The Costs of DWI in Texas

There are many costs associated with a DWI. Aside from the obvious financial costs of bonding out of jail and hiring an attorney, there are other costs. Some of these costs can arise while the case is going on in the form of bond conditions. Some of these costs can arise when the case is over in the form of probation conditions, fines and court costs, and surcharges. There are also non-financial costs that impact lives, including the psychological and social costs. There can be great emotional stress associated with getting arrested and spending time in jail. There is also the stigma, and the embarrassment of dealing with a DWI and having to go to court. Jail is a miserable experience. Court is an embarrassing proposition. Minutes drift like hours in jail and cases can linger in the justice system for months or over a year. Striking a plea bargain to stay out of jail at the end of your case is very important as well. This can come down to which attorney you decide to hire. Whether you feel you are wrongly accused of DWI, or you just made a mistake, the costs can pile up. Aside from the trauma of your arrest and being in jail, the costs of DWI in Texas carry a heavy price tag in fines, penalties, and headaches. A DWI arrest is not cheap. The purpose of this article is to show you that the costs of a Texas DWI arrest as well as a conviction, and outline and discuss those costs. A DWI conviction can stay on your record, although in certain circumstances a person can seal their record of arrest and conviction. A conviction will result in fines, hidden costs, and could affect your employment. This article will help to shed some light on the hidden costs that are not immediately obvious. 

The Price of a DWI 

The costs involved following a DWI arrest are many and varied. Some of them are hidden, and some are obvious. There are financial costs and there are costs that cannot be calculated in a dollar figure. These are the emotional and psychological costs that can impact the quality of your life. This is why hiring the right DWI attorney is so important. A skilled DWI attorney can fight for you, handle your case, minimize your exposure, and mitigate many of these costs. Regardless of the costs, you have to start being proactive about them. You need to get a clear picture of what is in front of you and what you are facing. You need to know what to be ready for. You will feel much better if you have a clear idea of the road in front of you, what is at stake, and what the goals are. Call me and I will walk you through every step of this process. From arrest to trial there are many things to look out for. From dealing with a possible driver's license suspension, to pretrial court settings, to navigating the decision to go plea or go to trial, to a jury trial, there are many stages to the process and you need guidance and counsel. If you have guidance of a skilled attorney who you trust, you can make intelligent and informed decisions about your case at every stage. When you have the answers and know the road map, you will have control, and you will feel better and easier about the situation.   

Immediate Costs After Getting Out of Jail 

After a person gets arrested for DWI, they will bond out of jail and often wonder what exactly what to do next. Getting out of jail is the first cost. Unless there is a hold on your case preventing you from getting out, a bond will be set by a magistrate judge. The amount of the bond can be paid in full or a bondsman can be employed. If the bond is paid in full, this money will get returned to whomever paid it when the case resolves. If a bondsman is hired, the bondsman will generally require 10% and 15% of the bond amount as a fee. If the bond is set $1,000, a bondsman may require $100. People know that they need to hire a lawyer or start talking to lawyers about their charge. However, there are other costs that may not immediately occur to you in the wake of the stress and exhaustion of the arrest. There are two issues that need to be dealt with in the majority of DWI arrests: driver's license suspensions and the criminal case. Before you even go to court, the implications of your driver's license must be dealt with. Here is a list of the initial costs that can flow from a DWI arrest:

  • Bail
  • Ignition Interlock Device
  • Texas Driver’s License Suspension
  • Hiring a DWI Attorney

Texas Driver’s License Suspensions

A cost that you may incur early on in the process is obtaining an occupational driver's license should your driver's license get suspended. When you get arrested for DWI, you can have a license suspension for two different reasons. This is a topic for another page, but the license hearing can be an effective tool, even if you do not prevail. This is because the license hearing can be a valuable tool to gather information for your criminal case. The important deadline is 15 days. You have 15 days from the date of your arrest to request a license hearing. Here are the two reasons in which a license suspension can flow from your DWI arrest:   

  1. You refused to take a breath or a blood test
  2. You consented to a test and your blood alcohol concentration is .08 grams per deciliter or above

When you get arrested, the police officer will explain the consequences of consenting to a breath or blood test, and the consequences if you refuse, regarding your license suspension. On a first time DWI, if you consent to a test and fail the test, your suspension will be 90 days. If you refuse, regardless of what the result is, the suspension will be 180 days. On a DWI second, the suspensions go up to one year when a person consents to a test and fails, and two years if a person refuses the test. The choice of whether or not to take a test or refuse is not really a choice. Before the proliferation of blood testing across Texas and the United States, refusing a breath test meant that law enforcement would not have a breath result to present as evidence against you in court. Preventing police from getting this evidence against you was always worth any additional driver's license suspension penalties that could be added. Police are allowed to obtain a search warrant and draw your blood and they can and will do this if you refuse. It is rare for DWI cases these days not to have either a blood or a breath test. So, a refusal is not an actual refusal, because they'll just get your blood anyway.    

You only have 15 days to save your license! If you don’t request a hearing within this time frame, your license goes into effect 40 days after your arrest. At the hearing, DPS must prove that the police officer had probable cause to arrest you for DWI. If you lose the hearing, you will need to petition for an Occupational Driver’s License.

