When Does a DWI Become a Felony?
What Should I Know so I can Protect Myself?
Any criminal defense attorney will tell you that felony DWI charge is nothing to scoff at. We all know the word “felony” carries a lot of weight, but not everyone understands how quickly a misdemeanor can become much more serious. In mere moments, lives can be forever altered because of one decision to drink and drive.
Driving while intoxicated is a crime that occurs when someone operates a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol with a BAC of .08% or higher. It is commonly referred to as a DWI or drunk driving. When arrested for a DWI, you can also have your driver’s license suspended.
Every state has its own laws for DWI offenses, and it can be difficult to navigate. A Houston DWI defense attorney can tell you about the specific DWI laws in Texas. When you’ve been arrested for a third DWI felony, it is vital that you contact a DWI lawyer immediately. Doing so can improve your case significantly and potentially reduce your charges or even have them dismissed.
An attorney versed in criminal law will help you to avoid a DWI conviction and provide the best legal advice for your case.
When Does a DWI Become a Felony?
In many states, Texas included, driving while intoxicated is a misdemeanor offense. However, there are cases where the actions of the impaired driver can rise to the level of a felony. When this happens, it means there are specific factors present in the case.
- The person charged is a repeat offender charged on their third DWI charge.
- Note: A second DWI offense is a class A misdemeanor. However, it can also rise to the level of a felony when any of the below factors are present in your case.
- Intoxication assault, or a non-fatal injury, resulting from a DWI is a 3rd-degree felony.
- Intoxication manslaughter, or a death as the result of a DWI incident, is a 2nd-degree felony.
- The DWI involved other elements or reckless behavior or disregard for the safety of others.
- The DWI incident involved a minor’s presence in the vehicle, resulting in a state jail felony.
It is important to note that in Texas, felony DWI cases can be divided into into three (3) types of felonies from a state jail felony, 3rd degree, and 2nd degree. Again, this depends on the severity of the incident and the person’s criminal record.
What Are Some of the Judicial Penalties of a Felony DWI?
The legal consequences of a felony DWI charge are quite severe. They include punishments that involve prison sentences over a year or longer along with hefty criminal fines of up to $10,000.
For example, state jail felonies range in punishment from 6 months to 2 years in the state jail. As with most felonies, the conviction can remain on their record for the rest of their life. This has a severe impact on their social life as well.
When you’re convicted of a felony DWI, you can lose many of your rights. These include the right to drive a motor vehicle, the right to vote in elections, and the right to retain custody of your children. Your status as a felon can also have a lasting impact on your ability to find a home or a job. Likewise, a felony conviction will strip you of your second amendment rights to arm yourself, meaning you will no longer be able to own firearms.
To contrast, in a misdemeanor DWI charge, you may be sentenced to less than a year in jail with much smaller fines. While it can still impact your ability to find a job later on, it does not carry the same weight as a felony DWI charge.
Do I Need to Hire a Criminal Defense Attorney to Help with My Felony Chargse?
Being charged with a felony DWI is an incredibly serious matter. Aside from the complex laws involved, an experienced Houston DWI attorney can advocate on your behalf and attempt to reduce your sentence.
Your lawyer will prepare your case, research the laws in Harris County, and determine what defense or course of action is best for you. A Houston DWI lawyer will fight to protect your rights and strive to attain the best possible outcome for your case.
If you are facing the possibility of a DWI felony, you need a defense plan that enhances your chances of reduced charges. The impact that jail time and fines have on you and your family is hard to imagine yet very severe.
You need a DWI defense attorney who will help you to think of how to mitigate these circumstances. Herman Martinez has been working with DWI clients since 1999. He utilizes his vast experience and legal knowledge to provide the best possible defense.