Texas DWI Fines Increased in 2019.
On September 1, 2019, Texas changed its DWI laws. Of major interest, it gave DWI drivers new plea options. However, it also added new fines for repeat drunk drivers and first-time DWI drivers with high BAC levels. In other words, unsafe drivers will now pay two sets of fines for one DWI conviction.
Notably, Tex. H.B. 2048 created a second set of fines to punish these drivers. Worse yet, the new fines are stacked on top of the normal fines for a DWI case. Consequently, these new fines will raise the cost of a DWI.
For instance, before the law changed, a driver paid a fine that ranged between either $0 and $2,000 or $0 and $4,000. These are the fine ranges for Class B and Class A misdemeanor cases. But with the new law, the driver may also pay a fine between $3,000.00 and $6,000.00.
Above all, the key to these new fines is: (1) the time frame between DWI convictions; and (2) the BAC test score of the DWI driver at the time of the test. In sum, if a driver picks up a DWI case in a short time frame or if he drives with a high BAC level, then he will pay two fines.
What are the new Texas DWI fine amounts?
Tex. Trans. Code 709.001 lists the new Texas DWI fine amounts. Of major interest, the fine only kicks in under two conditions. First, if the driver is convicted of a DWI within a 3-year time frame. Or if the driver’s BAC test is 0.15 or more. The table below shows how the new fines work.
|Tex. Trans. Code Sec. 709.001||Traffic Fine for Conviction of Certain Intoxicated Driver Offenses.|
|709.001(b)||Except as provided by Subsection (c), in addition to the fine prescribed for the specific offense, a person who has been finally convicted of an offense relating to operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated shall pay a fine of:|
|709.001(b)(1)||$3,000 for the first conviction within a 36-month period;|
|709.001(b)(2)||$4,500 for a second or subsequent conviction within a 36-month period; and|
|709.001(b)(3)||$6,000 for a first or subsequent conviction if it is shown on the trial of the offense that an analysis of a specimen of the person's blood, breath, or urine showed an alcohol concentration level of 0.15 or more at the time the analysis was performed.|
What do the new Texas DWI Fines mean for my case?
Texas added the extra fines for two reasons. First, part of the money will cover unpaid hospital bills caused by DWI drivers. Second, the other part will pay for the criminal-justice system. The end result is that Tex. Transp. Code Sec. 709.002(e) sends 80% of the money to legal system. And the other 20% to hospitals.
But this new law may create unintended consequences. Strikingly, it may lead some DWI drivers to fight their case even when they have a bad case or no case at all. For example, some drivers may sign a plea deal if it protects them from paying the extra fines. This can save the driver lots of money. In sum, it allows the driver to cut his or her losses.
In contrast, if the driver will pay the extra fine even with a plea deal, then why plead out? This may happen if the State does not want to budge during plea talks. In that case, the extra fine may push the driver to fight the case. This is because the driver will pay the fine if he pleads out or fights the case and loses.
Simply put, the DWI driver has nothing to lose by fighting the case. For this reason, you should speak with a Texas DWI Attorney to see how the new laws impacts your case.