Driving while intoxicated (DWI) offenses are relatively common criminal charges in Texas. Not only do police officers tend to arrest anyone who shows signs of intoxication while driving or fails of breath test, but they usually also test anyone involved in a crash for chemical impairment.
A DWI conviction can lead to a variety of different penalties depending on someone’s circumstances. The state can imprison someone, order them to pay large fines and suspend their driver’s license. The number of offenses on someone’s record and any aggravating factors present at the time of their arrest will determine exactly what penalties the courts may impose.
Sometimes, aggravating factors lead to felony charges against a driver. Someone accused of a DWI with a passenger under the age of 14 in their vehicle might face a felony charge. Prosecutors can also bring felony charges against those who cause crashes that injure or kill other people. Occasionally, repeat offenses could be grounds for felony DWI charges in Texas.
Multiple infractions may justify a felony charge
In the absence of any aggravating factors, a first DWI charge is typically a misdemeanor offense. The same is generally true of a second DWI offense as well. However, once a driver has two DWI convictions on their record, prosecutors can charge them with a felony for any subsequent offense.
Third DWI charges are felony offenses all on their own even without anyone getting hurt or a child in the vehicle. A felony DWI charge carries penalties that include between two and 10 years in state custody and $10,000 in fines. The driver may also have to serve a two-year license suspension when they finish their prison sentence. Additionally, they could lose out on many opportunities in the future because they have a felony on their criminal record.
The best way for someone to avoid a felony DWI charge involves avoiding scenarios in which one is likely. Therefore, drivers may need to assertively defend against first or second DWI charges if they intend to avoid a third charge that could be a felony offense. Ultimately, understanding when Texas treats a DWI like a felony may help someone better respond to pending criminal charges.