Ignition Interlock Device as a DWI Bond Condition

This is probably the biggest complaint my clients have during the DWI process. Having to get the interlock installed on your vehicle is a pain of the highest order. The ignition interlock is a breath test machine attached to the ignition in your car, and your car won't start until you blow into it. One of the real bummers is when the judge orders you to get an interlock device on your car. Unfortunately, there is nothing that I can do about it. If you took a breath or a blood test, and the blood alcohol concentration comes back above .15 grams per deciliter, it will be mandatory that you install the device. This is mandatory under Texas state law and there is nothing that a defense lawyer can do about it. The probation officer in the court will require that this is installed before pretrial settings begin. It will also be mandatory if you are facing a second DWI, or any kind of felony DWI, such as a felony repetition or a DWI with a child under 15 in the car.    

The installation costs about $100, and there are between $60 and $90 dollars a month in fees. It must be installed in any vehicle that you drive, or you will be in violation of your bond. If you don't have a car, there is an option for an in-home device. If you try to blow into the device after drinking, your car will not start. But, more than that, the interlock company will report your failure to the court. When the court finds out about a positive reading for alcohol, the judge could decide to revoke the bond and put you in jail for a weekend.    

Some courts will issue a warrant for someone's arrest because mouthwash is setting the device off, reading it as alcohol. Many courts will issue warnings before arrest warrants are issued, but this can be a real concern. The infrared technology in breath testing devices cannot distinguish the alcohol in mouth wash from the alcohol in a bottle of beer or a glass of wine.  

Costs Following a DWI Conviction in Texas

The costs of a DWI conviction can become a financial Waterloo. After you have spent money defending your DWI arrest, here is more bad news. The costs of DWI in Texas are going up. This is why it is crucial to hire the right attorney who will fight aggressively to keep an conviction off your record. Some lawyers are more eager than others to take cases to trial, however that can sometimes be the only option, or at least the most viable option. Here is a list of some of the costs:

  • DWI Conviction on your Record 
  • Court Costs
  • Fines
  • Labor Detail
  • Probation
  • DPS Surcharge Fees

Some of the costs of a DWI conviction cannot be easily calculated. What are the emotional costs of a conviction? What are the costs that are not immediate, such as a DWI conviction coming up to the surface when you search for a job? Losing out on a job can have untold costs that cannot easily be expressed in an exact monetary amount, and can also redirect the course of your life. These are considerations that need to be factored into any decision to plead guilty or go to trial or any other legal course. Many people do have DWI convictions and this has not affected their ability to find and retain employment, but this is not always the case.     

Costs of DWI Surcharges and Fines

If you do face a conviction, you will be faced with dealing with surcharges in order to keep your license. The Texas Driver Responsibility Program began sending people letters in the mail, informing them that they still owe money to drive and to live. These letters come in the mail a short while after the case ends, at the moment when you are trying to heal and thinking that your case is over. The surcharge fee is a penalty to reinstate your Texas driver’s license. This fee is above and beyond any court costs or fines. A DWI conviction will result in an annual surcharge for three years. These are very harsh penalties. Before you can get your Texas driver’s license reinstated, the surcharge fees are calculated annually in chunks. The fees are above and beyond any fines or court costs. If you don’t pay, your license will be suspended and the suspension will continue until payment is made. They can be paid in full, although a payment plan can be arranged as well. 

  • First conviction—$1,000 Annual Surcharge for three years
  • Second Conviction—$1,500 Annual Surcharge for three years
  • If you are convicted with a blood alcohol concentration of .16 or higher—$2,000 Annual Surcharge for three years

Costs of Probation

Many DWI cases end with probation. The length of a probation can vary and depends on the severity of the charge and other factors, such as the deal your defense attorney can arrange as well as the facts and circumstances of your case. Probation can be a desired result in difficult or serious cases. It is generally a desired outcome in felony cases, because the risk of trial in a felony case involves the possibility of years in prison. This changes the analysis in most cases. However, each and every case is different. There are different circumstances and facts. Most of the time, probation arises as an agreed plea bargain between the defense attorney at the prosecutor. Sometimes, the judge can order probation following a hearing or a trial. Probation involves a monthly fee, generally around $60 dollars. Probation also will be a commitment of time. There is monthly reporting requirement, and if probation is transferred to another county to where a person lives, there is both a reporting and a mailing requirement. There can be other conditions of probation such as a ban on alcohol. Often, an interlock will be a requirement of probation. This will be the case if interlock has been required as a condition of bond. Felony probation is much stricter than misdemeanor probation, and the time and attention a probation officer puts into your case will be more critical and scrutinizing. Consuming alcohol on felony probation can result in a person ultimately getting sent to prison.      

Court Fines

After a person pleads guilty to a felony or a misdemeanor DWI charge, there will usually be a fine involved. Oddly, the fines are much higher on misdemeanor charges. County criminal court prosecutors can impose high fines for a DWI conviction. For a first-time DWI, the fine can be up to $2,000, or $4,000. This depends on the level of the charge. If there is breath or blood test that comes back higher than .15 grams per deciliter, the charge will be a Class A misdemeanor. otherwise, it will be a Class B misdemeanor. For a second DWI, it will definitely be a Class A and the maximum fine will be $4,000. For all felony DWI convictions, the fines can be up to $10,000. If there is a state jail felony DWI charge, a DWI with child under 15, the fine can also be $10,000. In addition to fines, there are court costs. Court costs are assessed at the end of a case that results in a guilty plea, whether for a deferred adjudication or a conviction, or guilty verdict at the end of a trial.   



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