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.
It’s really going to depend on the jurisdiction. In some states, DWI and DUI have slightly different meanings, but I know that Louisiana law treats them both interchangeably and there is not legal difference between the two. -Danny Russell, Baton Rouge DWI Lawyer.
Driving while intoxicated and driving under the influence are two separate criminal offenses in Texas. Driving While Intoxicated is a more serious offense under Texas law, with a wider range of penalties. Driving Under the Influence is a less serious charge with a narrower range of penalties. There are two major distinctions between DWI and DUI in Texas. The first factor is the accused’s age. Anyone, regardless of age, can be charged with DWI in Texas. Only citizens under the age of 21 may be charged with DUI.
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.
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.