You stopped to meet an old friend for a drink after work to catch up. You have a great time and maybe drink a little more than you intended to. As you part ways, you head to your automobile and get onto the road. Five miles later, you’re pulled over and charged for driving while intoxicated.
It’s all too common of a story. DWI charges are frequent in Texas, where far too many drivers make the unfortunate decision of getting on the road after drinking. Is a DWI a felony? If you’ve found yourself in this situation, you might be wondering how big of an impact this charge might have on your future.
The laws in Texas are quite clear when it comes to driving under the influence. Read on and we’ll walk you through what you need to know.
Is a DWI a Felony in Texas?
Texas has a reputation across the country for being tough on crime. This is one of the reasons many who are hit with a DWI charge immediately fear they might be looking at a felony-level punishment.
However, the truth is a little more unclear than that. In Texas, a DWI charge can actually be either a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the particulars of the incident. How and why a driver was pulled over and their prior record have a big part in determining what classification the charge will be.
If it’s your first time being pulled over for a DWI in the state of Texas, you’re more likely to be charged with a misdemeanor. If you don’t have any other incidents on your record, and the law might be willing to look at this as a potential one-time mistake.
However, this kind of sentencing will only float if you didn’t cause any damage or injury as a result of your inebriated driving. If you caused an accident or caused serious bodily injury to another individual, you most likely will see a felony charge even if this is your first time being charged with a DWI.
When else might you be looking at DWI felony charges? If this is your third time being charged with a DWI, the law is going to take the kid gloves off and start treating you like a serious problem.
A third DWI charge will be treated as a felony and will come with a serious set of punishments (we’ll discuss those below). If you killed another person due to your inebriation, that will land you a felony-level DWI charge as well, in addition to possible charges of manslaughter.
Punishment for a DWI Charge in Texas
What might happen to you if you’re hit with a DWI charge by a Texas police officer? As we discussed above, a DWI in Texas is known as a ‘priorable offense,’ which means the punishments get worse each time an individual is charged.
First Time DWI Charge
The punishments for a first-time misdemeanor DWI charge are not all to severe, although there’s a chance that one could still have to spend time behind bars. Those with a first-time offense must pay a fine of up to $2,000 and may have to pay an annual fee in addition to keep their license.
There is some controversy around these fines by those in the legal community.
Driving licenses may also be suspended for up to a year following an incident, meaning the charged individual will need to find another way around town. In some instances, a person might end up in jail—even a first time DWI charge has the possibility of putting someone behind bars for up to six months.
The severity of the punishment will likely depend on the particulars of the case and the judge one gets to take on your case.
Second Time DWI Charge
The second time an individual is pulled over for a DWI charge, things can become even more serious. While still a misdemeanor charge, the punishments can double what was initially handed out to a first-time offender.
That would be a fine of up to $4,000, suspension of license for two years, and the possibility of up to one year in total behind bars.
This is a last chance moment for many drivers. If they are charged again, it will be considered a felony.
Third Time DWI Charge
As a third-time DWI charge is a felony charge, the consequences can be quite serious. There is the possibility of the person owing a fine of up to $10,000, and an annual fee of anywhere between $1,000 and $2,000 to keep their license active.
Of course, that will be after a mandatory two-year suspension of that license. The most severe possible punishment of all is that a person charged with felony DWI in the state of Texas could spend anywhere between two and ten years in prison.
That’s quite a long time! As we’ve come to understand the state of Texas takes driving while intoxicated very seriously. It’ll take a strong and experienced attorney to help mitigate the severity of some of these punishments.
Understanding Texas DWI Laws
Everyone makes mistakes, but the mistake of getting into an automobile after drinking can have very serious consequences. Many drivers in Texas wonder—is a DWI a felony? The above information can help fill in all you need to know on the matter.
If you find yourself facing a DWI charge yourself, it’s essential you get legal representation to help protect yourself and your future. Need help with your case? Give us a call anytime for assistance.