Question: What are the common conditions of a DWI probation?
Benson Varghese: If a person is placed on probation for a first-time offense in Texas, and it’s an intoxication-related offense like a DWI or a DWI open container, common conditions of probation include doing community service—generally about 40 hours— and you’re going to pay your probation office a fine or a fee every month of about $60. In addition to those very basic conditions, there are some statutorily required conditions.
First, you have to take a course called the DWI Education Program. You will have to go through a substance abuse evaluation where you answer questions that tell the probation officer whether you have a high risk of re-offending or a low risk of re-offending. Based on that substance abuse evaluation, you might be required to go through some additional classes or courses. You will have to go through a victim impact panel—that’s something that Mothers Against Drunk Driving have put together so that people who are convicted of these offenses and go through probation are informed about what the victims of these offenses went through, and what they’re trying to do there is deter a person from getting into a vehicle in the future, while they’re intoxicated or might be intoxicated.
If a person’s blood alcohol concentration was a .15 or greater at the time of testing or at the time of driving, a required condition of probation in Texas is that the person have an interlock device installed on their vehicle for the course of the probation. An interlock device is simply a device that you have to breathe into in order to start and continue to operate the vehicle, and it makes sure that there is no alcohol in your system. If there is, the vehicle will not start and you cannot continue to operate it. Additionally, the device will very often have a camera to make sure that you’re the person operating the vehicle and no one else is breathing into the device to allow you to drive.
Judges ultimately have discretion over conditions of probation so they can add to those. They can’t take away any of the statutorily required conditions, but they might do things such as waive in community service, reduce the probation fees or cut you some other breaks if they feel those are appropriate. Additionally, on a DWI case where interlock is required, the law does allow for the judge to let you remove the interlock after half time. However, unlike every other probation-eligible offense in Texas, if you’re on probation for a DWI or an intoxication-related offense, there’s no early release from probation. In other words, you have to complete the entire term of your probation.