How Long Does a DWI Last?

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Driving while intoxicated (DWI) is not just a criminal offense, it’s a public health hazard. In 2019, 28 percent of all auto accident fatalities in the United States involved an intoxicated driver. While this percentage has been steadily dropping, it’s still alarmingly high. And when you consider that many of these fatalities were the sober drivers or passengers, it’s clear that communities should be concerned. 

With so many people losing their lives to drunk driving every year, the consequences for this offense are quite severe. Across the nation, each state decides the penalties for DWI offenses, as well as the legal limits for blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) that are considered safe for driving. Although the amount of time a DWI will remain on your driving record also varies from state to state, the average is five to 10 years. It will remain on your criminal record for life. 

What Is a DWI? 

If someone operates a motor vehicle while impaired by drugs or alcohol, that person is “driving while intoxicated.” DWI is the name for the resulting criminal offense. It is one of the most common crimes in the US, and contributing factors include a high rate of addiction, drinking culture, and misunderstandings about what “impaired” really means. The best thing you can do to avoid a DWI is to never drive after you’ve imbibed any amount of alcohol or taken any type of mind-altering substance. 

What Are the Laws Around DWIs?

As mentioned above, the laws vary from state to state. If you are unsure about your state’s impaired driving laws, be sure to check your RMV’s website or consult a qualified DWI lawyer. If you understand the limits, it is much easier to make informed, responsible, and safe decisions about whether or not to have that drink before heading out on the road. 

DWI Penalties

The federal BAC limit is 0.08 percent. All states adhere to this limit, but each state has different penalties for DWIs. Most have even harsher penalties for drivers under the age of 21 and “aggravated DWIs.” A standard DWI becomes aggravated if certain factors are present. For example, one type of aggravated DWI occurs when the intoxicated driver has a minor younger than 14 years old in the car at the time of the incident.

If you are charged with DWI, the court will decide your punishment based on state guidelines. Your sentence will depend on multiple factors, including the circumstances of your arrest, whether you have prior DWI convictions, and/or if anyone was seriously injured or killed in the accident. 

Texas Penalties

Let’s consider Texas, as an example. Texas penalizes a standard (non-aggravated) DWI as follows:

First offense: Between 72 hours and six months jail time, a maximum

$2000 fine, and a license suspension between 90 days and one year. 

Second offense: 30 days to one year jail time, a maximum $4,000 fine,

a license suspension between 180 days and two years, and one year

with an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) installed*  

Third offense: Two to 10 years jail time, a maximum $10,000 fine, a

license suspension between 180 days and two years, and one year with

an IID installed*

(*IID installed if the offense occurred within five years of your last


In addition, Texas law requires that any driver who is arrested for DWI take a blood or breathalyzer test. If the driver refuses, they could risk a license suspension. This law is called “implied consent” and exists in many other states as well. It’s also important to note that a police officer can still arrest someone who refuses to submit to a test if the officer reasonably believes that the driver is impaired. 

How Will a DWI Impact My Life?

DWIs have far-reaching consequences in both the short and long term. A DWI conviction will end up on both your criminal record and your driving record. Some of the most common consequences include:

  • If you need to pass a background check for a job and the employer finds a DWI on your record, you may be denied employment.
  • A license suspension limits your freedom of movement and your commute options for work.
  • DWIs significantly increase car insurance premiums. How much you’ll have to pay depends on the state you live in—in Kansas the average increase is about 38 percent, compared to the national average of 65 percent. In Massachusetts, on the other hand, the average increase is 76 percent. This can be a difference of hundreds or thousands, but either way, it’s costly. 
  • DWI is a criminal offense and a conviction means that you now have a criminal record.

In every state, DWIs remain on your driving record for at least five years. Many states have lengthier timeframes, even up to a lifetime. And a DWI will remain on your criminal record permanently unless you have it sealed or expunged. Eligibility for sealing or expunging your criminal record depends on the nature of the offense and if it was a repeat offense, among other factors. Many states make it difficult to get a DWI expunged from your criminal record, but it’s not impossible, especially if it was your first offense. If you’ve been convicted of DWI, it’s in your best interest to speak with a DWI lawyer about your options for sealing or expunging your record.

DWIs for Underage Drivers

In all states, the DWI penalties for drivers younger than 21 are more severe. It’s an attempt to dissuade young drivers from driving under the influence, and for good reason: drivers between 16 and 24 account for a disproportionately large percentage of DWI charges each year. Many states have a “zero-tolerance policy” towards underage intoxicated driving, with lower legal BAC limits and lengthier license suspension periods.

That being said, juvenile criminal records can be easier to seal or expunge. Speak with an attorney, like the team at Trey Porter Law, if you or your dependent has a DWI juvenile criminal record.

January 12, 2021 · Tim Kevan · Comments Closed
Posted in: Uncategorized