What Is a Felony DWI in Texas?

Aggravating factors that can make a drunk driving charge a felony.

In Texas, you can be charged with driving under the influence (DWI) for operating a vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% or more, with any amount of certain controlled substances in your system, or while under the influence of (impaired by) drugs or alcohol. Most DWI convictions are misdemeanor criminal offenses. However, certain aggravating factors can make a DWI a felony, a much more serious crime.

Here are some of the circumstances that can result in felony DWI charges in Texas.

Third DWI Conviction Is a Felony

For most first and second DWIs in Texas, an offender will be facing misdemeanor charges. But when an offender has two or more prior DWI convictions within the past ten years, the third offense generally can be charged as a third-degree felony. (However, if it has been more than five years since the most recent prior, the third offense will be a misdemeanor.) Third-degree felonies carry two to ten years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines.

Minor Passengers

Operating a vehicle while intoxicated is a “state jail felony” when the driver has at least one passenger who’s younger than 15 years old. Convicted motorists are looking at 180 days to two years in jail and up to $10,000 in fines.

Felony Charges for DWIs Involving Injuries and Deaths

Any DWI—even a first offense—can be charged as a felony if the driver ends up hurting (causing “serious bodily harm”) or killing someone while operating a vehicle under the influence. Depending on whether someone died or was seriously injured, these offenses are called “intoxication assault” and “intoxication manslaughter.”

Intoxicated assault is generally a third-degree felony. A conviction carries two to ten years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines.

Intoxicated manslaughter is normally a second-degree felony. Second-degree felonies carry two to 20 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines.

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