To many people, allegations of driving while intoxicated (DWI) are less serious than other offenses. Unlike assault or homicide, drunk driving does not always have a measurable adverse impact on other people. Often, DWI charges are the result of traffic stops, not crashes, so the person accused hasn’t even caused provable harm to others.
Despite the way people perceive DWI charges, they are common and serious offenses in Texas. They can lead to jail time, fines and the loss of your license. In some cases, you could even find yourself facing felony charges. When will Texas charge you with a felony over drunk driving allegations?
When you have multiple prior offenses
When you already have two or more DWI convictions on your record from within the last ten years, the state will usually charge you with a felony for a third or subsequent DWI. The offense will be a third-degree felony, which carries between two and 10 years in state custody and as much as $10,000 in fines.
When you cause injury or a death
An impaired driver who causes a crash that injures or kills another person could face felony charges. Even if they have no prior history of drunk driving, causing injury or death to others will lead to more serious penalties than a DWI arrest resulting from a traffic stop or a DWI crash that only causes property damage.
When someone gets hurt seriously by a drunk driver, the driver could face intoxication assault charges, which is another third-degree felony. If a pedestrian, bicyclist, motorcyclist or person in another vehicle dies because of a drunk driving crash, the charges are even more serious. Intoxication manslaughter is a second-degree felony, which could mean between two and 20 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines if you plead guilty or the courts convict you.
When you have a child passenger
A DWI arrest that occurs when someone has a passenger under the age of 15 in the vehicle will result in a state jail felony charge. The penalties include between 180 days and two years in jail and fines.
Although it won’t result in a felony charge, a DWI charge involving allegations of a blood alcohol concentration over 0.15% could lead to enhanced sentencing. Learning about the rules that govern Texas DWI charges can help you make better decisions after an arrest.