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There are different variations of DWI that may lead to various levels of charges and penalties if convicted. Some offenses can result in increased charges if certain aggravating factors exist, while others are separate DWI-related offenses that carry greater charges and penalties if committed. Whatever the case may be, since the penalties for a DWI conviction can be very harsh, building a strong defense with the help of a Fort Worth DWI lawyer is vital.
An experienced defense lawyer could evaluate your case and take the immediate steps that are necessary to protect your rights. Legal counsel can make it much easier to navigate the criminal justice system when you are accused of a DWI.
Driving While Intoxicated in Fort Worth
Tex. Penal Code § 49.04 makes it unlawful to drive while intoxicated while in a public place. This offense is commonly known as DWI. Individuals may meet the definition of “intoxicated” either by having a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 percent or more or by consuming sufficient amounts of alcohol and/or drugs to impair their mental and physical faculties.
It is important to note that DWI is not the same as DUI, or driving under the influence, under Texas law. Under Tex. Alc. Bev. Code § 106.041, DUI is a zero-tolerance offense that individuals under the age of 21 commit when they drive after consuming any amount of alcohol. This is a criminal offense regardless of the BAC level of the drivers or the extent to which they are impaired by drugs or alcohol, if at all.
Aggravating Factors Could Impact Penalties
Under certain circumstances, a DWI can be elevated. For example, driving with an open container, an especially high BAC, or a child passenger can drastically affect the charges. To learn how a specific aggravating factor may affect a case, it may be beneficial to speak with a Fort Worth DWI attorney.
DWI and Open Alcohol Container
For a DWI offense with an open container of alcohol in the vehicle, the charge is still a Class B misdemeanor, but there will be a minimum jail sentence of six days. With a regular DWI charge, there is no minimum jail sentence.
DWI with High BAC
Another factor that aggravates a first DWI is a BAC level of 0.15 percent or more. This is almost twice the legal BAC limit of 0.08 percent. As a result, the charge becomes a Class A misdemeanor, which can result in a jail sentence of up to one year.
DWI with Child Passenger
A DWI offense in which drivers have a passenger under the age of 15 in the vehicle elevates the charge to a state jail felony under Tex. Penal Code § 49.045. A state jail felony can result in a prison sentence ranging from 180 days up to two years, as well as a maximum $10,000 fine. A felony conviction also results in the loss of various civil rights, including the right to vote, serve on a jury, or possess a firearm.
When a DWI Involves an Injury or Fatality
If a DWI results in serious bodily injury to another, then the drivers may face charges of intoxication assault under Tex. Penal Code § 49.07. This is a third-degree felony offense that could cause a prison sentence of two to ten years, as well as a $10,000 fine.
It is a second-degree felony if the individual causes an accident that results in the death of another in the course of committing DWI. For a second-degree felony conviction, individuals may face a prison term of two to 20 years and a $10,000 fine. Due to the potential for these types of penalties, consulting a DWI lawyer in Fort Worth may be advisable.
Work with a Fort Worth DWI Attorney
In addition to sentences of incarceration and payment of fines, all those who are convicted of DWI may be subject to an administrative license suspension, for lengthy periods of time. Since administrative license suspensions can be extremely lengthy and the deadlines for appealing the suspension are strict, contacting a Fort Worth DWI lawyer as quickly as possible may be helpful.
A refusal to take a BAC breath or blood test also can drastically increase administrative license suspension periods. Depending on the factors of your case, you may wish to retain legal counsel for assisting in minimizing some or all of these adverse consequences.