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When might Texas pursue felony DWI charges against a driver?

On Behalf of | Aug 3, 2023 | DWI Defense

The reason that drivers often fail to properly respond to a recent drunk driving arrest is that they don’t understand the possible seriousness of the penalties that the state could impose in the event of a conviction. Texas often treats driving while intoxicated (DWI) offenses as misdemeanor crimes. But, even a misdemeanor could lead to incarceration, sizable fines and the suspension of someone’s driver’s license.

In some cases, Texas prosecutors will have reason to pursue felony DWI charges against someone who has been accused of intoxication at the wheel. These are some of the specific scenarios in which the state may file felony charges against an individual instead of misdemeanor charges.

An offender hurt someone else

The consequences of someone’s drunk driving will directly influence the charges and penalties that the state pursues. In situations where someone ends up injured because of a drunk driving crash or when someone dies, prosecutors can pursue special felony charges related to someone’s injury or death.

An offender had a minor in the vehicle

Impaired driving has a strong association with fatal collisions, and people of any age could end up dying in such wrecks. The adults who drink and drive make a conscious decision to do so, but the children in their vehicles have no control over the situation despite the level of risk they have to accept. Texas seeks to prevent such unsafe activity by allowing for felony prosecution when someone has a child under the age of 14 in their vehicle at the time of a DWI offense.

An offender has multiple prior offenses

The length of someone’s jail sentence and license suspension, as well as the amount of the fines they may have to pay, will increase with every DWI conviction. Once someone has two prior DWI offenses, the state can prosecute them for a felony DWI because of their prior convictions.

Regardless of whether prosecutors file felony or misdemeanor charges against an individual, those accused of impairment at the wheel may want to mount a defense so that they can potentially avoid long-term consequences and a permanent criminal record because of a single incident in a vehicle. Ultimately, learning more about the rules that apply to DWI prosecution in Texas may help people make informed choices about how to respond after an arrest.