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Is a Texas DWI a felony or misdemeanor?

On Behalf of | Jul 5, 2024 | Criminal Defense

There are certain types of crimes that people generally think of as less serious than others. Those negatively affected by a drunk driver may think of impaired driving as a serious offense because of their personal experiences. Most people view impaired driving as a victimless crime so long as a collision doesn’t occur.

Texas prosecutes thousands of driving while intoxicated (DWI) offenses every year. Many of those cases result in convictions, and only a small subset of those cases involve direct harm to others. A large percentage of those accused of impaired driving plead guilty. They expect misdemeanor charges and minor penalties.

However, Texas judges can sentence someone to the maximum penalties allowable under the law. In some cases, prosecutors can bring more serious charges after an alleged drunk driving infraction. Contrary to popular belief, a Texas DWI is not always a misdemeanor.

Some DWI offenses are felonies

There are a few scenarios in which Texas state prosecutors can bring felony charges against someone accused of a DWI. The first and arguably most serious scenario involves a DWI offense that leads to a crash. The state can pursue felony charges against impaired motorists who injure or kill other people on the road.

Even in situations where a crash doesn’t occur, prosecutors may have grounds to pursue felony charges. If someone has two or more prior DWI convictions, their subsequent charges are likely to be felony DWI offenses that carry increased penalties.

Finally, prosecutors can charge people with a felony if they drive drunk with a child aged 14 or younger in their vehicles. Even when the DWI someone faces is a misdemeanor, the potential penalties make a robust defense a worthwhile investment.

People shouldn’t overlook how a criminal record from a DWI might affect their lives either. Some people lose their jobs after a criminal conviction. Others struggle to pursue better job opportunities or to continue their educations after a criminal conviction. A felony criminal record, in particular, can have a chilling effect on someone’s opportunities in life.

Avoiding jail time, fines and license suspensions can be a valid reason to fight Texas DWI charges. Drivers who know how the state handles such cases can better respond to a recent arrest.