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The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Alcoholism in society-Texas laws crack down on DWIs; costs rise each offense

DWI costs total: $7,677
DWI costs total: $7,677

By Sarah McVean/nw news editor

(Part two of a three-part series examining the ramifications of alcohol intemperance.)

DWI costs total: $7,677
DWI costs total: $7,677

About three in every 10 Americans will be involved in an alcohol-related crash at some point in their lives.

In Texas, it is illegal to drive a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 or higher. For a 170-pound man to reach a 0.08 BAC, he must drink approximately four drinks in one hour on an empty stomach. For a 137-pound woman to reach this level, she may consume approximately only three drinks in a single hour on an empty stomach, according to www.texassafetynetwork.org.

When 0.08 BAC is reached, a driver’s critical driving skills, such as judging distance, speed, visual tracking, concentration, braking and staying in lanes, are severely impaired.

Coming up on the holiday season, the risk of being involved in an alcohol-related accident is even higher. And those who drink need to realize the consequences of a DUI or DWI are higher than ever before.

“Driving while intoxicated [DWI] is the criminal charge for a person over 21 years of age with a BAC of .08 or more, with enhanced penalties for DWI when that person’s BAC is over .16. Driving under the influence [DUI] charges are pressed when a driver under the age of 21 has any measurable level of alcohol in his or her blood. This is called the ‘not a drop’ or ‘Zero Tolerance Law,’” DFW criminal defense attorney Paul Rothband said.

For a first DWI conviction, one could spend up to 180 days in jail, pay up to $2,000 in fines and receive a driver’s license suspension of 90 days to one year.

For a second DWI offense, a convicted person could face up to one year in jail, up to $4,000 in fines and a driver’s license suspension from 180 days to two years.

The third offense is a third-degree felony. The convicted person could face up to 10 years in jail, up to $10,000 in fines and a driver’s license suspension from 180 days to two years.

“Driving while intoxicated is a serious charge in Texas and a conviction may carry long-term consequences. As with any criminal charge, it is important to seek legal help immediately,” Rothband said.

The 78th Texas Legislature passed a surcharge law that took effect Sept. 1, 2003. According to the law, anyone convicted of a DWI in Texas must pay one of the following surcharges in order to keep a Texas driver’s license: $1,000 a year for a person with no prior DWI convictions, $1,500 per year for a person who had been previously convicted of a DWI within 36 months or $2,000 per year for a person who gives a blood, breath or urine specimen that shows a blood alcohol concentration of 0.16 or higher.

The surcharge stays in effect for three years.

Other than tons of fines, jail time or license suspensions, most people with a DWI conviction will face the hassle of expenses (see chart). There is also the price of being bailed out of jail.

“For the first offense the bond is $500 with a $165 fee. The second is usually $1,000 with a $265 fee, but with the second and third offense, prices vary because of a person’s past and what the judge has to say,” a local bail bondsman said.

Furthermore, a DWI goes on a permanent record. Thus, the DWI could result in an increase or cancellation of one’s automobile insurance policy. Employment options could be restricted if employers run credit checks because many credit bureaus now include drunk driving convictions on credit reports, according to www.texassafetynetwork.org.

“When a law enforcement officer wants to stop a driver for suspicion of drunk driving and asks the driver to take a roadside sobriety test, Breathalyzer test or a blood test to determine BAC, the law requires that he or she have reasonable cause for that suspicion,” Rothband said. “As soon as possible, contact a DWI attorney. Then, write down everything remembered about the events surrounding the arrest and discuss those events only with a lawyer.”

More than 100,000 deaths in the U.S. are attributable to excessive alcohol consumption annually. Dallas leads the nation in alcohol-related traffic deaths, according to www.gdcada.org.

Always designate a driver who will not be drinking when going out. If hosting a holiday party where alcohol will be served, make sure it is known who the designated drivers are, have other beverages available that are alcohol free or keep the guests at the location.

For other ways of educating oneself about alcohol consumption or how to prevent drinking and driving, try www.yaerd.org (Young Adults Educating Responsible Drinking) or http://cre.ucsc.edu.

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