Texas DWI & DUI: What’s The Difference?
Many people tend to use the terms DUI and DWI interchangeably. However, in Texas, the two can be quite different in practice.
DUI is the term usually used when the arrest involves a minor (someone below 21 years old). Meanwhile, DWI is the term used for the more severe charge. Here’s the kicker, though: The police can still charge a minor with a full-on Texas DWI.
The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code contains the statutes regarding DUI by a minor. Section 106.041 of that Code states:
(a) a minor commits an offense if the minor operates a motor vehicle in a public place . . . while having any detectable amount of alcohol in the minor’s system.
(b) . . . an offense under this section is a Class C Misdemeanor [same level as most, if not all, traffic tickets].
. . . (g) an offense under this section is not a lesser included offense [of DWI]
To summarize, the police may arrest a minor if the minor has ANY amount of alcohol in her system. This can be a problem because, as people with interlock or SCRAM may know, even NyQuil can register as ‘alcohol’ in a person’s system. Further, DWIs are not eligible for reduction to DUI just because it involves a minor, which is an ABSURD rule.
The Texas Penal Code defines Texas DWI as:
(a) a person commits an offense if the person is intoxicated while operating a motor vehicle in a public place.
(b) . . . an offense under this section is a Class B Misdemeanor [for a first time offense].
A DUI is nearly the same as a DWI except for the additional/different elements of (1) “any detectable amount” instead of intoxicated, and (2) only applying to minors. That is the reason they won’t consider a DUI a “lesser included offense”! Because the “lesser” offense would have MORE elements! This wouldn’t be so bad if police could only arrest minors for DUI. But, police may unfairly arrest minors for full-scale DWIs.
License suspensions for DUI (for minors)
There is a small positive, however. If a minor consents to breath or blood (or if there is other proof of presence of alcohol (e.g., open container)), the minimum suspension is 60 days. Future suspensions (assuming consent) are 120 days (2nd offense) and 180 days (3rd+ offense). Keep in mind a DWI conviction will count as a “first” offense.
The positive comes with a negative, though. If a minor refuses to give breath or blood, the minor faces the exact same suspension as an adult. This means 180 days for a first offense and up to 2 years for a second (or more) offense.
A Texas DUI’s effect on a Texas DWI & DUI
Luckily, a DUI you get as a minor does not enhance a Texas DWI you get as an adult. In other words, if you get a DUI when you are 16 and just learning to drive, that will not have any major effect on a DWI you get when you are 30. If there is an effect, it would likely only be something (relatively) minor like taking a slightly different Texas DWI education program.
More about Mimi Coffey
When people look for a Top DWI Attorney or Best DWI Attorney, they look for experience, certification, and respect in the legal community. Mimi Coffey is a nationally-renowned trial attorney, board-certified in DWI by the NCDD. She has been practicing for over 24 years and is an author of multiple DWI Defense textbooks. She is also a national and state-wide lecturer on the law.
Mimi is also listed on several “top” directory listings such as DWI Lawyers for Wise County, DWI Lawyer Tarrant County, DWI attorney Dallas County, DWI Lawyer Collin County and DWI Lawyer Parker County. Mimi is a caring DWI Lawyer in DFW, She is also involved in the Texas Tech School of Law foundation and enjoys using the skills she has developed to give back to the community.