Driving while intoxicated (DWI) charges are among the most common criminal infractions prosecuted in Texas. Despite how frequently people get arrested for DWI offenses, there is a lot of misinformation spread about such charges. People may share exaggerated tall tales about the penalties that the courts impose and the social consequences of a DWI. They may also wrongfully believe that the same rules apply to every drunk driving case prosecuted in Texas.
As a result of this misinformation, those who are trying to mitigate the consequences of a recent DWI arrest are often unsure about the best path forward. Someone recently arrested for DWI may not even know whether they will face a felony or misdemeanor charge in criminal court. How do prosecutors typically handle DWI cases in Texas?
Many DWI offenses are misdemeanors
The average DWI case involves someone pulled over for driving poorly who is over the legal limit for their blood alcohol concentration (BAC). These drivers will end up arrested and prosecuted for displaying impairment at the wheel or technically violating the law by being over the legal limit for their BAC.
Those who have few or no prior offenses on their record and who get arrested for a technical DWI infraction will often face misdemeanor charges. However, state statutes do allow prosecutors to charge someone with a felony offense instead. The situations in which a DWI arrest will lead to felony charges include:
- third or subsequent charges
- incidents with children 14 years old or younger in the vehicle
- arrests resulting from crashes where people get hurt or die
If a DWI involves those aggravating factors, the person accused could very well face a felony DWI charge. A felony DWI will cause issues with more background checks and will typically result in more criminal consequences. Those accused of a DWI with a minor in the vehicle with face special charges with enhanced penalties, including up to $10,000 in fines. There are separate charges for DWI offenses that result in either injury or death.
Those accused of impaired driving typically want to learn as much as they can about the likely charges and consequences they will face. Seeking legal guidance can provide this clarity as well as legal support. Fighting DWI charges can potentially help people avoid jail time, license suspensions and future felony charges regardless of how those charges are classified.