Consequences of a DWI Conviction: Why it May be Worth Taking Your Case to Trial

By Allen, Texas Criminal Defense Lawyer Kyle T. Therrian
Office Number: (972) 562-7549
24 Hr Jail Release: (214) 403-6522

As with any decision, resolving a DWI case requires a careful consideration of important factors. Both the consequences of a conviction and the probable outcome at trial must be explored with an attorney before deciding how to plead. Only after weighing these two variables can a fully informed decision be made. Based on the mandatory and probable consequences which flow from a DWI conviction, many people choose to take their DWI to trial, no matter how bleak the probable outcome looks.

A DWI conviction has a wide range of consequences, most are financial but many are social and professional. As a deterrent, the Department of Public Safety advertises on radio and billboards the cost of a DWI in Texas. Rarely does a person wonder where these numbers come from unless and until they are arrested for DWI. This article lists the typical consequences of a DWI conviction. The number and severity of these consequences illustrate why they don’t fit into a 30 second radio spot and why your case may be worth fighting.

Conviction (Mandatory)

First and foremost, when you plead guilty to a DWI you are receiving a conviction. By statute, the prosecutor is prohibited from offering a DWI defendant any other outcome. A conviction remains on your record forever and the whole world can see it, including current and potential employers. While not a crime of moral turpitude, many people prefer that a DWI not appear on their record. The only way to avoid this is to take your case to trial and win.

Fine (Regularly Imposed Condition)
The maximum fine permissible by statute on a first offense DWI is $2,000.00. Rarely does a judge or jury elect to impose the maximum punishment. Typically, DWI fines fall between $500.00 and $1,200. This amount fluctuates with the facts of a particular case.

Court Costs (Mandatory Condition of Probation)
Court costs will depend on what happens in the case but typically range from $300.00 to $600.00.

Cost of Probation (Mandatory Condition of Probation)
Collin County charges $50.00 per month of probation. This fee is imposed on any probation.

Monthly Probation Meetings (Regularly Imposed Condition)

In addition to paying for probation, you also have to attend. At best these monthly meetings are an inconvenience.

Victim Impact Panel (Mandatory Condition of Probation)
An individual convicted of DWI must attend a session sponsored by M.A.D.D. where victims whose lives have been affected by DWI crashes address those found guilty of DWI. The session costs roughly $30.00.

DWI Education Program (Mandatory Condition of Probation)
An individual convicted of DWI must attend a DWI Education Course. The course is 12 hours long and typically costs between $50.00 and $75.00.

Substance Abuse Evaluation + Additional Conditions (Mandatory Condition of Probation)
Because the State knows nothing more about a Defendant than what appears on the criminal history, they mandate that all individuals convicted of DWI be screened for substance abuse issues. The evaluation is conducted by a counselor who meets with the individual for 30 minutes to 1 hour and costs roughly $40.00.

Community Service Hours (Regularly Imposed Condition)

By statute, the maximum amount of community service hours a person convicted of DWI can receive is 100 hours. Typically, anything within 15 to 40 hours is within the range of what can be reasonably expected.

Payment to Crime Stoppers (Regularly Imposed Condition)
Recently, Collin County prosecutors have been requiring a one-time $25 payment to the Crime Stoppers organization in any misdemeanor probation.

Deep Lung Device (Usually Discretionary)

In some cases, the prosecutor may request and the judge may order the installation of a deep lung device in the vehicle of a person convicted of DWI. A Deep Lung Device is a breathalyzer machine installed on a vehicle which requires a clean sample of breath before allowing a person to start the vehicle. A Deep Lung Device costs money to install and the service center providing the device charges a monthly rental fee. In addition to the costs, having a machine like this in your vehicle is burdensome embarrassing.

A deep lung device is a mandatory condition in any case in which the defendant provided a breath or blood sample of 0.15 or greater or when a criminal record indicates a prior DWI within the last five years. The state will also strongly consider this option in cases involving accidents, refusal of the breath test or when a criminal record shows previous alcohol related law enforcement.

No Alcohol (Regularly Imposed Condition)
A person convicted of DWI will be prohibited from consuming alcohol during the period of probation.

Terms and Conditions Jail Time (Rarely Imposed Condition, Unless Prior DWI)

Even when a person is placed on probation in lieu of serving a jail sentence, the prosecutor can request and the judge can order up to 30 days to be served in jail as a condition of probation in a misdemeanor case. 3 days as a term and condition of probation is mandatory for individuals charged with a second DWI (no matter how old the first DWI). If, however, the previous DWI happened within the last five years, this number increases to 5 days.

License Suspension (Hidden Consequence)
There are a variety of ways to have your license suspended in a DWI case. The first opportunity is on the night of a DWI arrest when the officer requests a breath specimen. Refusal or failure of the test both result in an administrative suspension of driving privileges which can be contested in an administrative hearing. Individuals who pass the breath test (a rare minority of individuals) or who successfully contest a license suspension are not out of the woods, either. The law requires a license suspension when an individual who is convicted of DWI is not placed on probation (i.e. goes to jail).

Restricted License (hidden consequence)
Regardless of how a driver’s license was suspended, an individual has the need to drive his or her vehicle for work, family, and household needs. The law permits a person to obtain an occupational driver’s license in most circumstances. The occupational license permits driving for limited purposes, during limited times, in limited places. All fees considered, an occupational license can cost about $400.00.

Surcharges (Hidden Consequence)
Just because the DA’s office got a pound of flesh doesn’t mean that DPS isn’t going to get theirs, too. When your license becomes valid again, it will come with a premium. In order to maintain a driver’s license, DPS will require $1000 per year for three years on a first DWI conviction, $1,500 for a second and $2,000 for any DWI involving a blood alcohol concentration of 0.16 or greater.

SR-22 Insurance and Increased Premiums (Hidden Consequence)
DPS will also require individuals to carry a high risk insurance policy for any period that person holds an occupational driver’s license and for two years from the date of a DWI conviction. Your insurance company will charge a premium to keep an SR-22 insurance policy on file with DPS and will most likely increase your regular premium based on the DWI conviction, as well.

CDL Suspension (Hidden Consequence)
If you hold a Commercial Driver’s License your CDL will be suspended for a year upon arrest for a first time DWI. A subsequent DWI will result in your CDL being suspended for life with the opportunity to re-apply after 10 years.

*Kyle Therrian is an attorney licensed to practice in the State of Texas. Nothing in this article is intended to be legal advice. For legal advice on any case you should contact an attorney directly.

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