Recently on our legal forum a user asked, “I was arrested and charged with a Texas DWI. I have heard that Texas is known for their severe penalties for DWI. I am wondering if it is possible to plead my DWI charge down to a lesser offense like reckless driving or is it just better to take my chances at trial or fight for a dismissal?”
First steps after Texas DWI arrest
Without more information about your case and how much evidence the state has against you it’s impossible to say for sure whether or not it would be better to plead guilty, attempt to negotiate a plea agreement, or go to trial and fight the Texas DWI charges. With that in mind, it’s always a good idea to discuss your case with a DWI lawyer.
When will I be arrested for a Texas DWI?
If you have been arrested and charged with DWI in Texas this means the state has evidence that you have violated Texas Penal Code Section § 49.04. Specifically, they have evidence that you were operating a motorized vehicle without the normal use of “physical and/or mental faculties due to the presence of alcohol, drugs, dangerous drugs, controlled substance, or any other substance that may cause impairment” or you were operating a motorized vehicle with “blood or breath alcohol concentration (BAC) at or over the legal limit of .08, which is known as “per se” intoxication.” The state may also pursue charges against commercial drivers who were operating a motorized vehicle with a BAC of 0.04% or higher.
If you have been arrested for a Texas DWI whether or not the state will be willing to consider a plea agreement will depend on several factors. For example, willingness can vary by District Attorneys. Other issues such as the strength of the state’s case, whether or not you have been arrested for prior DWIs, or whether or not you have a criminal record will also be considered.
Can I plead down to a reckless driving charge?
Certain states allow prosecutors to charge drivers with a lesser offense such as a wet reckless charge under specific circumstances. Other states, however, bar this type of charge reduction. The State of Texas neither provides a lesser charge for driving while intoxicated (DWI) nor do they specifically bar a prosecutor from accepting a plea bargain from the accused and reducing the DWI charge.
Charge reductions are most likely in the State of Texas if the state does not feel like they have a strong case, they are overwhelmed with other cases, or you are a first-time DWI offender.
Penalties for First-time Texas DWI vs. Reckless Driving
If you are arrested for a first-time DWI you will face a Class B misdemeanor, up to $2,000 in fines, community service, jail time, surcharges of $1,500-$2,000 a year for three years, and a driver’s license suspension for up to one year.
Reckless driving is considered an unclassified misdemeanor. It can include a fine up to $200, up to 30 days in jail (which can be negotiated to probation or house arrest), and community service.
Although Texas Statutes do not specifically allow for a reduction in a DWI charge, this does not mean that the state might not have some leeway to make a plea agreement.
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