Most driving while intoxicated (DWI) charges in Texas are misdemeanors, which are serious charges that come with serious legal consequences. However, some DWI charges are felonies that carry even more serious fines and penalties, including prison time. If you’re facing a felony DWI charge, don’t wait to consult with an experienced Leander criminal attorney.
Driving while Intoxicated
The charge of DWI relates to driving while intoxicated, which in Texas means driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 percent. However, you don’t have to exceed the legal limit to be hit with a DWI charge if the police determine that you are impaired by alcohol behind the wheel.
A first DWI offense is generally charged as a Class B misdemeanor, which comes with fines of up to $2,000 and can carry up to 180 days in jail, but a conviction generally leads to probation and community service.
Second DWI charges – and some first DWI charges, such as those involving BACs of .15 or higher – are brought as Class A misdemeanors, and the consequences include up to a year in jail and up to $4,000 in fines. DWI charges also come with license suspension requirements.
A Third or Subsequent DWI
If you are charged with a third or subsequent DWI in the State of Texas, it is a third-degree felony with all of the following associated penalties:
Two to ten years in prison – or a minimum jail stay of ten days if you are granted probation
Fines of up to $10,000
Suspension of your driver’s license for up to two years that begins after your prison term
Mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device on every vehicle you drive
If the felony charge leads to probation, you will need to abide by restrictive rules and regulations that can include all the following conditions:
You will need to spend from 10 to 180 days in jail as a condition of your probation.
You will need to complete a DWI intervention program that is designed for repeat offenders.
You will need an alcohol abuse evaluation, which may lead to a treatment requirement.
You will need to complete 160 to 600 hours of community service.
You will need to refrain from consuming alcohol.
You will need to submit to random alcohol tests.
You will need to remain on the right side of the law, which includes refraining from any criminal acts.
You will need to pay monthly probation costs and pay all related court costs and fines.
You will need to report to your probation officer at least once a month.
It’s important to note that Texas – unlike some other states – doesn’t employ a lookback period when it comes to multiple DWI charges. This policy means that even if your prior charges were decades ago, they could push a current DWI into the felony zone.
If you’re facing a repeat DWI charge, you need the guidance of a skilled Leander criminal defense attorney. He or she will help you defend your rights and put your best foot forward in your case.
DWI with a Child Passenger
If you are charged with a DWI and you have a child who is under the age of 15 in your vehicle with you, it is what is known as a state jail felony, and you can face all of the following consequences:
Fines of up to $10,000
A state jail sentence of 180 days to 2 years
A minimum jail sentence as a condition of probation
A license suspension of up to two years
An alcohol education or prevention program requirement
An ignition interlock device requirement on the cars you drive
Driving while under the influence of alcohol is exceptionally dangerous, and doing so with a child in your car is more dangerous still. As such, this charge is elevated in response to the risk involved – not in response to the child being harmed by your dangerous actions, which is a more serious charge still.
Intoxication Assault: DWI Causing Serious Injury
If you drive while intoxicated and seriously injure someone in the process, the charge of intoxication assault is a third-degree felony, and the penalties faced are the same as they are for a third or subsequent offense. The penalties include two to ten years in prison – or a minimum jail stay of ten days as a term of probation – and up to $10,000 in fines.
Serious injury in this context refers to any of the following situations:
Causing the victim to suffer serious permanent disfigurement
Creating a substantial risk that the victim will suffer death
Causing the victim to suffer a protracted loss or impairment of an organ or bodily function
The charge of intoxication assault often applies to traffic accidents involving other vehicles, accidents that involve hitting a pedestrian or cyclist, and accidents that cause a passenger of the driver to be injured. Even relatively minor car accidents can cause serious injuries and lead to serious felony charges if you are impaired at the time.
Give your case the best chance of a positive outcome by working closely with a seasoned Leander criminal defense attorney.
Intoxication Manslaughter: DWI Resulting in Death
If your intoxication behind the wheel leads to a fatal accident, the charge is intoxication manslaughter, which is a second-degree felony. Fines and penalties include the following consequences:
A prison sentence of from 2 to 20 years
Fines of up to $10,000
License suspension of up to 2 years after the prison sentence is served
A mandatory ignition interlock device on all your vehicles
The Consequences of Having a Felony on Your Record
The consequences of having a felony conviction on your record are profound and need to be taken into careful consideration.
Criminal records are public information, and your current employer and any prospective future employers can do a background check on you at any time. As such, a felony conviction can seriously hamper your ability to keep your current job, to advance your career, or to obtain a new job.
