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What Makes a DUI Become a Felony?

Criminal Law Blog by The Law Office of Greg Tsioros

What Makes a DUI Become a Felony?

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Felony DUI Charges in Texas

Everyone knows that a DWI conviction in Texas is a very serious matter. Even a first time conviction for this offense can lead to jail time, high fines, loss of driving privileges, years of probation and even the loss of a job. It’s no surprise that people often try to fight DUI charges in court. Even though the penalties can be very severe, most first and second-time DWI offenses are considered misdemeanors.

However, it is possible for any driving while intoxicated charge to be upgraded to felony status if certain conditions are met. Exploring the nature of felony DWI charges may help people prepare for a legal case if they are facing such charges.

What Makes It a Felony DWI?

As stated above, most first time DWI cases are considered Class B misdemeanors in the state of Texas. The charges can be upgraded to a felony if certain actions or conditions occurred in the case. For example, a driving under the influence charge can be upgraded to felony status if:

  • The driver’s BAC was extremely high
  • The driver caused a dangerous vehicle accident
  • The driver engaged in very reckless driving
  • The driver injured anyone while intoxicated
  • The driver had a very young child in the car with them at the time of the arrest
  • The driver has multiple previous DWI convictions

If any of these conditions are met during a DUI arrest, the driver may be looking at felony charges. Most people know that the legal BAC limit for driving in Texas is .08. However, if a driver is found to have a BAC that is more than twice the legal limit, felony charges could be filed.

Also, if a driver is arrested for DWI after being involved in a car wreck that could have seriously injured or killed someone else, felony charges may be filed. Felony DWI charges are also possible if the driver has two previous driving while intoxicated convictions or if they had a child under age 15 in the car with them during the incident.

Felony DWI Penalties

The penalties for any DWI conviction can be severe but they can be upgraded significantly in a felony case. For example, a misdemeanor DWI conviction can lead to:

  • Several days in jail
  • Up to two years of probation
  • Driver’s license suspension for six months to a year
  • Several thousand dollars in fines

A felony DWI conviction is much more serious. A conviction for this offense can lead to:

  • Months of jail time
  • Thousands of dollars in fines
  • Permanent loss of driving privileges
  • Up to ten years of probation

Also, a person who has a child under age 15 in the car with them at the time of the arrest may lose their parental rights or privileges. The court may find that they are an unfit parent or guardian and their custodial rights may be terminated.

There are also usually additional conditions of bond and probation in many DUI cases. For example, the court will usually require a defendant to have an ignition interlock device installed in their car as part of their probation. This device requires the driver to provide a clean breath sample in order to start their car. Providing a breath sample that contains the presence of alcohol will prevent the car from starting and may also cause the driver’s probation to be revoked.

The driver will usually be required to attend mandatory alcohol education classes and Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. Failure to meet these requirements could be grounds for the revocation of the defendant’s probation. Additionally, drivers who have DWI convictions may be forced to pay a higher rate for car insurance.

Anyone who has been charged with felony DWI can consult with an attorney to discuss legal strategies and defense options.

If you have recently been arrested for driving while intoxicated, you should retain legal counsel as soon as possible. Time can be vital in these situations. Luckily, The Law Office of Greg Tsioros can help you. Call his office today at (832) 752-5972 to get the help you need.

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