Some people panic over a traffic ticket, while others fail to take criminal allegations as seriously as they should. Driving while intoxicated (DWI) charges may seem less serious than a violent criminal offense or a major financial crime. As a result, many people perceive non-crash DWI infractions as technical law breaking and victimless crimes.
However, Texas law enforcement officers recognize that impaired driving directly relates to the number of people who die in traffic each year, which means that they frequently become quite aggressive in their enforcement efforts. Not only will police stop and arrest anyone that they suspect of drunk driving, but state prosecutors will often file the most serious charges they can against someone who has been accused of impairment at the wheel.
Typically, those who have been accused of a DWI offense will face a misdemeanor charge, but sometimes a prosecutor will pursue a felony charge instead. These are a few of the kinds of circumstances that may lead a motorist to be confronted with felony charges related to drunk driving in Texas.
1. A history of repeat offenses
When someone has repeatedly violated the same laws, the state will bring more serious charges against them. That is as true for a DWI as it is for a drug possession charge. Someone accused of impaired driving for a third time in Texas will very likely find themselves facing a felony charge.
2. An offense with a child in the vehicle
The state will pursue enhanced charges against those arrested for drunk driving with a vulnerable young person in the vehicle. Prosecutors will typically pursue felony offenses against those accused of a DWI with a child under the age of 15 in the vehicle, even if they got arrested because of a traffic stop and not because of a crash.
3. DWI offenses that lead to injury or death
When a drunk driver hurts someone or causes someone’s death, the prosecutor will charge them with a specialized felony offense instead of a general DWI offense. Felony intoxication assault or intoxication manslaughter charges will be the result of crashes that directly harm other people.
Sometimes, one of the best reasons to fight back against a lesser criminal charge is because it would leave someone at risk of a felony charge in the future, as might be the case for a second DWI arrest. Learning more about how Texas classifies DWI charges can help those who have recently been arrested make better choices about their legal options.