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When Is A DWI Charge In Texas Considered A Felony?

Posted by Douglas Wilder | Jan 23, 2014 | 0 Comments

The differences between a DWI misdemeanor and a DWI felony in Texas.

It is no secret that being convicted for driving while intoxicated (DWI) is a serious criminal charge. Even if it was your very first drinking-related crime and you were barely over the legal limit of 0.08, if you are convicted you will still find yourself faced with serious consequences such as fines, probation, possible jail time and even a misdemeanor charge.


However, while the consequences of a misdemeanor DWI charge can seem serious and overwhelming, it is not the harshest punishment that you can receive if you are arrested for drinking and driving.

The type of drinking and driving charge that you will face if convicted of a DWI depends on a large number of factors. For example, a person will typically receive a misdemeanor charge when they are convicted for their first or second DWI offense. However, any DWI convictions after your second, or if you were involved in a serious car accident that caused bodily injury or property damage, you could be facing a possible felony charge.

When you are convicted of a felony, it can result in very serious consequences that can have a significant effect on your entire life. For instance, many government agencies or private businesses that deal with classified information are allowed to access your criminal record if you apply for a job there. Most of these companies have strict policies that prevent hiring someone who is a convicted felon, including someone charged with a DWI felony.

So, when do DWI charges become felonies? Each state has different charges and regulations that identify the difference between a DWI misdemeanor and felony. Here are the main differences between a DWI misdemeanor and a DWI felony in the state of Texas:

When Is A DWI Charge A Misdemeanor?

There are a lot of different factors that can contribute to the charges, fines and jail time of a DWI conviction. However, most first and second offense DWI charges will result in a misdemeanor with different classifications. For instance, a first offense DWI charge typically results in a Class B misdemeanor with a maximum punishment of six months in jail and a fine of up to $2,000 for a first time offender. A second offense DWI charge typically results in Class A misdemeanor with a maximum punishment of up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $4,000 for a second time offender.

When Is A DWI Charge A Felony?

There are several different instances in which your DWI charge may result in a felony conviction. In the state of Texas, if you have previously been convicted of a DWI two times before, then your third DWI arrest can be charged as a third-degree felony.

Intoxication assault―a non-fatal accident in which someone is seriously hurt or disfigured by a drunk driver―is also considered a third-degree felony no matter if it is your first or third DWI. Intoxication manslaughter―an accident in which someone is killed by a drunk driver―may result in a second-degree felony.

However, the different charges and restrictions that come along with a felony punishment in Texas can be very complex and confusing. This is why it is absolutely essential that you consult with an experienced DWI lawyer to discuss the specifics and the details of your drunk driving arrest. Just because you may have been arrested for driving while intoxicated does not necessarily mean that you will be convicted for a DWI misdemeanor or felony. A DWI lawyer can help to determine the best way to handle your case and avoid any serious charges that may have an effect on your future.

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About the Author

Douglas Wilder

Douglas Wilder is a graduate of Texas A&M University (Class of 1989), where he was recognized by the College of Engineering as a Distinguished Student. Doug's first job as he worked his way through law school was with a prominent criminal defense attorney in Houston.  There he gained valuable trial, motion and brief writing experience. During the summer after his second year of law school, Doug conducted Court hearings on a law student bar card while employed by the Denver County District Attorney's office in Colorado. Doug spent his final year of law school working for the Harris County District Attorney's in Houston, where he tried cases for the District Attorney. Upon graduating from South Texas College of Law, Doug worked for Vinson & Elkins, LLP in Houston and was assigned to a multi-billion dollar national lawsuit, which sent Doug all over the country. Making contacts in Washington, D.C, he then went to work for the Ambassador of Ecuador in Washington, D.C. as his legal liaison.  Doug assisted the Ambassador in all legal matters and international lawsuits affecting the Embassy and Ecuador. Even though Doug was offered the opportunity to work for the Ambassadors' international law firm in Ecuador, his passion for criminal trials brought him back to Texas where he began prosecuting for the Denton County District Attorney's office in 1995. Doug quickly became a Chief Prosecutor and had an excellent conviction rate. He earned a reputation for aggressively prosecuting the cases that were difficult to win, which he did with great success. Doug also took an active role in training police officers how to investigate, collect and preserve evidence concerning DWIs, and how to effectively testify in Court.  Doug's excellent trial skills enabled him to train other prosecutors to become more effective trial lawyers. In January 1999, Doug was hired by the Dallas County District Attorney's office, where he continued to have an excellent conviction rate. Doug tried a case against nationally known Houston attorney, Gary Trichter, who was assisted by a nationally known jury consultant, Robert Hirschhorn, along with three other well-known lawyers. After several days in a hotly contested trial, the jury chose to convict. Doug's natural trial ability and aggressive demeanor contributed to his continued success in the Courtroom. After obtaining a conviction against a prominent defense attorney who brags of never losing, Doug was courted by him and joined his boutique firm in January 2000. Within two months, Doug's aggressive trial style enabled him to get his first felony not guilty verdict from a jury for his client facing life in prison for the offense of a direct delivery of a controlled substance to an undercover officer in a crack house. The Judge was so impressed that she put Doug on her Court Appointment list. Doug is known for successfully trying cases that are very difficult to win. After many of Doug's jury trials, his peers often ask “how did you win that case?” to which he simply replies “you just had to be there.” After one specific DWI Not Guilty, the Judge, in talking to Doug's client about the verdict, described Doug's performance as “magic.” It is also common for jurors to ask Doug for his business card, even those potential jurors who sat through the selection process but were not picked. Doug started his own firm in 2002, growing his practice one client at a time.  He has been trained and qualified as a Practitioner and Instructor in Standardized Field Sobriety testing. He knows what the police know, and then some. He has received formal Drug Recognition Expert training, and has been extensively trained on the Intoxilyzer 5000, the Breathalyzer used by the police. He devotes himself to each client, realizing that anything less than his best efforts is unacceptable. Doug hates to lose in trial and knows how much his clients depend on him to keep their lives intact. His excellent abilities were honored when D Magazine named him one of the Best Lawyers under 40 in Dallas in 2004. Texas Monthly named Doug a Rising Star Super Lawyer in 2004, 2005, and 2006. His continued success is attributed to his “must win” attitude and work ethic. Doug is a member of the State Bar of Texas, National Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, Dallas Bar Association, Dallas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, and the National College for DUI Defense. He has a beautiful wife with whom he runs marathons, and they have two wonderful children, Bryanna and Aidan


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