If you have been charged with a second DWI, you can expect a more difficult road than with your first, as the penalties can escalate in a number of ways. This blog post will go into that, but first to clarify, you can be charged with DWI-2nd if you were convicted of a previous DWI. If you were not convicted, or if the charge was dropped to something like Obstruction of a Roadway, you cannot be charged with DWI-2nd, and instead it will be treated as your first DWI, although prosecutors and judges may use the previous arrest as a reason to treat you more harshly.
Class A Misdemeanor
The most obvious difference is that the second DWI is charged as a Class A misdemeanor instead of a Class B. Class B misdemeanors carry a maximum punishment of a $2,000 fine and 180 days in jail. The maximums for a Class A misdemeanor are doubled to $4,000 and 1 year confinement.
Minimum Jail time
With a first-time DWI conviction, you won’t necessarily be required to serve any jail time if you opt for probation. That’s not the case with a DWI-2nd because the statute requires a minimum of 30 days jail time. If this jail time is part of a probation, it will be served “day-for-day”, meaning you won’t get 2-for-1 or 3-for-1 credit for the days you spend in jail. However, you will get credit for any time you spent in custody following your arrest.
You will owe surcharges when you renew your license. The surcharges for a first DWI are $1,000 in each of the next two years. The surcharges for a 2nd DWI double to $2,000 in each of the next two years. There are ways to get the surcharges reduced based on your income level.
For a first-time DWI, the Ignition Interlock Device (IID) may not be required by the judge. Alternatively, he or she may order the IID, but allow it to be removed after a certain time period with no violations. The judge doesn’t have the discretion to do that for a second DWI. Section 49.09(g) of the Texas Penal Code states “For second or subsequent offenses or >.15 B.A.C.: The court must order offender to install ignition interlock devices on all of the motor vehicles he or she owns for 1 year following a period of license suspension.” That means you will need to provide proof that you are maintaining a costly IID device for at least a year.
One of the worst things about receiving a second DWI conviction is that you are at-risk for a felony if you are charged again. Obviously the best solution is to get very familiar with Uber, Lyft and Ride Austin, and never get behind the wheel when you have been drinking. However, this solution is not foolproof. Once you have 2 DWI convictions on your record, Police Officers will not give you the benefit of the doubt. For example, if one of your passengers has been drinking and the officer can smell alcohol, you can bet that you will receive a field sobriety test even if you’re stone cold sober.
Miscellaneous other issues
Travis County prosecutors always require 2nd time DWI offenders take the 32-hour class as opposed to the 12-hour class recommended for first-time DWIs. This is also a requirement before you renew your license. You will also be treated with more hostility by prosecutors, judges and in future interactions with police. It’s hard to quantify it, but you will certainly receive fewer offers to reduce charges from prosecutors, judges will see your behavior as a pattern and be more likely to impose harsh pretrial conditions, and police officers will be less likely to give you the benefit of the doubt if you are stopped in the future.
How to deal with a second DWI
For a second DWI, it is even more important to have an experienced criminal attorney by your side. Each case is different, so it may be best to try to have the case dismissed with a motion to suppress, take the case to trial, or come to an agreement with the prosecutor to reduce the charges. For a free consultation about your specific case, call 512-677-5003. Rob Chesnutt is an experienced attorney serving Travis, Williamson and surrounding counties.