Most drivers arrested on allegations of driving while intoxicated (DWI) offenses in Texas will plead guilty to the charges against them. They may think that mounting a defense would prove too difficult given the circumstances, and they convince themselves that a single misdemeanor on their criminal record isn’t that big of an issue.
However, not all DWI offenses results in misdemeanor charges. Sometimes, those accused of drunk driving could face felony prosecution. A felony means a more significant blemish that shows up on criminal background checks and worse potential penalties.
When will Texas prosecutors pursue felony charges after allegations of impaired driving?
When they have two or more prior offenses
Your criminal record plays a major role in the exact charges that the state brings against you and the penalties that you may face. The first two times you face DWI charges, they could very well be misdemeanor charges. However, someone with a history with two or more prior DWI convictions will face a felony DWI.
When they have a child passenger
If the police pull someone over on suspicion of drunk driving and discover that they have an underage passenger in the vehicle, felony charges could result. Any passenger under the age of 15 can amplify the charges someone faces for allegations of impaired driving.
When people get hurt or die
One of the most common reasons for prosecutors to pursue felony charges against someone accused of impairment at the wheel is that their actions had consequences for others. Rather than pursuing felony DWI charges, the prosecutor will special felony offenses specifically related to causing injury or death while under the influence of alcohol. Intoxication assault and intoxication manslaughter are both felony charges that the state can pursue after a drunk driving crash.
Unlike in other states, where previous DWI charges only matter for a set number of years, any prior conviction, even decades ago, can affect your charges the next time the police arrest you. When you understand the rules that Texas prosecutors apply to DWI cases, can better understand the risks involved in pleading guilty. Defending against DWI charges could help you avoiding felony conviction or reduce your risk for felony charges in the future.