Houston DWI Laws, Penalties, and Frequency

With almost 10,000 reported cases of DWIs in 2019, Houston has more DWI convictions than any other state in Texas. While the reason may be obvious, given it is the largest city in the State and fourth largest in the country (as of 2022), the penalties may not be. We'll break them down here as well as describe other forms of DWIs you might not be aware of.

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The DWI laws in Houston fall within the laws of the State of Texas, therefore the penalties are the same in Houston as they are everywhere else. However Houston is somewhat unique in that, while it is the most populous city in Texas, it is also home to the most DWIs in the state, by far (and growing). In 2015 Houston led the state with 5,492 DWIs reported by the state. By 2019 that number had ballooned to 9,310 more than double that of Dallas (which had 4,575 DWI arrests).

Before we get into the details over punishments for committing a DWI in Houston, note that individual cases can, and almost always are, unique to your circumstance. Depending on the judge, the county, and even the attorney (should you choose to hire one), your penalty might not match exactly what the state guidelines mandate.

Penalty for DWI in Houston

The penalty for committing a DWI in Houston can be found in the Texas Penal Code, Chapter 49 Section 49.04 (that link will take you directly to the relevant section). The penalty for Driving While Intoxicated is a Class B Misdemeanor and a minimum jail sentence of 72 hours. The maximum sentence is 180 days and/or a fine of an amount not to exceed $2,000. These are only the maximum penalties one can receive and if it is the first offense, it is unlikely that you will do any jail time, especially if there are no extenuating circumstances.

However, sometimes there are extenuating circumstances.

If, in addition to being intoxicated, the arresting officer discovers an unsealed, open container of alcohol on your body then the minimum sentence doubles from three days to six days.

When A DWI Is A Class A Misdemeanor

Your Houston DWI can be escalated to a Class A Misdemeanor if your blood alcohol level is found to be in excess of 0.15. A class A Misdemeanor is the most severe type of misdemeanor and the last category of offense before the offense is escalated to a felony charge.

If you are found guilty of committing a Class A Misdemeanor in the Houston area, you are now facing any combination of a fine of up to $4,000 and a potential jail sentence of no less than 90 days (or any combination of the two).

Other Types of DWIs In Houston

A frequent question we receive is about other types of DWIs (such as boating and even flying). You may be surprised to know that you can in fact be arrested for flying while intoxicated and Houston is one of the few cities in the state to ever report such a violation. Having said that the charge has not been made since 2017 when 2 people were arrested (separately) for flying while intoxicated.

However the statistically much more common Boating While Intoxicated (Section 49.06) does happen every year, however infrequently. In 2019 and 2018, Houston reported a total of 26 DWIs for boating while intoxicated (13 each year).

Given the statistically rare number of arrests made for Boating While Intoxicated in the city, one can feel assured that unless you are being excessively reckless or obnoxious Houston PD will likely leave you alone on your day on the lake. However do note, that if they do charge you, the penalty for boating while intoxicated is a Class B Misdemeanor.