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Can previous noncar drunk offenses enhance DWI penalties?

On Behalf of | Aug 30, 2023 | DUI

If a Texas officer charges you with driving while intoxicated (DWI), you can expect several heavy penalties even for your first offense.

Usually, a first-offense DWI is a Class B misdemeanor. You’ll have to serve up to a year in confinement and pay a maximum fine of $2,000. The state also suspends your license, and the court might ask you to pay an annual fee of up to $2,000 for three years to retain it.

These are all severe enough penalties for a first offense. But what happens if you have a record of offenses for operating other nonautomobile vehicles while drunk?

The long and short of it is that Texas will treat those previous convictions like DWIs. You could face an enhanced DWI even if it’s just your first offense for driving a car while inebriated.

What is an enhanced DWI offense?

If it’s shown during your first DWI trial that you had a previous intoxication offense conviction, your DWI becomes enhanced. From a Class B misdemeanor, the charge becomes a Class A misdemeanor. A Class A misdemeanor is punishable by up to a year in prison and a maximum fine of $4,000.

On top of the fine and prison time, the court can order the suspension of your license. You can request a limited reinstatement of your license, but officials might require you to have an ignition interlock device installed on your vehicle as a condition.

Having two or more previous intoxication offenses on record further enhances the penalties of a DWI conviction, which becomes a third-degree felony. Third-degree felony convictions carry a maximum 10-year prison sentence and up to $10,000 in fines. Your license is also suspended for up to two years, and you’ll be required to use an ignition interlock device if you request a license restoration.

Which drunk offenses count?

Per Texas law, any previous conviction of operating any vehicle while intoxicated can lead to enhanced DWI penalties. This includes convictions for operating aircraft, watercraft and even an amusement ride while intoxicated.

Intoxication offenses all count

Whether it’s a car, a boat, a personal airplane or even a bumper car ride, operating any of them while intoxicated is a crime under Texas law. They can add up, and courts will be critical of anyone with a history of drunkenness in various situations. Consider your legal options carefully if you face a DWI charge and have prior intoxication offense convictions.