Archive for November, 2014

Felony DWI in Texas Carries Hefty Penalties

When you are charged with driving while impaired (DWI) in Texas, you generally face misdemeanor charges. A misdemeanor is a crime for which the penalty is a year of jail time or less. In most cases, a first time drunk driving offender will be able to avoid jail entirely or will spend only a short time in jail.

Unfortunately in some cases, an incident of drunk driving can lead to a felony charge. A felony is a crime for which you face more than a year of prison time, as well as other potential consequences such as the loss of voting rights. 

A felony is much more serious than a conviction for a misdemeanor. It will follow you the rest of your life. While it is always important to get legal help from a DWI defense lawyer in a situation where you have been charged with impaired driving, it is especially essential in cases where you are facing felony charges. Your attorney can help you to determine the extent of the potential penalties, as well as assist you in understanding what you need to do to try to plea bargain down the charges or avoid conviction.

When Does a DWI in Texas Become a Felony? 

A DWI criminal charge is upgraded from misdemeanor to felony when there are aggravated circumstances. There are many different situations where you may be charged with felony drunk driving under Title 10 Chapter 49 of the Texas Penal Code. For example, you may be charged with felony drunk driving if:

  • You have a minor in your vehicle who is under the age of 15.
  • Your drunk driving results in an accident in which someone suffers serious bodily injury. This is called intoxication assault, and it can result in third-degree felony charges. Serious bodily injury is defined as a situation where there was a substantial risk that the victim would die or experience permanent disfigurement. A minor accident that results in a few mild injuries typically will not result in you being charged with a third-degree felony for intoxication assault.
  • Your drunk driving causes a fatal accident. If someone dies in a motor vehicle accident you cause while impaired by alcohol or drugs, you face second-degree felony charges for intoxication manslaughter.
  • You cause harm to a police or law enforcement officer, emergency medical personnel or a firefighter. If you harm any of these safety professionals while you are drunk and they are working in the line of duty, you could be charged with a second-degree felony, whereas if you caused a similar type of harm to someone else who was not a peace officer or within these special categories, you would face only third-degree felony charges. In the event you cause a death to one of these public servants, then you could be charged with a first-degree felony.
  • You have prior drunk driving convictions. If you have two prior convictions for misdemeanor drunk driving, your third conviction would be a felony conviction.

If aggravating factors exist in your drunk driving case, be sure to call an attorney as soon as possible.

Call Joseph LaBella & Associates today at 800-395-5951 or visit to speak with a Houston DWI defense lawyer. Serving Harris County, Montgomery County, and communities along Interstate 45 through The Woodlands and Conroe.