Transportation
3:44 pm
Wed August 31, 2011

Harsher DWI Penalties For “No Refusal” Labor Day Weekend

People pulled over for suspected drunk driving over the Labor Day weekend may have their blood forcibly withdrawn by Austin police officers. It’s part of the so-called “No Refusal” policy that APD conducts over long weekends.

But this weekend, a new law will increase penalties for first-time offenders with a blood alcohol level of 0.15, almost double the legal limit of 0.08.

House Bill 1199 was passed during the legislative session earlier this year and takes effect September 1. It brings with it much stiffer penalties for a DWI conviction. Starting tomorrow, first-time offenders will be charged with a Class A Misdemeanor if their blood alcohol content is at or above 0.15 percent.

 

A Class A Misdemeanor carries a maximum sentence of one year behind bars and a $4,000 fine. Until now, first-time offenders would be charged with a Class B Misdemeanor.

HB 1199 also increases penalties for drunk drivers who crash into someone and leave them in a “persistent vegetative state.” The existing law doesn't distinguish between causing serious bodily harm and that kind of severe brain damage.  But starting Thursday, it will, raising the penalty from a third-degree felony to a second-degree felony. That boosts the maximum sentence from ten years to twenty years.

You can read an explanation of the different criminal offenses, such as misdemeanors and felonies, in this section of the Texas Penal Code.  And while many factors will affect your blood alcohol content, online calculators like this or this may give you a general idea of how many drinks will put you over the legal limit.