Facing criminal charges for DUI or DWI in Texas can be frightening and overwhelming. Whether you’re a first-time offender or have prior offenses on your record, securing a robust defense is imperative to defending your rights. The first step to restoring your freedom is understanding the nature and severity of the charges against you.
While it can be tricky to distinguish between felony and misdemeanor DWI offenses, understanding the common factors that contribute to enhanced penalties is essential to avoid the life-altering penalties of a felony conviction and maximize your chance of obtaining a favorable outcome.
Keep reading to learn about felony vs. misdemeanor DWI in Texas.
DWI vs. DUI: What’s the Difference?
To understand what constitutes a felony DWI in Texas, it’s important to understand the difference between DWI (“driving while intoxicated”) and DUI (“driving under the influence”). While some states use these terms interchangeably, this isn’t the case in the Lone Star State. If you were arrested for drunk or drugged driving, it’s essential to distinguish between these offenses to understand the charges against you and establish a well-fortified defense.
Below is a brief overview of DWI vs. DUI charges:
Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol by a Minor (DUI)
Under Texas Penal Code §106.041, DUI is charged as a separate crime from DWI. Unlike DWI, a DUI offense applies when the intoxicated driver is a minor. In Texas, this applies to any driver under the age of 21 with any detectable amount of alcohol in their system (known as the Zero Tolerance Law).
A DUI is typically charged as a Class C misdemeanor. A conviction is punishable by:
- Up to $500 in fines
- Community service
- Up to 180 days in jail
- Driver’s license suspension
- Completion of a mandatory alcohol education program
Driving While Intoxicated (DWI)
Drivers may be charged with driving while intoxicated (DWI) when they operate a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) reading 0.08% or higher. While a DWI is typically charged as a Class B misdemeanor, the criminal penalties of a DWI conviction can vary based on the unique circumstances, resulting in either a felony or misdemeanor depending on the type and severity of the DWI offense.
When Is DWI a Felony in Texas?
While drunk driving offenses are generally classified as misdemeanors in Texas, defendants can still face felony charges depending on the circumstances. A felony DWI conviction can result in severe penalties, including imprisonment and loss of civil liberties (such as the right to vote and own a firearm).
Various factors can lead to a felony DWI conviction in Texas, such as:
- Prior convictions: Multiple DWI offenses can result in enhanced charges for repeat offenders, resulting in a felony conviction.
- Intoxication assault: If a defendant causes serious bodily injury to another person while intoxicated, they can face third-degree felony charges punishable by up to 10 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines.
- Intoxication manslaughter: If a DWI results in death, the driver may face second-degree felony charges for intoxication manslaughter. A conviction is punishable by up to 20 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines.
- Aggravating circumstances: Certain aggravating factors, such as having a child passenger in the vehicle while intoxicated, can also lead to felony DWI charges.
Enhanced Penalties for DWI
Felony DWI convictions carry more severe penalties than misdemeanor offenses. Enhanced penalties may include:
- Increased fines
- Increased prison time
- Loss of driving privileges
- Ignition interlock device installation
If you’re facing felony DWI charges, it’s critical to seek skilled representation from a felony DWI lawyer as soon as possible to defend your rights. They can protect your hard-earned reputation by building a strong defense strategy and negotiating effectively on your behalf to dismiss or reduce the charges against you.
Seasoned Criminal Defense Attorney in San Antonio, TX
At the Law Office of Roberto Ambrosino, PLLC, our highly skilled criminal defense lawyer has decades of experience defending accused Texans in San Antonino and beyond. With extensive knowledge of Texas criminal law and a proven track record of results, our firm can provide the robust defense you deserve to take back your life and protect your reputation.
We represent clients in a wide range of criminal cases, from drug crimes to shoplifting to assault. Regardless of the charges against you, Attorney Ambrosino has the impressive credentials and unwavering dedication to prioritize your needs and aggressively defend your rights. Seeking sound counsel from a trusted advocate can mean the difference between jail time and community service. If you’re facing criminal charges, don’t wait to secure qualified representation.
If you were charged with drunk driving, securing a fortified defense is imperative to avoid serious penalties. Call (210) 201-7622 to schedule a free consultation.