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What Are the Penalties for a Third DWI?

In Texas, the offense of driving while intoxicated is criminalized under Section 49.04 of the Texas Penal Code. Under Sec. 49.04(a) it reads: “A person commits an offense if the person is intoxicated while operating a motor vehicle in a public place.” But what does it mean to be intoxicated? Does it mean you have a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 percent?

You do not have to have a BAC of 0.08 percent or above to be considered “intoxicated.” Under the law, intoxicated means not having the normal use of your mental or physical faculties because of the introduction of alcohol, a drug, a controlled substance, or a combination of drugs and alcohol.

Under Sec. 49.04 of the Penal Code, you can be arrested for and convicted of DWI regardless if your BAC is above the 0.08 percent legal limit or below it. As long as the state can prove that there was alcohol in your system and it affected your ability to drive safely, you can be charged with DWI. That said, let’s take a close look at the penalties for a third DWI offense, and whether it’s a misdemeanor or a felony.

Is a Third DWI a Felony in Texas?

Each state treats DWI or DUI slightly differently, but generally a third DWI is prosecuted as a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the state. In Texas, a third DWI is a felony offense, punishable by:

  • A $10,000 fine,
  • Between 2 and 10 years in prison,
  • Driver license suspension up to two years, and
  • An annual fee from $1,000 to $2,000 for three years to keep driver license.

If you are stopped under suspicion of DWI, be prepared to show the officer your driver license, proof of insurance, and registration. You will probably be asked to perform the field sobriety tests, which are optional and there is no penalty for politely refusing. If you are asked to take a breath or blood test and you refuse, your driver license will automatically be suspended for 180 days, and the state can still charge you with DWI.