Is a DWI a Felony in the State of Texas?

If you’re going to be driving drunk, don’t do it Texas.

Of course, you should never be driving drunk in ANY state, the possibility of tragic consequences is absolutely real and never worth it. But Texas has particularly harsh legal penalties for this offense. If you are found to be driving with a BAC (blood alcohol content) of .08 or higher you are in violation of Texas Penal Code Section 49.04.

Will your DWI be charged as a felony in the state of Texas?

Well, that depends on several different factors but the answer can certainly be yes. Prior convictions, if any, will play a part in the severity of your sentence–as will any injuries caused by the incident. Attorney Tad A. Nelson and Attorney Bristol, leading DWI defense experts in Texas, are well versed in helping people charged with serious drunk driving cases. If you need help in south Texas, call Tad, in north Texas call Bristol.

First Offense DWI

Like with any crime, a first time offense will be treated with more lenience and is generally considered a Class B misdemeanor. You would spend a minimum of 72 hours in custody unless you had an open container of alcohol in your vehicle at the time of the arrest, which would mean a minimum of 6 days in a county jail. If your BAC rating is considered to be high, anything more than .15, your charge can be increased to a Class A misdemeanor.

But what happens if your first time offense DWI caused an injury?

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At this point, you can certainly be charged with a felony. In the case of a non-fatal injury, you can be charged with Intoxication Assault. If you did cause someone’s death with your reckless drunk driving you could be charged with intoxication manslaughter, and this is a 2nd degree felony. What about getting caught intoxicated with a passenger that is a minor? Texas law considers a DWI with a passenger that is younger than 15 years old to be a felony that’s called Driving Under the Influence With a Child Passenger.

Second Offense DWI

If you commit this offense again you will begin to experience more serious consequences. The second offense DWI is considered a Class A misdemeanor and you may receive a minimum sentence of 30 days or a maximum sentence of 1 year. You will also face a fine (of upwards of $4,000) and the possibility of getting your license suspended for up to 2 years. In the event of injuring another person or having a passenger that is a minor you would also face felony charges.

Third Offense DWI (And Beyond)

At this point you are considered a habitual offender and Texas law will begin to inflict much harsher punishments. A third offense is considered a felony charge and you will be facing a minimum prison sentence of 2 years, with a maximum sentence of 10 years. The fine will be as much as 10,000 and a judge may also require community service (up to 600 hours) and the suspension of your license. It’s also very possible that you will be sent to treatment for alcoholism.

At this point, your life can be greatly affected by these convictions. A felony charge would appear in the case that you were the subject of a background check from an employer or potential landlord. It’s serious business and future DWI convictions beyond the third one would result in progressive longer prison sentences.

Is it possible for you to serve your sentence as probation? Yes, it is possible. Texas law permits serving most of your sentence through probation. This would depend on not violating the terms of your plea and you would likely still have to serve between 10 and 30 days in jail. Of course, once you’re getting into your fourth or fifth DWI the possibility of getting probation becomes lower. After the third offense you may be charged with a second degree felony which would have a potential sentence of up to 20 years, with a minimum of 2.

The state of Texas simply does not want you driving while intoxicated and has designed a legal framework of increasingly harsh penalties to discourage you from this dangerous activity. If you do find yourself facing a DWI, getting a good lawyer can make a difference. Field sobriety tests can be subjective as are methods like breathalyzers. If you feel a test was not administered correctly or that your field sobriety test was inaccurate it’s possible for your lawyer to make a difference.


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