Changes to Texas DWI Law Went Into Effect September 1, 2011

Two new changes to the DWI law in Texas went into effect September first of this year.

The first change involves first time DWI offenders with a blood alcohol content of 0.15 or higher. Formerly, all first time DWI offenders -, which included all drivers with a BAC of 0.08 or higher – were charged with a Class B misdemeanor and subject to a $2,000 fine and 180 days in jail. Subsequent DWI charges for the same driver led to more stringent charges and steeper punishments.

Since passage of the new law, first time DWI offenders will now be placed into two categories: Those with a BAC between 0.08 and 0.14, and those with a BAC of 0.15 or higher.

Those with a BAC between 0.08 and 0.14 will still be charged with a Class B misdemeanor. But now first time offenders with a BAC of 0.15 or higher will be charged with a Class A misdemeanor and subject to stiffer penalties: A fine of up to $4,000 and up to one year in jail.

The second major change to the DWI law pertains to enhanced DWI charges associated with intoxication assault and DWI that results in serious brain damage to the victim. Previously, enhanced DWI charges were applicable only when certain people were affected – specifically police officers, firefighters and emergency workers. When these specific victims were injured by an intoxication assault, the enhanced charges allowed for a charge of a second-degree felony versus a third-degree felony. Now, however, the law has been expanded to include enhanced DWI charges for an offender who causes severe or permanent brain damage to any victim. A second-degree felony is punishable in Texas by a fine of up to $10,000 and up to 25 years in prison. A third-degree felony is punishable by a fine of up to $10,000 and 2-10 years in prison.