What’s the Difference between DWI and DUI in Texas?

A common source of confusion in Texas is the difference between a DWI and a DUI.

Texans often use the two terms interchangeably. However, the two offenses are largely dissimilar. Below we will take a look at how the two offenses differ.

What is a DWI?

Driving While Intoxicated, or “DWI” for short, is a criminal offense charged under the Texas Penal Code.

An offender can be charged with a DWI if she or he has a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or higher or appears readily intoxicated.

Of the two charges, a DWI is a much graver offense.

DWI convictions can lead to hefty fines, driver’s license suspension, and/or a jail or prison sentence.

1st DWI Fine

For example, a first time DWI offender can face a fine up to $2,000, a potential jail sentence up to 180 days, and can lose his or her driver’s license for up to 1 year.

What is a DUI?

By comparison, Driving Under the Influence, or a “DUI,” is an offense charged under the Texas Traffic Code, not the Texas Penal Code.

A DUI is only brought against minors under 21 years old.

However, because it is illegal for minors to consume any alcohol in Texas, a minor can be charged with a DUI if they have consumed any alcohol.

This means that a minor’s blood alcohol level, or whether he or she appeared intoxicated, are irrelevant, unlike a DWI.

Penalties for DUI in Texas

DUI penalties are also much less severe than DWI penalties.

A first time DUI offender can face a fine up to $500, potentially 40 hours of community service, be ordered to take an alcohol awareness class, and have his or her license suspended for up to 60 days.

Can a minor be charged with a DWI instead of a DUI?

Yes, absolutely. While only minors can be charged with a DUI, a minor can still be charged with a DWI.

The critical difference is that a driver over 21 can have alcohol in his or her system so long as he or she is not legally intoxicated.

Minors, however, cannot drive with any alcohol in their systems because it is illegal for minors to consume alcohol in Texas. A minor may be charged with a DUI if he or she has a small level of alcohol in his or her system.

However, if the minor is “legally intoxicated,” he or she can still be charged with a DWI.