There can be no doubt that driving while intoxicated (DWI) is a serious offense in Texas, but basic drunk driving is still charged as a Class B Misdemeanor. Though the crime is elevated to a Class A Misdemeanor under certain circumstances, you will not be sentenced to more than a year in jail. However, in the presence of factors that are viewed as being more extreme, a DWI can become a felony under the Texas Penal Code on Intoxication and Alcoholic Beverage Offenses. Your sentence may include longer incarceration in prison and higher fines, as well as the collateral consequences of a felony conviction. Expunction is not available in most cases, so a felony DWI will follow you around for life.
Because of the extreme ramifications, it is critical to retain a Houston DWI defense attorney to fight for your rights as the earliest possible stages of a criminal case. You can also review some background information on how a DWI can lead to felony charges in Texas:
Four Ways a DWI Becomes a Felony Charge
A drunk driving case will be prosecuted at different felony levels when certain circumstances of factors are present. There are four scenarios that lead to felony DWI:
- Third DWI Arrest: If you have been convicted for drunk driving twice in the past, your third arrest will be a Third Degree Felony. Texas no longer applies a lookback period, which would prevent an older DWI conviction from affecting new charges.
- Intoxication Assault: When you cause a motor vehicle accident by reason of intoxication, the crime is also a Third Degree Felony. Note that the prosecutor’s burden requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt that the accident was caused by drunk driving.
- Intoxication Manslaughter: A DWI accident that leads to a fatality is a Second Degree Felony.
- Drunk Driving with Child Passenger: If you have a minor under 15 years old in the car when you are arrested for DWI, the charge will be a state jail felony.
Penalties and Collateral Consequences
A state jail felony is the least severe of these offenses, but a conviction can still lead to imprisonment from 180 days to 2 years. Mandatory minimum sentencing applies to both Third and Second Degree Felonies, so you can expect at least two years’ incarceration. Plus, a judge could extend a felony sentence to a maximum of 10 or 20 years after the mandatory minimums.
The collateral consequences of a felony DWI are also severe, as the conviction will show up in a background check and you may be required to disclose it. Ramifications include difficulties with employment, loans, professional licensing, and many others.
Set up a Consultation with a Houston Drunk Driving Defense Lawyer Today
The punishment and collateral consequences of a felony DWI are harsh, which is why you should make it a priority to reach out to Houston DWI Lawyer Tad A. Nelson as soon as possible. You can schedule a consultation with a member of our team by calling 713-489-7373 or going online.