When Is DWI A Felony In Texas?

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When being charged with DWI it’s important to know what exactly that means under Texas law.

All states have laws prohibiting and punishing DWIs, however, each state has their own legal definition and ways they are handled within by the courts.

For instance, the first offense of DWI is a misdemeanor. But, it is possible for DWI to become a felony.

Understanding what’s at stake when facing a DWI charge is something everyone should be aware of.

To find the answer to the question, “When is DWI a felony?” And to learn more about DWI’s in Texas, continue reading below.

Definition of DWI in Texas

First, DWI stands for driving while intoxicated and his governed by Texas Penal Code Title 10, Chapter 49.

According to Texas Penal Code, intoxicated is defined as having a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08 percent or higher, or as not having the normal use or function of your mental or physical faculties due to the consumption of alcohol or drugs.

The second part of that definition is what most people don’t realize. DWI does not apply to strictly alcohol but also to drugs (illicit or prescription).

What does this mean for you? Well, it means that if you are impaired while operating a motor vehicle in anyway in the state of Texas, you could be charged with and convicted of DWI.

DWI Penalties in the State of Texas

For the first offense of DWI in Texas, the crime is classified as a misdemeanor and carries the penalty of up to $2,000 in fines, 72 hours to 180 days in Jail, and possible suspension of your driver’s license from 90 days to two years.

But how bad can a DWI really get?

Below are a few of the potential penalties associated with 2nd and 3rd offense DWIs as well as certain factors which can enhance the severity of the crime.

Misdemeanor DWIs

Misdemeanor DWIs in Texas are either a Class A or Class B misdemeanor. The difference being the amount of potential fines.

  • 2nd offense DWI
    • Class A misdemeanor
    • Up to $4,000 fines
    • 30-365 days in Jail
    • 180 days to 2 years DL suspension
  • 1st DWI with open container enhancement
    • Class B misdemeanor
    • Up to $2,000 fines
    • 6-180 days in jail
    • 90-365 days DL suspension
  • 1st DWI with BAC over .15
    • Class A misdemeanor
    • Up to $4,000 in fines
    • 72 hours to 1 year in Jail
    • 90 to 365 days DL suspension

In Texas, there are certain circumstances which can make a DWI a felony. When facing a DWI charge it’s important to know what could make that DWI a felony.

What Makes a DWI a Felony

A felony DWI in Texas can either be a 2nd or 3rd-degree felony.

  • 3rd offense DWI
    • 3rd degree felony
    • Up to $10,000 in fines
    • 2 to 10 years jail time
    • 180 days to 2 years DL suspension
  • DWI that causes serious bodily injury
    • 3rd degree felony
    • Up to $10,000 in fines
    • 2 to 10 years jail time
    • 180 days to 2 years DL suspension
  • DWI with child present in vehicle (under 15 years of age)
    • State jail felony
    • Up to $10,000 in fines
    • 6 months to 2 years in a state jail facility
    • 90 days to 2 years DL suspension

Other than amounts in potential fines and amount of jail time to be served, there are other issues that arise when a DWI becomes a felony.

Consequences of Felony DWI

There are varying consequences outside of fines and jail time when being charged or convicted of a felony crime, whether it is DWI or not.

First is employment. Employers who conduct background checks will often pass on individuals with felony convictions. DWI usually fall under this due to the likelihood of repeat offending and possibly missing work due to court dates and jail time.

Along with this employers worry about the possibility of theft in order to pay for court fees.

Most military installations deny access to individuals with three or more DWIs on their record. Reason being, they don’t want to risk a person driving drunk. You may be the best welder or bricklayer around, but with a DWI as a felony on your record, you can say goodbye to that defense department contracting job.

Another consequence of a DWI as a felony is the zero tolerance factor after that. Usually, courts will place further restrictions on you, such as an ignition interlock system.

In order to start your vehicle, you will need to blow into the ignition interlock to prove there is no alcohol on your breath. Any detection of alcohol will keep the car from starting.

Also if you’re caught with any alcohol in your system behind the wheel of a motor vehicle, you instantly get another court date and may have to do even more jail time.

What to Do When Facing a Felony DWI

When any of the factors are in place that make a DWI a felony happen, it’s time to get serious about representation.

The consequences, as explained above, can be detrimental to careers, income, and can even take a toll on your family. At that point, it would be wise to obtain legal counsel.

Having legal representation can help to reduce some of the charges and bring what could potentially be a felony DWI, down to a misdemeanor. Saving you thousands in legal fees, fines, and even some jail time.

Legal representation could be the difference between a misdemeanor DWI or felony DWI.

If you find yourself in this situation and need legal counsel, don’t hesitate to give us a call today and set up a free initial discussion of your case!

When Is DWI A Felony In Texas?