It is against the law in Texas for someone to get behind the wheel of a vehicle when they have had enough alcohol to affect their driving ability or when they are over the per se limit. For most adult motorists, simply having a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or higher is enough to warrant arrest.
Police can charge those who fail breath tests and also those who show signs of reduced ability to operate their vehicles safely with impaired driving. Not everyone who is facing driving while intoxicated (DWI) charges in Texas will respond with the seriousness that such allegations necessitate. They may think of the charges as minor, but in some cases, the state could pursue a felony charge over a drunk driving incident.
When does a DWI become a felony in Texas?
Both the circumstances at the time of a DWI arrest and someone’s previous driving record could exacerbate the DWI charges a motorist faces. When there are certain aggravating factors in play, prosecutors can pursue felony DWI charges instead of a misdemeanor charge.
Factors that could lead to felony DWI charges include:
- crashes that lead to injury
- crashes that lead to someone’s death
- a child under 14 in the vehicle
- two or more prior DWI convictions
Someone arrested for a DWI with a young child in the backseat or with multiple prior DWIs on their record could face felony charges rather than a misdemeanor charge.
A felony offense is hard to move past
Even though employers and landlords are often amenable to working with those who may have a single non-violent misdemeanor offense on their record, any felony may bar someone from particular job opportunities or rental housing options. Felony convictions can also affect someone’s eligibility both for enrollment at certain institutions of higher education and many financial aid programs.
Those who plead guilty to DWI charges could end up saddled with a life-altering criminal record. Even if the charge they face is a misdemeanor, they could potentially set themselves up for a felony in the future with another DWI arrest. Seeking legal guidance and fighting back against pending DWI charges can potentially protect an individual from criminal penalties, a criminal record and the possibility of worse penalties in the future.