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Jan 5
2018

Drunk Driving | DWI

A driving while intoxicated (DWI) conviction is life-changing no matter how it is charged, as you will face long probationary periods, suspension of your driver’s license, and the long-term consequences of having a criminal record.

However, when a DWI is charged as a felony-level offense, these consequences are much more grievous. Felony-level DWI offenses are sentenced far more severely. Moreover, as a convicted felon, your freedom will be compromised.

So, when is a DWI offense charged as a felony, and what are the criminal penalties?

Felony-Level DWI Offenses and Penalties in Texas

A DWI is generally only charged as a felony if it is a third or greater offense. However, there are certain circumstances under which you will be charged with a felony even for a first or second DWI offense.

Intoxication Assault

If you injure another motorist or a pedestrian while driving intoxicated, you will be charged with a third-degree felony, even if this is your first or second DWI offense. Intoxication assault is punishable by:

  • 2-10 years of state imprisonment
  • Fines up to $10,000

Intoxication Manslaughter

If you kill another motorist or a pedestrian while driving intoxicated, you will be charged with intoxication manslaughter, which is a second-degree felony punishable by:

  • 2-20 years of state imprisonment
  • Fines up to $10,000

DWI with Child Passenger

If you are carrying a child passenger under 15 when you are arrested, you will be charged with a DWI with child passenger. This is considered a State Jail Felony, which is punishable by:

  • 180 days – two years of jail time
  • Up to $10,000 in fines

Third or More DWI Offense

The third DWI offense is taken much more seriously than prior offenses. A third DWI is charged as a third-degree felony, and is punishable by:

  • State imprisonment for 2-10 years
  • Fines up to $10,000

Third or More DWI Offense with Prior State Imprisonment

If an offender is convicted of a third or more DWI and has previously been incarcerated in Texas State Prisons for any offense, the DWI is charged as a second-degree felony and is punishable by:

  • One prior imprisonment: 2-20 years of state imprisonment
  • Two or more prior imprisonments: 25 years to life of state imprisonment
  • Fines up to $10,000

Other Texas DWI Offenses and Penalties

First and second DWI offenses are generally charged as misdemeanors. However, presence of an aggravating factor, such as high blood alcohol content, can elevate these charges to felony-level offenses in some cases.

First DWI

A first DWI offense without any aggravating factors is charged as a Class B misdemeanor, which is punishable by:

  • 3-180 days of jail time
  • Fines up to $2,000

Second DWI

A second DWI offense without any aggravating factors is charged as a Class A misdemeanor, which is punishable by:

  • 30-360 days of jail time
  • Fines up to $4,000

Fort Worth DWI LawyerBlood Alcohol Content Equal to or Exceeding 0.15%

Blood alcohol content equal to or exceeding 0.15% at the time of DWI arrest is considered to be an aggravating factor, and results in enhanced sentencing. Generally a first offense will be charged similarly to a second offense, and a second offense will be charged similarly to a third or more offense. In this case, a second DWI offense could be charged as a felony.

If you are facing a felony DWI, it is vital that you get professional legal help as soon as possible to make sure that your rights are protected. Our knowledgeable Texas DWI lawyers can help, but only if you reach out first.

 

About the Author:

Brandon Fulgham has an in-depth understanding of both Texas law and Texans themselves. Before practicing law here, he received his undergraduate degree from TCU, and his law degree from South Texas College of Law in Houston. After graduation, he worked in District Attorneys’ offices as a prosecutor, building cases designed to put people behind bars. Now, he uses that knowledge to protect the rights of people in and around Fort Worth, making sure they receive the strongest possible defense when they find themselves on the wrong side of the law. He has been recognized for his work by The National Trial Lawyers, Fort Worth Magazine, and others.

 

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