It is no secret that being convicted for driving while intoxicated (DWI) is a serious criminal charge. Even if it was your very first drinking-related crime and you were barely over the legal limit of 0.08, if you are convicted you will still find yourself faced with serious consequences such as fines, probation, possible jail time and even a misdemeanor charge.
However, while the consequences of a misdemeanor DWI charge can seem serious and overwhelming, it is not the harshest punishment that you can receive if you are arrested for drinking and driving.
The type of drinking and driving charge that you will face if convicted of a DWI depends on a large number of factors. For example, a person will typically receive a misdemeanor charge when they are convicted for their first or second DWI offense. However, any DWI convictions after your second, or if you were involved in a serious car accident that caused bodily injury or property damage, you could be facing a possible felony charge.
When you are convicted of a felony, it can result in very serious consequences that can have a significant effect on your entire life. For instance, many government agencies or private businesses that deal with classified information are allowed to access your criminal record if you apply for a job there. Most of these companies have strict policies that prevent hiring someone who is a convicted felon, including someone charged with a DWI felony.
So, when do DWI charges become felonies? Each state has different charges and regulations that identify the difference between a DWI misdemeanor and felony. Here are the main differences between a DWI misdemeanor and a DWI felony in the state of Texas:
When Is A DWI Charge A Misdemeanor?
There are a lot of different factors that can contribute to the charges, fines and jail time of a DWI conviction. However, most first and second offense DWI charges will result in a misdemeanor with different classifications. For instance, a first offense DWI charge typically results in a Class B misdemeanor with a maximum punishment of six months in jail and a fine of up to $2,000 for a first time offender. A second offense DWI charge typically results in Class A misdemeanor with a maximum punishment of up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $4,000 for a second time offender.
When Is A DWI Charge A Felony?
There are several different instances in which your DWI charge may result in a felony conviction. In the state of Texas, if you have previously been convicted of a DWI two times before, then your third DWI arrest can be charged as a third-degree felony.
Intoxication assault-a non-fatal accident in which someone is seriously hurt or disfigured by a drunk driver-is also considered a third-degree felony no matter if it is your first or third DWI. Intoxication manslaughter-an accident in which someone is killed by a drunk driver-may result in a second-degree felony.
However, the different charges and restrictions that come along with a felony punishment in Texas can be very complex and confusing. This is why it is absolutely essential that you consult with an experienced DWI lawyer to discuss the specifics and the details of your drunk driving arrest. Just because you may have been arrested for driving while intoxicated does not necessarily mean that you will be convicted for a DWI misdemeanor or felony. A DWI lawyer can help to determine the best way to handle your case and avoid any serious charges that may have an effect on your future.