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Could a Texas DWI charge be classified as a felony offense?

On Behalf of | Mar 12, 2024 | Criminal Defense |

Traffic laws in Texas make it a crime to choose to drive when someone knows that they have had too much to drink. It is also technically against the law to operate a motor vehicle with an elevated blood alcohol concentration (BAC) regardless of someone’s performance at the wheel.

Someone arrested for a driving while intoxicated (DWI) offense may worry about the penalties that the courts might impose. Frequently, those facing DWI charges expect prosecutors to bring misdemeanor accusations against them. However, some DWI cases lead to felony prosecution.

When do Texas prosecutors have the authority to file felony DWI charges instead of misdemeanor charges?

When a driver causes injury or death

The most serious aggravating factor for DWI charges is arguably a scenario in which an impaired driver causes harm to others. Vehicular assault and vehicular homicide charges are typically felony offenses.

When a driver has underage passengers

Some people make the choice of their own volition to enter a vehicle operated by someone who has had too much to drink. Adults are capable of refusing to travel with an impaired driver. Younger passengers may not recognize the signs of alcohol intoxication. Especially if the party driving while drunk is a parent, family member or caregiver, a child may not feel as though they can refuse to travel with a drunk driver. The presence of a passenger under the age of 15 could lead to felony charges against a driver accused of intoxication at the wheel.

When a driver has multiple prior offenses

Many people accused of impaired driving have complex relationships with alcohol. They may be at high risk of getting arrested again if they frequently drink. The state attempts to deter recidivism or repeat offenses by imposing harsher penalties with each subsequent charge. Eventually, prosecutors can bring felony charges against someone repeatedly arrested for a DWI.

Two or more prior DWI charges can be adequate reason for prosecutors to bring felony charges against someone after their third arrest. Obviously, felony charges have more serious penalties attached to them. A felony criminal record also tends to have a more significant impact on someone’s future opportunities. Employers, landlords and educational institutions are often more concerned with felony records than prior misdemeanor charges.

Understanding how prosecutors handle impaired driving cases may help people make better choices when responding to DWI charges. Seeking personalized legal guidance is a good way to start crafting a defense strategy that is tailored to one’s unique circumstances.