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Senate Bill 181 and how it affects drug DWI penalties

On Behalf of | Jun 9, 2023 | Drug Charges, DWI Defense

It used to be that under Texas law, a court could suspend a driver’s license for at least six months if convicted of a drug offense such as driving while intoxicated (DWI). But new rules that took effect earlier this year have changed how this penalty works.

What is SB 181?

In force since February 25, 2023, Senate Bill 181 (SB 181) amends Texas rules by ending mandatory license suspensions related to drug charges. Instead, anyone convicted of drug offenses must pay a $100 fine under the new law.

SB 181 also amends the law only to require driver’s license suspensions for motorists convicted of felony drug offenses or who have two or more misdemeanor drug charges within three years.

Changes to drug DWIs

While SB 181 replaces the license suspension penalty for a drug DWI charge with a $100 fine, most of the conviction’s penalties remain unchanged – at least for the first and second offenses. The penalties for a DWI charge under the new rules are:

  • First offense: A class B misdemeanor charge with a maximum jail time of 180 days and a maximum fine of up to $2,000.
  • Second offense: Considered a class A misdemeanor, with a maximum jail time of one year and a maximum fine of $4,000.
  • Third offense: The driver gets a third-degree felony conviction, which carries a maximum ten-year prison sentence and a maximum fine of $10,000. They also get a mandatory license suspension for at least six months, per SB 181’s provisions.

Although SB 181 ends license suspensions for drug DWI first and second offenses, the bill has provisions to allow judges to suspend a driver’s license at their discretion, particularly if the judge believes that the suspension is in the interest of public safety.

A new bill may have scrapped mandatory license suspensions for drug DWI charges, but Texan drivers still face severe punishment and a conviction that lasts on their record for years. If you are charged with a drug DWI, you should consider consulting a criminal defense lawyer who can fight to reduce your penalties.