A DWI conviction in Texas is typically a misdemeanor offense. Misdemeanor offenses often carry far more lenient punishments than felony offenses.
That said, if certain aggravating factors exist, the state may elevate a DWI to a felony. If an individual receives DWI charges and wants to know what kind of punishments he or she faces, he or she should familiarize him or herself with the aggravating factors for driving while intoxicated. Per Texas law, there are three common factors that typically result in felony DWI charges.
Minor passengers in the vehicle
Per the Texas Department of Transportation, one factor that often results in felony DWI charges is the presence of a minor passenger in the vehicle at the time of the DWI stop. A minor passenger is any passenger who is 15 years old or younger. If convicted, an offender may have to pay as much as $10,000 in fines and serve between 180 days and two years in jail.
A third offense
A third DWI conviction within 10 years’ time in Texas is a third-degree felony offense. A third-degree felony is punishable by $10,000 in fines and between two and 10 years in prison. However, the state does allow for some leniency if it has been five years since one’s last DWI conviction. In this case, the state may charge an offender with a misdemeanor.
Injury or death
Per the Texas Penal Code Sec. 49.01., a person who causes an accident that results in the injury or death of one or more individuals while driving under the influence may face felony charges. Depending on the severity of the victim’s injuries, the offender may face “intoxication assault” charges, which is a felony of the third degree. If his or her actions caused the death of another person, the state may charge him or her with “intoxication manslaughter,” which is a felony of the second degree. The latter crime carries between two and 20 years in prison and as much as $10,000 in charges.
An aggravated DWI in Texas is a serious offense. When individuals face felony DWI charges, it is important that they seek help defending their freedom.