Felony DWI Cases in Fort Worth & Tarrant County

If you are arrested and charged with any type of DWI offense in Fort Worth or the surrounding areas of Tarrant County, Texas, the penalties can be significant including loss of your freedom, substantial fines, mandatory classes and counseling, suspension of driving privileges, mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device, probation, a criminal record and other sentencing terms.

While all DWI charges in Fort Worth are serious, they are not all created equal. Although most first and second offense DWI charges are labeled misdemeanors under Texas DWI law, those with two prior DWI convictions or those involved in motor vehicle accidents that cause serious injury or fatalities may face a felony DWI charge.

The penalties and long-term consequences associated with a felony conviction for DWI in Fort Worth are far more serious including permanent bars from certain occupations, forfeiture of rights to gun ownership and voting, disqualification from certain forms of financial aid for college, discovery by future landlords and employers and other consequences that can impact your future in fundamental ways.

If you are accused of being a repeat DWI offender with two or more prior convictions for DWI, you face the prospect of a lengthy term of incarceration and other serious consequences. However, the mere fact that you have been charged with felony DWI does not mean that you will be convicted whether your felony charge stems from prior DWI convictions or a car accident that resulted in serious injury or death, an experienced Fort Worth DWI attorney can analyze the law enforcement documents, physical evidence, court files from prior cases, witness statements, appropriateness of the stop and arrest, FST testing procedure, blood alcohol concentration (BAC) blood testing results and other evidence to seek acquittal or reduction of the charge to a misdemeanor offense.

First Step You Must Take Immediately After Your Felony DWI Arrest

Under Texas DWI law, you have 15 days from the date of your felony DWI arrest to request an Administrative License Revocation Hearing (ALR). Failure to request an ALR hearing within 15 days from the date of your arrest will result in a suspension of your Texas driver’s license 40 days after the date of your arrest.

What is an Administrative License Revocation Hearing? The purpose of this hearing is to determine two primary purposes: (1) Was there reasonable suspicion sufficient to warrant your DWI traffic stop to investigate you for DWI and (2) Did the DWI arresting officer provide you a copy and reading of the statutory warning form requesting your consent to provide a DWI breath or blood test.

During the hearing process, the State of Texas, through the Texas Department of Public Safety, must prove these elements of the hearing by a preponderance of the evidence. Why is the burden different from a criminal case? In criminal cases, the burden of proof on the State of Texas is beyond a reasonable doubt. However, because Administrative License Revocation hearings are in an administrative court, the State has a lower burden of proof.

Can A DWI Attorney Save Your License From Being Suspended?

It is possible. The best change your DWI attorney has at winning your license hearing is to do the following:

  1. Request a hearing – missing the deadline to request the hearing removes any possibility of escaping a DWI license suspension
  2. File and receive discovery from the State of Texas – your DWI lawyer should make a discovery request from the Texas Department of Public Safety. By obtaining the evidence, you can formulate winning arguments for the hearing.
  3. Review the video – police reports area almost always written to make a DWI arrestee look bad. However, DWI videos can many times reveal facts that are not clearly articulated in the police reports. The video can be powerful evidence for the best DWI attorneys to win your license hearing.
  4. Subpoena the DWI officer – if you subpoena the arresting officer on your DWI and he does not appear, you will likely win your hearing. If the officer does appear but fails to provide evidence consistent with reasonable suspicion for your traffic stop or failed to follow protocol regarding the providing and reading of the statutory warning form, you could win your hearing.

What Can You Do If Your License Is Suspended At The DWI License Hearing?

If the Administrative License Revocation judge rules against you and chooses to suspend your license, you can still obtain an occupation driver’s license so that you can continue to drive. However, Felony DWI license suspensions will require the installation of an ignition interlock device, purchase of SR-22 insurance (high risk DWI insurance) and the payment of filing fees to the court to obtain the occupational driver’s license.

Types of Felony DWI Charges in Texas

There are a number of circumstances that may result in a felony DWI charge including a third or subsequent DWI conviction, car accident resulting in injury, vehicular manslaughter or DWI with a child passenger.

Third or Subsequent DWI Conviction: If you have previously been convicted of two DWI charges, the third offense may be charged as a felony. When seeking a conviction for felony DUI on this grounds, the prosecutor must prove the prior convictions. When fighting this type of felony DWI charge, we will both attack the factual basis for the current DWI conviction as well as put the prosecutor to his or her proof regarding establishing the prior convictions. This form of felony DWI is considered a third-degree felony. A conviction for this form of DWI will result in loss of your driver’s license for a period of between 180 days and two years.

Intoxication Assault: If you cause a car accident while driving under the influence of alcohol that causes disfigurement or serious bodily injury the prosecutor typically will charge this offense as a third-degree felony. Serious bodily injury is defined as an injury that results in a permanent loss of use or protracted loss of use of a bodily member or organ. If the accident resulted in an injury that does not meet the definition of serious bodily injury, the intoxication assault charge will be dropped to a misdemeanor DWI.

A third-degree felony in Texas like the two forms of felony DWI above can expose you to extremely serious penalties including incarceration for a minimum of two year up to a maximum of ten years in the Institutional Division of the Texas Department of Corrections (prison). Felony DWI based on an individual’s status as a repeat offender or intoxication assault also entails a fine up to a maximum of $10,000 and 160 to 600 hours of community service.