Additionally, a felony can directly affect any professional licensure you have, and if the license is issued by the state or federal government, you could lose it altogether.
Your work is directly connected to your ability to support yourself and your family. Bringing your strongest defense in response to a felony DWI charge is essential, and a Leander felony attorney is standing by to help.
Because the public has access to your criminal record, a felony can stand in your way of renting a house or apartment. Some landlords refuse to rent to felons, and many others prefer not to. Having a felony on your record can also interfere with your ability to obtain a home loan.
As a felon, your eligibility for federal student loans will be extremely limited. Further, the college of your choice can deny you acceptance in response to your conviction, and if you do get in, you may not be allowed to live on campus.
Your Immigration Status
If you are a foreign national, even facing a misdemeanor or felony charge can lead to serious complications with immigration. A conviction can lead to deportation or denial of your green card application.
Your Gun Ownership
If you are convicted of a felony in Texas, you lose your right to own or possess a gun. While Texas laws allow those who have completed their prison sentences, including any parole or probation requirements, to possess a firearm in their own homes after the passage of at least five years, the federal government does not extend this exception.
While you are incarcerated, you are barred from voting. Your voting rights in Texas can be restored once you’ve served your full sentence and have completed all the requirements associated with your probation or parole.
Adopting a Child
Having an alcohol-related felony on your record bars you from adopting a child in Texas. Your conviction can also interfere with your child custody rights if you’re facing a divorce or a parenting time dispute.
Serving on a Jury
Federal law dictates that anyone who is incarcerated for more than a year as a result of a felony conviction is disqualified from jury duty.
Holding Elected Office
If you have a felony on your record, you can’t hold public office in the State of Texas. A full pardon has the potential to restore this right.
FAQ about DWI Charges
The answers to some of the questions that are frequently asked by others in your difficult situation may help you better protect your rights.
Am I Required to Hire a Criminal Defense Attorney?
You are strongly advised to work closely with a savvy Leander criminal defense attorney who has an impressive array of experience successfully handling challenging felony-level DWI cases. Without professional legal guidance, your chances of obtaining a favorable case resolution may be jeopardized.
Your trusted attorney will ably take on all the following important matters in defense of your rights and in pursuit of your case’s optimal outcome:
Gathering all the available evidence, including everything the state has – as well as the police report and any additional documentation held by the police
Skillfully negotiating with the prosecution, ideally to have your charge dropped altogether or to have the charge or the sentence you face reduced (In some cases, plea deals are advantageous, and in others, they are ill-advised.)
Strategizing your strongest defense in light of all the available evidence and documentation
Helping you navigate the legal process, make the right decisions for you, and avoid the common mistakes that could damage your case
Fiercely advocating for your case’s best possible resolution throughout the process
My Prior DWIs Happened When I Was in College. Will They Really Affect My Current Charge?
If you have prior DWIs on your record, they can elevate your current charge to a felony – regardless of how long ago they occurred. Unlike many other states, Texas doesn’t employ a cap in relation to how far back it looks for prior offenses.
Will a Conviction Mean Jail Time?
If you are facing a DWI charge at the felony level, a conviction almost certainly means jail time. Even if you are sentenced to probation, there is a mandatory jail time component that ranges from 10 to 180 days.
If I’m Charged with Felony DWI, What Should I Do?
If you are charged with a felony-level DWI, it’s time to invoke your right to remain silent. The police are required to read you your rights, and you are advised to invoke them. Telling the police that you won’t be answering their questions isn’t enough – you need to stop talking, or the police can and will use what you say against you.
It’s important to note that the police are skilled at eliciting statements that ultimately prove damaging. This tendency means you are far more likely to make things more difficult for yourself than you are to talk yourself out of anything.
Don’t answer any questions or make any comments until you’re advised to by your dedicated Leander criminal defense attorney. You have the right to an attorney, and the sooner you let the police know that you want to invoke this right, the better off you’ll be.
It's Time to Consult with an Experienced Leander Criminal Defense Attorney
DWI charges are serious, and felony-level DWI charges are far more so. Brett Pritchard at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard – proudly serving Leander, Texas – is a formidable criminal defense attorney with a long and impressive history of skillfully defending his clients' rights and obtaining beneficial outcomes.
Our seasoned legal team has the experience, legal skill, and focus to help guide your case toward its best possible conclusion, and we look forward to working with you. Your future is too important to leave to chance, so please don’t hesitate to contact us online or call us at (254) 781-4222 to schedule your FREE consultation and learn more about what we can do to help you today.