Driving while intoxicated (DWI) is often a victimless offense. The people who get arrested don’t cause a crash, damage anyone’s property or injure someone. Instead, they swerve across the centerline or drive in a way that makes police officers suspect them.
Officers can pull over and question those who seem to drive strangely. Then, they fail a field sobriety test or chemical breath test during the traffic stop which leads to their arrest.
Most of the people in this situation will face a misdemeanor charge under Texas law. However, a small number of the people charged with an impaired driving offense that didn’t cause a crash could still face felony DWI charges. What circumstances lead to felony charges for a DWI defendant?
Repeat offenders could face felony charges
The more times someone gets convicted of a DWI, the more severe the penalties they face become. After two previous charges, the criminal offense itself goes from a misdemeanor to a felony. Third DUI offenses result in felony charges and can mean up to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Any impaired driving offense after the third DWI charge will also carry felony charges.
Having children in the car makes it a felony
Children often have no say in what their parents, guardians or older siblings do. Especially for children under the age of 15, they may not recognize the signs of chemical impairment. If someone gets arrested for a DWI in Texas and has passengers under the age of 15 in the vehicle, they will face felony charges.
Hurting someone can make it a felony charge
Under Texas DWI law, you could face felony intoxication assault charges if you hurt someone while drunk driving. These are special charges for causing injury while driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Similarly, if a person caused a fatality during an impaired driving incident, they can face intoxication manslaughter charges.
Felony DWI charges can mean major penalties. Those facing a felony DWI will want to consider their defense options. The same is true for those facing a first or second misdemeanor DWI charge. A successful defense with a lower-level charge could protect someone from felony charges in the future.