When does a DWI become a felony in Texas?

On Behalf of | Aug 4, 2022 | Criminal Defense

The average adult in Texas would agree that driving while intoxicated DWI charges are not as serious as a violent offenses. Many DWI charges involve technical infractions, and therefore people perceive them as victimless crimes.

A person got pulled over by the police because of bad driving and then failed roadside breath tests or field sobriety test. They didn’t actually harm anyone even though they technically broke the law.

When people don’t take criminal charges as seriously as they should, that attitude could make them wrong choice in criminal court. For example, drivers may plead guilty to a DWI in the hopes of minimizing their costs and penalties. They may not realize that they put themselves at risk of a felony charge later.

Repeat offenders can face felony charges

The penalties you face for a specific criminal offense will increase with every infraction. For those who get arrested for impaired driving multiple times, even the charges they face may become more serious.

When you face a third DWI arrest, the state will charge you with a felony DWI instead of a misdemeanor offense. The same is true for any subsequent arrest after your third DWI. Felony DWI charges can meet up to $10,000 in fines and a minimum sentence of two years in state custody. There could also be community service requirements and an obligation to install an ignition interlock device in your vehicle once you regain your license.

That is a substantial increase from the misdemeanor DWI penalties. A first DWI offense is usually a Class B misdemeanor, which means 72 hours in state custody and up to $2,000 in fines. Second offenses and charges involving higher blood alcohol concentrations may lead to more serious penalties.

Are there other felony drunk driving charges in Texas?

There are other scenarios in which a driver could face a felony charge for a DWI. One of the most common is having a child under the age of 15 in the vehicle while driving drunk. If you hurt someone in a drunk driving wreck, the state can charge you with intoxication assault, which is a felony. If someone dies in a crash, the state can charge you with intoxication manslaughter.

Learning about the rules that apply to DWI charges in Texas can help you make better choices after your arrest.