Most people arrested for a driving while intoxicated (DWI) offense in Texas will face misdemeanor charges. A typical arrest involving a traffic stop with no injuries to others is usually a misdemeanor, but there are a few circumstances in which Texas prosecutors could charge you with a felony offense over a DWI allegation.
Drivers who understand the rules that make a DWI a felony can avoid violating those rules or can plan a more effective defense strategy. What are the circumstances that lead to felony DWI charges?
When you injure someone
Texas prosecutors can charge you with intoxication assault if you hurt another driver or strike a pedestrian while under the influence of alcohol at the wheel. Even a first-time DWI will lead to felony charges if someone else gets hurt, and those charges can lead to between two and 10 years in state custody and up to $10,000 and fines.
If the injured party dies because of the crash, the state can charge the driver at fault with intoxication manslaughter, which could lead to anywhere from two to 20 years in state custody and up to $10,000 in fines.
When there is a child in the vehicle
Someone who gets pulled over by the police or causes a crash while under the influence knows they will likely get arrested, and they make that choice on their own. Children often have no say about where they go or the actions of the adults in control of them.
If there is a passenger in the vehicle under the age of 15, the driver could face felony charges instead of standard misdemeanor DWI charges. A driver could face up to two years in jail if convicted of a DWI with a minor passenger in the vehicle.
When they have two or more prior DWI offenses
Texas increases the penalties that apply with each subsequent DWI charge. Eventually, the state will charge you with a felony offense because of the numerous prior offenses on your record. Your third or subsequent DWI could lead to felony charges that carry up to 10 years in prison.
Depending on your driving record and the details of the incidents that led to your arrest, there may be several defense strategies that would work for your case. Educating yourself about Texas DWI laws is an important starting point if you need to respond to pending criminal charges.