Drunk driving or driving while intoxicated (DWI) offenses are among the most common crimes that occur in Texas. Thousands of people every year get arrested after crashes or traffic stops for failing a chemical breath test or performing poorly on field sobriety tests.
For most people arrested on the Texas roads, a DWI offense will be a misdemeanor. The circumstances at the time of their arrest and their prior driving history will determine what degree of misdemeanor they face. However, for an unfortunate few, DWI allegations in Texas may lead to felony charges.
What are the three primary situations in which the state can charge you with a felony for drunk driving?
When you have multiple prior offenses
Your first and second DWI offenses will be misdemeanors most of the time. However, a third or subsequent DWI arrest will result in felony charges. You could face a minimum of two years in state custody and need to pay $10,000 in fines if you plead guilty to a felony DWI. Not only is the felony charge risk a very good reason to fight a third DWI, but it is also a very compelling reason to fight a second DUI charge as well.
When you have children in the vehicle
If a police officer pulls you over and determines that your blood alcohol concentration is over the legal limit, they will arrest you. If you have children under the age of 15 in the vehicle at the time, the penalties that you face will increase substantially. The state will very likely charge you with a felony even if the children didn’t suffer any kind of injury.
When someone gets hurt or dies
When someone under the influence of alcohol or drugs causes a car crash, they can cause injury to others. If you hurt someone else in a crash caused while under the influence, the state can charge you with a felony charge known as intoxication assault. If someone dies because of your actions at the wheel while under the influence, you could face intoxication manslaughter charges, which are also felony charges.
Understanding how the state classifies and penalizes DWI charges can help those preparing to fight back after their arrest.