Intoxication Manslaughter: When a drunk driver is involved in a collision in which someone is killed, this may constitute a second-degree felony. This is the most serious form of DWI offense carrying a prison sentence of between 2-20 years and a fine of up to $10,000. The sentence may also include between 240 and 800 hours of community service.

The best DWI attorneys know that one of the most effective legal defenses for citizens charged with intoxication manslaughter is the element of causation. The State of Texas must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the intoxication was the cause of the death of another. What if there was another contributing cause? What if the accused was not at-fault from the accident report from the DWI police records? These are serious issues that should be defended and examined by your DWI attorney. In fact, situations like this must be looked at early in the legal defense so that your DWI lawyer can make a presentation to the grand jury. A grand jury acts as a filtering process for all felony cases in Texas. If your DWI attorney presents evidence showing a serious doubt regarding the element of causation, the grand jury may render a No Bill. A no bill is the equivalent of a dismissal of all charges and provides eligibility for an expunction and complete clearing of all records.

Driving While Intoxicated With Child Under 15: If you are arrested and charged for driving drunk with a minor 15-years-old or younger in your vehicle, you may face felony charges. This is a serious offense that can result in a maximum of two years of jail time and a maximum $10,000 fine. A conviction of this offense will also result in a suspension of your driver’s license for up to 180 days.

While you may still qualify for probation if you are convicted of felony, this period of probation may be as lengthy as ten years. The terms and conditions of probation may include some or all of the following: DWI classes, mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device, AA meetings, minimum of ten days to 180 days in Tarrant County Jail, assessments for substance abuse and alcohol, court costs/fines and community service. Depending on the facts and circumstances, you also might be required to wear a SCRAM unit (ankle monitor).

How To Beat A Felony DWI Case

If you have been charged with felony DWI, you are facing a serious legal battle that requires the best DWI law firm on your side. Part of making sure you are treated fairly is making certain that all your possible DWI defenses are examined.

Prosecutor Can Not Prove You Were “Operating” A Motor Vehicle

In order to convict you of Felony DWI, the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you were “operating” a motor vehicle. Does that mean you had to be driving? Not necessarily. You do not have to be physically moving the vehicle to be operating it. The good news for your DWI attorney is that the law is not crystal clear on what constitutes operating.

For example, if it is shown at a felony DWI trial that you were sleeping off your intoxication in your vehicle with it remaining in Park position, many juries have a hard time convicting someone beyond a reasonable doubt regarding the element of “operating.” However, if you fall asleep in a drive-thru lane at a fast-food restaurant because you were intoxicated, the same jury would be more likely to convict. The reason why you were in the car can matter to a jury.

Prosecutor Can Not Prove Intoxication

In order to prove the element of Intoxication beyond a reasonable doubt, the prosecutor will have to show one of the following:

  1. Not having the normal use of your mental faculties due to the introduction of alcohol, drug or dangerous drug into your body;
  2. Not having the normal use of your physical faculties due to the introduction of alcohol, drug or dangerous drug into your body; OR
  3. Having an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or higher at the time of driving

In order to prove the loss of the normal use of mental or physical faculties, the prosecutor will look to your performance on Field Sobriety tests performed at the roadside. Your DWI lawyer must thoroughly examine the DWI officer’s administration of the tests to determine if they were instructed and graded properly. If the officer failed to follow the specific guidelines laid out by the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration, the test results will be deemed unreliable and inadmissible in court.

In order to prove you had a blood alcohol level of 0.08 or higher at the time of driving, the prosecutor will point to breath or blood test results to argue you were driving while intoxicated. Once again, if the breath test machine was not maintained, if it malfunctioned or if the Intoxilyzer operator failed to administer the breath test properly, your breath test result could be thrown out in court. If you provided a blood test, your DWI attorney must examine whether the blood draw was performed by a qualified technician, whether the vials were sealed properly and if the lab tested the samples properly.

As you can see, there is much that must be examined by an experienced and aggressive Forth Worth DWI attorney in order to protect your legal rights and ensure you are treated fairly.

Prosecutor Can Not Prove You Were Driving In A Public Place

The State of Texas must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you were operating a vehicle in a public place while intoxicated. A public place is defined as a place that the public, or a substantial group of the public, as has access – including parks, apartment complexes, private businesses that provide public access, etc. However, if you were on private property where the public did not have access, you may have a strong argument in a DWI trial that you did not commit the crime.

When you speak with a Fort Worth Felony DWI attorney at Fulgham Law Firm P.C., we can discuss the possibility of probation and DWI defense strategies as well as the Felony Alcohol Intervention Program (FAIP). This Tarrant County program involves an aggressive substance abuse intervention program that might permit you to shorten the duration of your probation. If you have been arrested for a felony DWI case in Fort Worth or elsewhere in Tarrant County, please call (817-886-3078) to speak to an experienced Fort Worth DWI lawyer at the Fulgham Law Firm P.C. for a free consultation.

Call us right now to get help.

(817) 877-3030

We’ve helped hundreds of people in Texas and we can help you too. We’ll set you up with a free conversation with Mr. Fulgham which will help you know what to do next. The Fulgham Law Firm serves Fort Worth and Tarrant county areas.