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What makes a DWI a felony in Texas?

On Behalf of | Jan 24, 2022 | Blog, Drunk Driving |

Per Texas law, the state can charge you with driving under the influence if, when an officer stops you, your blood alcohol concentration level is %.08 or greater, you have any level of a controlled substance in your system, or you were impaired in any way by alcohol or drugs. In most DWI cases, a conviction results in a misdemeanor offense. However, if certain aggravating factors were present at the time of your arrest, you could face felony charges.

Every state recognizes either aggravating factors in DWI cases and/or felony DWIs. Nolo explores three unique factors that can instantly elevate standard DWI charges to a felony offense in Texas.

Every state recognizes either aggravating factors in DWI cases and/or felony DWIs. Nolo explores three unique factors that can instantly elevate standard DWI charges to a felony offense in Texas.

The presence of minor passengers

If you had even just one minor passenger who is younger than 15 in your vehicle at the time of your DWI stop, you could face a state jail felony conviction. If convicted, you face a mandatory minimum jail sentence of 180 days. However, the judge may use his or her discretion to sentence you up to two years in jail. He or she may also issue a fine of up to $10,000.

Previous DWI convictions

In Texas, both first and second DWI convictions are misdemeanor offenses, assuming they lacked the presence of aggravating factors. However, if you have two prior convictions on your record and receive a third charge within a 10-year span, the state must generally elevate the charge to a felony. The only exception to this rule is if it has been more than five years since your most recent conviction. A third DWI offense is a third-degree felony, which carries a punishment of between two and 10 years in prison and fines of up to $10,000.

Accident involving injury or death

If you cause or are involved in an accident that results in the injury or death of another person, and if the attending officers determine you had drugs or alcohol in your system at the time of the crash, you may face either “intoxication assault” or “intoxication manslaughter” charges. This is the case even if the DWI was your first offense.

A standard DWI charge can have severe and adverse implications on your life. A felony DWI charge can completely upend it. Do not let a mistake or misunderstanding ruin your future. Take steps to combat the charges right away.