Any conviction for DWI (driving while intoxicated) or DUI (driving under the influence) — also known as drunk driving — will result in both criminal and civil penalties. Texas law provides for enhanced penalties for drivers with BAC (blood-alcohol concentration) levels of 0.15 or more.
DWI with a BAC of 0.15 or more is a second-degree misdemeanor in Texas (instead of a third-degree misdemeanor for lesser DWI charges). Also, the state’s Driver Responsibility Act imposes the highest mandatory administrative (civil) surcharges allowed by law on people who are permitted to have a driver’s license after a conviction for DWI with a BAC of 0.15 or more.
A DWI with a BAC of 0.15 or more (often called the High BAC) is a serious charge that may result in jail time, expensive fines, probation, community service, loss of driver’s license or expensive license surcharge fees, and higher vehicle insurance premiums. A conviction also may have adverse effects on future employment or educational opportunities.
DWI with BAC of 0.15 or More in San Antonio, Texas
More than two-thirds of drivers in the U.S. responsible for alcohol-related deaths in 2013 had blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) levels of 0.15 or higher, according to research by the National Conference of State Legislatures. Advocates for strict drunk driving laws have dubbed high BAC cases “extreme DWI.”
Although it is often a victimless crime, drunk driving always has the potential for tragedy, and lawmakers have responded by writing stricter and stricter laws. A 2003 revision to the Texas Penal Code elevated the criminal charge for DWI with a BAC of 0.15 or more to a Class A misdemeanor. (A “regular” DWI charge for a BAC between 0.08 and less than 0.15 is a Class B misdemeanor.)
Title 1, Chapter 49.04 of the Texas Penal Code states that if it is shown at trial that “an analysis of a specimen of the person’s blood, breath, or urine showed an alcohol concentration level of 0.15 or more at the time the analysis was performed, the offense is a Class A misdemeanor.” “Alcohol concentration” (BAC) means the number of grams of alcohol per:
- 210 liters of breath
- 100 milliliters of blood, or
- 67 milliliters of urine
(See Texas Penal Code, Title 1, Chapter 49.01(1).)
The police may conduct field sobriety exercises or use chemical tests, including breath tests, blood tests, or urine tests to determine a driver’s BAC.
A driver may refuse any DWI test unless police obtain a warrant, but the refusal of a test violates Texas’ implied consent law, resulting in the automatic suspension of a driver’s license. A driver who refuses a test is entitled to an administrative license revocation (ALR) hearing, where the suspension may be challenged by the driver along with his or her legal counsel, but an ALR hearing must be requested within 15 days of the arrest.
Criminal Penalties for BAC of 0.15 or More
A criminal court will not only consider the BAC of a driver but also his or her prior criminal record when imposing a sentence for a DWI conviction.
A first-time DWI offender with a BAC below 0.15 is usually charged with a Class B misdemeanor, with criminal penalties upon conviction of between 72 hours and 180 days in jail and a fine of up to $2,000.
The charges for a first DWI offense are enhanced to a Class A misdemeanor if a chemical test showed the defendant’s BAC was 0.15 or more, with penalties upon conviction similar to a second DWI conviction. A Class A misdemeanor may result in between 30 days and one year in jail, a fine of up to $4,000, and the loss of driving privileges for up to two years.
Administrative Penalties for BAC of 0.15 or More
In addition to the criminal penalties that may be imposed in a DWI with BAC of 0.15 or more, Texas will also assess a mandatory annual surcharge fee to be paid to the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS). This administrative fee is paid for a period of three years as a condition of maintaining a driver’s license. Failure to pay the surcharges or enter into a payment agreement will result in the automatic suspension of a driver’s license until all payments are made.
A Class A misdemeanor conviction for a first DWI with a BAC of 0.16 or more imposes annual surcharges of $2,000 annually for three years if and when a license is granted (Texas Statutes, Title 7, Chapter 708.10.)
Texas DWI surcharges, to be paid to the Texas Department of Public Safety, are:
- DWI First Offense — $1,000 annual surcharge ($3,000 total)
- DWI Second or Subsequent Offense — $1,500 annual surcharge ($4,500 total)
- DWI with BAC 0.16 or more (first offense) — $2,000 annual surcharge ($6,000 total)
(Note: The BAC threshold in the language of the Texas Transportation Code is 0.01 higher than the threshold for DWI with a high BAC (0.15) in the language of the Texas Penal Code, although Senate Bill 93, filed in 2015, but not enacted by the Legislature, seeks to repeal Chapter 708.)
San Antonio, Texas Attorney for DWI with a BAC of 0.15
If you were accused of DWI, DUI, or drunk driving with a BAC of 0.15 or more in San Antonio, Texas, or Bexar County, Texas, you should strongly consider immediately consulting with an experienced criminal defense attorney familiar with DWI cases in the local area.
A qualified lawyer may be able to find inconsistencies or weaknesses in the prosecution’s case that may introduce reasonable doubt, which could lead to a reduction or dismissal of the charges. You also face time limits related to retaining your driving privileges.
If you have been arrested in San Antonio, Boerne, Comfort, or the surrounding areas, The Parent Law Firm is equipped with the local knowledge and resources necessary to defend a charge of DWI with a 0.15 BAC or more. Dave Parent is a dedicated DWI attorney in Bexar County who can explain the charges you face and then work hard fighting the charges for you.
The Parent Law Firm may be able to help you avoid a trial and negotiate a reduction or dismissal of the charges, but Dave Parent will take a case to trial if necessary and will fight against a conviction. He will also fight to retain your driving privileges.
Call The Parent Law Firm today at 210-819-4111 to schedule your free initial consultation.