The Difference Between DWI and DUI in Texas
In some states the terms are used interchangeably, but in Texas, driving under the influence (DUI) is a different crime that driving while intoxicated (DWI). Both offenses require that a person operate a motor vehicle in a public place, but the targets of the two offenses are very different.
In order to convict a motorist of driving while intoxicated (DWI), the state must prove that the person
(1) operated a motor vehicle,
(2) in a public place, and
(3) had lost the normal use of his mental or physical faculties
(4) as the result of consuming alcohol, a drug, or a combination of the two.
According to the Texas DWI Statute, if a person has an alcohol concentration of.08 or higher at the time of driving, that person is considered to be intoxicated per se.
Driving while intoxicated (DWI) is a Class B misdemeanor in Texas and carries a maximum punishment of six months in the county jail and a fine of up to $2,000. A subsequent conviction may be punished by up to a year in the county jail and a fine of up to $4,000. Upon a conviction for DWI, a motorist could see his driver’s license suspended for up to one year. Unlike most crimes in Texas, a person charged with DWI is not eligible for dismissal through deferred adjudication.
To convict a motorist of driving under the influence, on the other hand, the state must prove that the person (1) while under the age of 21, (2) operated a motor vehicle, (3) in a public place (4) after consuming alcohol. The prosecutor need not prove the driver had lost the normal use of his mental or physical faculties. The smell of alcohol alone is enough evidence to prove consumption.
Driving under the influence (DUI) is a Class C misdemeanor in Texas and carries a maximum punishment of a $500 fine and up to 40 hours of community service. A subsequent conviction may be punished by a fine of at least $500 and up to six months in the county jail. A minor may have his driver’s license suspended for 30 days on a first offense.
Since DUI is a Class C misdemeanor, a defendant is charged either in municipal court or in a justice court. Most justice courts in Texas are not courts of record so, aside from Texas Department of Public Safety driving records, there will be no record of a conviction. Even more important, since DUI is not an offense under Section 49 of the Texas Penal Code, deferred disposition is available to a person charged with the offense. However, should a person be charged with a subsequent DUI, a dismissal under deferred disposition is still considered to be a conviction.
Two similar sounding crimes, two very different offenses.