On September 1, 2019, new DWI laws went into effect concerning penalties for those convicted of driving while intoxicated (DWI). Two of the laws will have a positive impact on those convicted of a DWI while another will increase fines on some DWI offenses.
Ending of Driver Responsibility Program
Since 2003, under what is called the Driver Responsibility Program (DRP), drivers convicted of certain DWI offenses are required to pay an annual surcharge for three years from the date of the conviction. The surcharge is in addition to fines, penalties, and court costs. Failure to pay the surcharge results in a suspension of the driver’s license. Some DWI offenses which required the surcharge include:
- First DWI. $1,000.
- Subsequent DWI. $1,500.
- DWI with blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.16 and higher. $2,000.
Many people could not afford this extra charge. They would end up driving illegally, especially driving to work, since they could not afford to pay the surcharge. When they didn’t pay the surcharge, their driver’s license was suspended.
According to the Texas Department of Public Safety, thousands of drivers will be affected on September 1, 2019, when the law goes into effect. Examples include:
- Many people who have no other fees or underlying license suspensions, the suspension of their license will automatically be lifted.
- For others, the suspension will be lifted as soon as they pay a reinstatement fee.
- Anyone will be eligible to have the suspension lifted after they resolve other issues regarding their licenses that have nothing to do with the DRP suspension.
Deferred Adjudication Possible for First DWI
Deferred adjudication is currently not available for any DWI charge. Beginning September 1, 2019, DWI offenders who meet certain criteria will be eligible for deferred adjudication. The criteria are:
- It is the first DWI charge.
- The BAC was less than 0.15.
- The driver did not hold a commercial driver’s license at the time of the offense.
Deferred adjudication is a type of probation. At the end of the probation, if all the terms have been met, the case will be dismissed. It is important to note that it will still count as a prior offense if there is a subsequent DWI charge. The State of Texas can still enhance the penalties for subsequent DWI arrests even if an individual was given deferred adjudication previously.
Ignition interlock Device (IID). The sentencing judge is required to order the installation of an IID on the offender’s car. This device prevents the car from starting unless the driver blows into the breathalyzer device and has no BAC. The judge may order an alcohol and substance abuse evaluation and if the evaluator determines the person does not pose a threat to the public’s ongoing safety, the judge can waive this requirement.
Installation of the device may be expensive. The legislation has provisions for the person to obtain financial help if the judge does not waive this requirement.
Initial Fines for DWI Will Increase
As a trade-off for ending the DRP, legislators agreed to increase the amount of the original fine assessed for DWIs. This includes:
- First DWI conviction increases the fine to $3,000.
- Second or subsequent DWI conviction within a 36-month period increases to $4,500.
- Fine for DWI with BAC of 0.15 or higher increases to $6,000.
If you have been charged with any DWI offense, whether it is your first, second, or subsequent charge, or whether anyone was hurt in an accident when you were then charged with a DWI, you need the help of one of our experienced DWI attorneys at Townsend, Gebhardt & Eppes, PLLC. We are all former prosecutors, so we know exactly how the other side works. We have years of defending clients on DWI charges, and we have a track record of success. Contact us at our Fort Worth office to schedule a free consultation.