Is a Texas DWI offense a misdemeanor charge or a felony?

Any kind of criminal record will affect someone’s opportunities in life, but there’s little question that a felony inspires greater negative impacts than a misdemeanor charge. Even low-level felonies will make it harder for someone to get the best jobs and to secure housing. They will also carry more serious penalties, including higher fines and longer possible terms of incarceration.

Those who are facing criminal accusations often decide how to respond in no small part based on what charges they face and, therefore, what penalties may be possible. It is very common for those facing driving while intoxicated (DWI) charges in Texas to plead guilty, for example, due to the misconception that they can avoid major consequences by doing so. Some people assume that a DWI will be classified a misdemeanor in every case and will think nothing of pleading guilty because they assume its impact on their life will be minimal. These individuals may learn the hard way that felony DWI charges are also a possibility in Texas.

The circumstances determine the severity of the charges

Texas state law actually has numerous rules that allow prosecutors to bring felony charges against a driver accused of impairment at the wheel. While many DWI charges are misdemeanor charges, prosecutors can pursue felony cases and some situations.

Felony DWI charges could result from:

  • someone’s third or subsequent DWI charge
  • someone’s arrest for a DWI with a child age 14 or younger in the vehicle
  • someone’s arrest for a DWI after a crash that caused injury or death

The extenuating circumstances involved in those scenarios would lead to enhanced charges, more serious penalties and a more serious criminal record for the person accused.

People can and do fight DWI charges

Even when it seems like the state has plenty of evidence, motorists can often fight back against questionable DWI charges. The situation that led to someone’s arrest and the exact evidence that the state has will determine the best defense strategy, but options include raising questions about the accuracy of the evidence or challenging the legality of the traffic stop.

Understanding that a DWI could mean serious felony charges might inspire someone to seek legal guidance when responding to allegations of impaired driving. Mounting a strong defense is generally warranted in such cases.