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Keep Your Freedom, Avoid a DWI

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By Will Johnson

Messenger Reporter

EAST TEXAS – The Fourth of July is here and with it being on Saturday this year, most people will enjoy a three-day weekend. Whether you’re off on Friday or Monday, the three day weekend usually brings with it many family gatherings, quick trips to the lake or beach and other fun-filled activities.

At many of these soirees, alcohol will be served. Before you crawl behind the wheel of your vehicle to head home after one of these festive occasions, stop and think. Law enforcement officials in many areas throughout the state and in East Texas are once again participating in a “no refusal” weekend. City, county and state authorities will be ramping up their efforts to keep the roadways safe this weekend and will be on high alert for motorists suspected of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

A first offense DWI charge may result in fines of up to $2,000. If you are involved in an accident and someone is hurt or killed, or there was a minor under the age of 15 in the car, fines may range up to $10,000.

Information obtained from the Texas Department of Public Safety revealed a first offense DWI in Texas may result in a minimum jail sentence of 72 hours. The maximum jail sentence for a first offense DWI is 6 months in a county jail. If a minor was in the vehicle at the time, the jail sentence may result in a sentence of 180 days or up to a maximum of 2 years. If there were serious bodily injuries to another person, a person could be sentenced to a minimum of 2 years minimum and a maximum of 10 years. If intoxication caused the death of another person the jail sentence for a first offense DWI conviction is a minimum of 2 years up to a maximum of 20 years in jail.

Being arrested for a DWI will automatically result in a license suspension. A first offense DWI in Texas will result in a driver’s license suspension of between 90 days and two years for anyone over the age of 21, as long as the person submitted to a chemical test. If a person over the age of 21 refused to submit to the chemical test they will be facing a minimum 180 day license suspension.

For those under the age of 21 who refuse to submit to a chemical test they will be facing a 180-day license suspension. Anyone under the age of 21 who submitted to a chemical test and registered any amount of alcohol in their system will face a 60-day license suspension.

In most cases, barring any extenuating circumstances, a first offense DWI will often result in probation instead of jail time. However, along with the typical one to two year probation times, a person will be required to perform a minimum of 24 hours of community service.

A first offense DWI will also cause your automobile insurance rates to go up. You will also be required to file an SR-22 form which shows proof of financial responsibility to the DPS. This will often be required for 3 years.

At the discretion of the presiding judge, an ignition interlock system may also be required. This is a device that monitors the alcohol level of a driver. If alcohol is detected on a driver’s breath, the vehicle will not start. This device is installed at your own cost of approximately $125 with a monthly re-calibration fee of between $60 and $100.

The penalties for a subsequent DWI charge increase for each conviction. While the first two DWI convictions a person receives are considered misdemeanors, a third conviction is considered a felony.

This means that some of a person’s rights are taken away and more often than not, their freedom. The right to vote is stripped from that individual for the length of the sentence. A felony conviction also means that a person loses the right to possess a firearm.

Will Johnson may be reached via e-mail at wjohnson@messenger-news.com

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