Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) is treated as a very serious offense in Texas. While a first and second-time DWI is typically a misdemeanor, there are many cases in which you can face a felony DWI in Texas, even if it’s your first DWI offense. An otherwise misdemeanor DWI can be elevated to a felony depending on additional factors.
If you are facing a felony DWI charge, it’s important to seek experienced legal counsel from a defense attorney as soon as possible to protect your rights and fight the charge.
DWI 3rd Offense (Third Degree Felony)
The most common type of felony DWI in Texas is a DWI 3rd Offense. If you have two prior DWI convictions, a third offense will be charged as a felony under state law. In the past, a third DWI would be charged as a Class B Misdemeanor and treated as a first offense if at least 10 years had passed since the date of the last DWI, but this is no longer the case. Today, any prior DWIs can be used to enhance a new charge.
If you are convicted of a 3rd Offense DWI, you can face a prison sentence of 2 to 10 years and a fine of up to $10,000.
DWI with Child Passenger (State Jail Felony)
A DWI with Child Passenger is a unique charge under the Texas Penal Code. Under this statute, even a first-time DWI will be elevated to a State Jail Felony if a child under 15 was in the vehicle. If a child was in the vehicle at the time of the DWI, it does not matter if the driver had no prior convictions.
A State Jail Felony faces a possible punishment of 180 days to 2 years in jail and a fine of up to $10,000.
Intoxication Assault (Third Degree Felony)
Intoxication Assault is basically a DWI but there is an additional element: the defendant by mistake or by reason of intoxication caused serious bodily harm to someone else. No prior convictions are required for a DWI to be elevated to a felony Intoxication Assault.
DWI Intoxication Assault is a Third Degree felony in most cases, although there are a few exceptions. This charge is a Second Degree felony if:
The accident caused brain damage or left someone in a vegetative state
The accident involved a peace officer
There are possible defenses to a charge of Intoxication Assault, including that the defendant was not intoxicated, the injury is not considered “serious bodily injury” under the law, or that the intoxication did not result in the accident or injury.
Intoxication Manslaughter (Second Degree Felony)
Intoxication Manslaughter is the final type of felony DWI in Texas and it is similar to Intoxication Assault except the intoxication led to death instead of serious bodily injury.
A Second Degree felony carries a possible sentence of 2 to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
Texas law allows for “stacking” of punishments for both Intoxication Manslaughter and Intoxication Assault. This means that if there was more than one victim, multiple counts can be charged and the punishments can be added together to run consecutively. This is very different than most felony punishments in Texas that run concurrently, or together.
Because a felony DWI can have life-changing consequences, it’s vital to consult with an experienced Texas defense attorney as soon as possible to begin building your defense. Contact Smith & Vinson, today, if you have been arrested and charged with felony DWI in Texas.