When does a Texas DWI become a felony offense?
People often don’t treat driving while intoxicated (DWI) charges as seriously as they should. It is almost reflexive for people to plead guilty to such charges, and those who do may come to regret that decision.
A DWI on your record can increase your insurance costs, affect your employment and create numerous other challenges for you. However, given that most DWI charges are misdemeanor offenses, many people think that pleading guilty is the easiest solution.
The truth is that repeat DWI charges in Texas can be categorized as felony offenses, and the choice to plead guilty to a misdemeanor DWI now might put you at increased risk of a DWI felony charge in the future. You may even be at risk of having the prosecutor assigned to your case recategorize your misdemeanor due to aggravating circumstances.
When will a Texas prosecutor bring felony charges related to a drunk driving arrest?
When someone has two or more prior DWIs
The penalties imposed for impaired driving increase with each subsequent offense. The fines and possible jail time go up, as does the length of the license suspension. After two DWI arrests, the third will result in felony charges. Additionally, if you have even one prior felony DWI conviction, that could render any subsequent DWI offense a felony too.
When there is a child in the vehicle
One of the situations in which prosecutors will enhance DWI charges involves underage passengers in the vehicle. If there is a child under the age of 15 in the vehicle at the time of someone’s DWI arrest, they will typically face felony charges. A driver could face up to two years in state custody and fines of up to $10,000 for a DWI with a child in the vehicle.
When someone dies or gets hurt
If a DWI results in injury or death, the state will likely pursue special charges related to vehicular assault or vehicular manslaughter, both of which are felony offenses. Intoxication assault could lead to up to 10 years in state custody and $10,000 in fines. Intoxication manslaughter can lead to up to 20 years in prison.
Any DWI charge can affect your finances, your career and your freedom, but a felony DWI requires especially careful consideration. Understanding how the state approaches DWI charges can help you determine the most appropriate response to your situation.