In all states, it is against the law to drive on a public road while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, including lawfully prescribed drugs. The offense of driving while intoxicated (DWI) is prosecuted as a misdemeanor and a felony in all states, but when is DWI a felony?
Generally, DWI is charged as a felony on a third or fourth offense, but it depends upon the state. DWI can also charged as a felony when aggravating factors are present – generally when the impaired driver seriously injured or killed someone else in a DWI crash. For example, when an intoxicated driver kills someone else in a drunk or drugged driving crash, it’s typically a felony, even if it’s the driver’s first offense.
Felony DWI Charges in Texas
In Texas, most first and second DWIs are prosecuted as misdemeanors providing no one was injured or killed in a DWI crash. DWI becomes a felony in Texas upon a third offense. So, if a driver had two previous DWI convictions, their third DWI would be an automatic felony. Let’s take a look at the penalties for a third (felony) DWI:
Third DWI Penalties (Felony DWI)
- Between 2 and 10 years in prison
- A $10,000 fine
- Up to two-year loss of driver license
- An annual fee between $1,000 and $2,000 for three years for the offender to keep their driver license
Intoxication Assault & Manslaughter
In addition to a third DWI being a felony, DWI is a felony when the intoxicated driver causes serious bodily injury or death to another individual – these offenses are called intoxicated assault and intoxication manslaughter respectively.
If an intoxicated driver causes serious bodily injury, they can be charged with intoxication assault under Sec. 49.07 of the Texas Penal Code, which is usually a felony of the third degree. If the intoxicated driver kills someone while drunk or drugged driving, they can be charged with intoxication manslaughter, a felony of the second degree under Sec. 49.08 of the Texas Penal Code.
Facing felony DWI charges? Contact Alband, Lane & Balderama to meet with a Tarrant County DWI defense lawyer for free.