DWI charges can have severe consequences, regardless of whether the DWI is a misdemeanor or a felony. Anyone facing a DWI charge needs to take it very seriously. Texas courts often issue maximum sentences for DWI convictions.

What Is a DWI Charge in Texas?

Driving with a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) of .08 or higher is illegal in all states. However, each state has different drunk driving charges that apply to drivers within their state. 

Some states charge drivers whose BAC is above the legal limit with driving under the influence or DUI. Other states use the term driving while intoxicated or DWI. In several states, the terms are used interchangeably.

DWI and DUI are different charges used for drunk driving. A DUI is generally issued to minors and young adults under the age of 21 years who are stopped for drunk driving with a BAC below the legal limit. However, they can be charged with DWI in some cases.

DWI or driving while intoxicated is a violation of Texas Penal Code §49.04. You can be charged with DWI if:

  • You have a BAC of .08 or more (.04 for someone with a commercial driver’s license or CDL)
  • You do not have the physical or mental ability to operate a motor vehicle because of the consumption of alcohol
  • You do not have the physical or mental ability to operate a motor vehicle because of the consumption of prescription medications, over-the-counter medications, or illegal drugs

DWI charges may be classified as misdemeanors or felonies. Your DWI record and the circumstances of your case determine the severity of the DWI charge.

Felony DWI Charges in Texas

Many of the DWI charges in Texas are felonies. A felony DWI charge can result in harsher sentences for a conviction. In addition to the penalties for DWI, a felony conviction could result in losing some of your legal rights, such as the right to own a firearm and the right to vote.

Four of the most common felony DWI charges are:

Repeat DWI Offenses

If you have two or more prior DWI convictions on your record, you could face a felony DWI charge for repeat DWI offenses. Also, if you have a prior conviction for intoxication manslaughter, another DWI is a felony charge.

Intoxication Manslaughter

If you cause the death of another person while driving while intoxicated, the charge will be a felony of the second degree. However, if the person killed is an emergency medical services provider, firefighter, or police officer, the charge is a first degree felony.

Driving While Intoxicated with a Child

If you are stopped for DWI and there is a child in the car, you can be charged with a felony when the child is younger than 15 years of age. 

Intoxication Assault

If you cause serious bodily injury to someone while driving under the influence, you could be charged with a third-degree felony. The charge is incurred to a second-degree felony if the person is a first responder. 

A conviction for felony DWI could result in life imprisonment if the charge is a first degree felony. For a third degree felony, a person could face up to ten years in prison. Additionally, the judge may find the person up to $10,000 for a felony DWI conviction.

Other DWI penalties include:

  • Loss of driving privileges
  • Fees and costs
  • DWI classes
  • Ignition interlock devices
  • Alcohol abuse programs
  • Community service

In addition to criminal penalties, a person with a DWI may find it difficult to obtain car insurance. Insurance policies for drivers with a DWI record have much higher premiums.

Do I Need a DWI Lawyer in Texas?

If you are arrested for DWI, assume that you are facing serious charges, even if this is your first DWI offense. You need to understand your legal rights. 

The police officers nor the prosecutor are going to explain your legal rights. The job is to get a conviction on the DWI charges. You need a DWI defense lawyer to explain your legal rights and review your case.

A DWI arrest is not a DWI conviction. You may have several potential defenses to your DWI charge. Your lawyer investigates the DWI arrest and analyzes the evidence the state has against you to determine your potential defenses.

In some cases, evidence may be thrown out of court if the police officers did not have probable cause for a DWI stop. BAC evidence could be thrown out if the police officers did not follow the correct procedures or the evidence was contaminated. 

Before pleading guilty to DWI charges, get the facts about DWI from a trusted criminal defense lawyer.