Impairment with intoxicating substances, such as alcohol or drugs, can result in severe motor vehicle accidents when someone attempts to drive while in an inebriated state. For this reason, all state governments take drunk or drugged driving very seriously, and Texas is no exception.

What does set Texas apart is the distinction it makes between driving under the influence and driving while intoxicated. While the laws of other states may use these two terms interchangeably, in Texas they actually mean two different things.

What is the difference between DUI and DWI in Texas?

The most significant difference between a DUI and DWI in Texas is the age of the driver. According to the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, driving under the influence charges apply to drivers under the age of 21 who have alcohol in their system in any detectable amount. Since consuming alcohol while under 21 is already illegal, Texas takes a zero-tolerance approach to DUI enforcement.

Drivers over the age of 21 may face driving while intoxicated charges if they get operate a motor vehicle in a public place under one of two circumstances. Either they have a blood alcohol concentration of at least 0.08, or they do not have normal physical or mental faculties due to the consumption of alcohol and/or drugs.

What are the penalties for each?

Under Texas law, driving while intoxicated is a Class B misdemeanor. The penalty for DWI is at least 72 hours of confinement.

Driving under the influence is a Class C misdemeanor. According to the Texas Department of Transportation, the penalties can vary depending on the driver’s BAC and whether it is a first or a repeat offense. For a first offense, the driver may have to perform 20 to 40 hours of community service and take a mandatory alcohol awareness class. In addition, the driver may face a license suspension of 60 days and up to $500 in fines.