

What are the odds of getting dismissed for a DWI in Texas?

In Texas, there is a significant possibility of either dismissal or conviction on lesser charges in DWI cases. Ashley Morgan fights for her client’s case to get dismissed first.

What is the difference between a DUI and DWI in Texas?

In Texas, the distinction between DUI and DWI hinges on the driver’s age and alcohol concentration in their system. A DUI is issued to individuals under 21 years old who have a detectable amount of alcohol present, while a DWI is designated for adults whose blood alcohol content (BAC) reaches or exceeds 0.08%, or those demonstrating impaired driving capabilities due to the influence of alcohol or drugs.