What’s the Difference Between DUI and DWI in Texas

criminal on a street

Texas has one of the highest rates of DUI and DWI anywhere in the country. While most people know what DUI and DWI stand for, some find them confusing since the terms are used interchangeably.

DUI stands for ‘Driving under the influence’ while DWI is an acronym for ‘driving while intoxicated. In Texas, these terms are not the same offense since DUI applies to minors with any trace of alcohol in their system and DWI applies to anyone who is legally intoxicated.

Both terms indicate a serious offense that either involves a person charged for driving while impaired and endangering the lives of others and themselves or a minor illegally consuming alcohol and driving a motor vehicle. Both offenses can be caused by several intoxicating substances from alcoholic beverages to drugs and medication—prescription, over the counter or illegal substances.

DUI in Texas

In Texas, DUI is only issued to minors. Texas has a zero-tolerance policy, so any minor who is under the age of 21 that is caught driving with any amount of alcohol in their blood, they can be charged with a DUI. Even if their blood alcohol content (BAC) is under the legal limit of 0.08, they can be arrested for driving under the influence whether they are driving recklessly or not or whether they are found to be intoxicated or not. DUI actually has nothing to do with intoxication. This charge is also referred to as DUIA, which stands for ‘driving under the influence of alcohol.’

Typical penalties for minors under the age of 17 charged with DUI in Texas include:

  1. a maximum fine of $500
  2. up to 40 hours of supervised community service
  3. a license suspension of 30 to 60 days, and
  4. mandatory attendance of alcohol awareness classes. In some cases, the parent and guardian of the minor will also be ordered to attend the classes.

For minors between 17 and 21, the penalties increase:

  1. a fine of up to $2,000
  2. a minimum one-year suspension of their license
  3. possible jail time from 3 to 180 days for a first-time offense.

The sentence may vary depending upon how old the minor is and if they’ve had prior infractions. We may be able to reduce the length of time of the driver license suspension if the minor installs an ignition interlock device on their vehicle and agrees to community supervision.

criminal handcuffed


DWI in Texas

Under the Texas Penal Code, a DWI charge applies to any person—adult or minor—driving a motor vehicle with a BAC of 0.08 and over or they are found to be driving while impaired by other substances. Penalties for DWI include huge fines, suspension of driver’s license, and even prison time depend upon the following factors:

  1. the circumstances of the offense
  2. the blood-alcohol concentration (above .08 BAC)
  3. the number of previous arrests (first-time offenders receive less severe punishment than DWI second, third or more offenses)
  4. whether there as damage to person or property (including intoxication assault if a person is injured or intoxication manslaughter if someone dies as a result of your DWI)
  5. whether a minor child was in the car

Hire an Expert DUI/DWI Lawyer

Getting arrested for a DWI or a DUI is a traumatic, expensive and time-consuming ordeal. It can also be highly stressful and stay on your record for years affecting both your personal and professional life. The best thing to do is to avoid driving if you have had even a single drink. If you have any doubt about your ability to operate a motor vehicle after you’ve been drinking, call a friend, taxi or Uber to take you home. They’re much less expensive and better for everyone than risking hurting someone because you were intoxicated while driving.

If you find yourself arrested for a DWI or a DUI, an experienced attorney can help you navigate through the complex penalties and punishments that you will be charged with.

The Law Office of J.L. Carpenter is a leading legal firm founded under the leadership of Attorney Jennifer, “J.L.,” Carpenter. As a former Harris County prosecutor and passionate DUI/DWI attorney, J.L. has extensive experience defending drunk driving cases in Friendswood, Clear Lake, and surrounding areas.

Get in touch with one of the most aggressive DUI/DWI lawyers in Houston today and start fighting for your rights by scheduling a consultation.