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What factors increase the severity of a Texas DWI charge?

On Behalf of | May 7, 2024 | Drunk Driving |

Driving while intoxicated (DWI) charges are among the most serious traffic violations prosecuted in Texas. However, people often perceive DWI charges as less severe than other common criminal charges.

Someone accused of a DWI might decide to plead guilty in part because they expect lenient sentencing if they cooperate with the state. Despite such expectations, the sentence imposed after a guilty plea depends on a judge’s perception of the situation and the exact charges that the defendant faces.

Oftentimes, DWI allegations are misdemeanor offenses that can carry jail time, fines and license suspension of up to two years. However, some people end up facing more severe charges over a DWI incident.

Prosecutors can sometimes increase the charges

Basic DWI offenses are typically misdemeanors in Texas, but the presence of certain aggravating factors could lead to the state pursuing felony charges instead or in addition to misdemeanor DWI charges.

Perhaps the most serious aggravating factor is causing harm to another person due to intoxicated driving. Someone accused of a DWI causing bodily injury or death could face felony charges instead of a basic misdemeanor DWI offense. Intoxication assault and vehicular homicide are both felony offenses.

Driving with a teenager or child in the car could also lead to more serious criminal charges. If there is a vehicle occupant who is under the age of 15 at the time of someone’s arrest, the state can accuse them of not just a DWI offense but also felony child endangerment.

Finally, even without any secondary factors complicating the situation, repeat arrests can lead to worse charges. In Texas, prosecutors can pursue a felony DWI charge against anyone who has two or more prior DWI convictions on their record.

The possibility of more serious charges is one reason why even those accused of a first-time DWI may want to respond assertively to the allegations brought by state prosecutors. Learning more about how Texas chooses the charges and what penalties are possible may be beneficial for those facing DWI allegations. There could be a variety of different defense strategies available depending on the situation that have led to someone’s arrest.