Texas leads the nation in drunken driving deaths. In response to this problem, Texas DWI laws are strict compared to the laws in most other states. Unfortunately, an out-of-state driver’s license does not operate as a “get out of jail free” card – a Texas DWI can carry serious consequences even back home, and ignoring the situation can make these problems worse.
Texas DWI Penalties
Texas penalties for a first offense DWI (with no aggravating factors) include:
- 3 to 180 days in jail
- A fine of up to $2,000
- A driver’s license suspension of 90 to 365 days.
- Mandatory completion of DWI education program
- Annual driver’s license surcharge for up to three years after your license suspension expires
Increased penalties apply, even for a first offense, if there was a passenger under 15 in the car at the time of your arrest. Furthermore, there is no “lookback period” – a prior conviction can be held against you even if it occurred 30 years ago in another state. Second and further offenses carry progressively harsher penalties.
Failure to Comply with Texas Law
One way to deal with a Texas DWI charge is to return to your home state and simply ignore it. This is not a good idea for a number of reasons. Failure to appear or failure to complete community service or DWI school or can result in a bench warrant being issued for your arrest on an additional charge or the extension of the period of your driver’s license suspension. If Texas issues a bench warrant for your arrest, you can be arrested by local police the next time you are pulled over for a traffic violation in your home state.
Since Texas did not issue your driver’s license, it cannot suspend it. It can, however, suspend your right to drive in Texas, and it will probably do so. Please see the next section for information on how your home state is likely to handle an out-of-state suspension.
The Interstate Compact
The Interstate Compact is like a treaty among almost all of the states that provides, among other things, for notification among the states when a driver’s driving privileges are suspended in any state. Texas, Louisiana and Oklahoma are all members of the Interstate Compact. This means that if you are from Louisiana or Oklahoma and your driving privileges are suspended in Texas, Texas will notify your home state.
Although you should contact a lawyer qualified in your home state for details on your state’s response to this notification, it is likely that your driving privileges will be suspended at home as well. In any case, you will not be permitted to drive in Texas for the full period of your suspension, regardless of whether or not your home state driver’s license is valid.
Houston criminal defense lawyer Mario Madrid has been practicing law for two decades now, during which time he has served as a lawyer, prosecutor and judge. Unlike the vast majority of Texas criminal lawyers, he is certified as a specialist in Criminal Law, and he is also a member of the National College of DUI Defense Attorneys. Regardless of where you are from, if you have been charged with DWI in the Houston area, call Madrid Law, PLLC at 713-877-9400 for a free initial consultation.