Drunk driving is a crime that is taken seriously throughout the country, including in Texas. Law enforcement agencies crack down on drivers who get behind the wheel while under the influence. In recent years, the term DWI has grown to include the influence of narcotics as well.
According to the Texas Penal Code Section § 49.04, intoxicated means not having the normal use of mental or physical faculties because of alcohol, drugs, a combination or any other intoxicating substance in the body. A person also can be labeled as under the influence if he or she has a blood or breath alcohol concentration of.08 or higher.
There are several different types of DWI charges in Texas, each with different penalties. The crime can range from a Class B misdemeanor to a felony. Felony DWI offenses are important to distinguish because they come with harsher penalties and can have a greater impact on the accused’s future than misdemeanor DWI offenses.
Some felony DWI charges include:
• DWI with a child passenger – According to the Texas Penal Code Section § 49.045, if a person is arrested for driving while intoxicated with a passenger who is 15 years old or younger, he or she could be charged with a state jail felony.
• Third or subsequent DWI – If charged with a DWI for a third or subsequent time, the offense automatically becomes a third-degree felony. The DWI offenses could include a standard DWI, flying or boating while intoxicated or any other DWI offence.
• Intoxication manslaughter – If a DWI offense resulted in the death of another person, it is considered intoxication manslaughter, according to the Texas Penal Code Section § 49.08. The other person could be another driver, a passenger in the alleged drunk driver’s vehicle or even a passenger. Intoxication manslaughter could be a second- or first-degree felony.
• Intoxication assault – A DWI offense that results in serious bodily injury to another could be considered an intoxication assault, which could be a second- or third-degree felony.
Punishments for the DWI offenses vary and depend on the circumstances for each particular case, including whether the offender has priors.
A state jail felony could mean between six months to two years in prison, plus up to $10,000 in fines. However, the penalties for a third-degree felony could range from two to 10 years in prison with up to $10,000 in fines.
A second-degree felony in Texas is punishable by two to 20 years in prison with up to $10,000 in fines, and a first-degree felony conviction can carry between two to 99 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines. In some cases, a person could get life in prison.
Many of the additional sanctions for DWI offense in Texas, like license suspensions, are the same for all felony classes. Additional punishments could include hours of community service, instillation of an ignition interlock device on the alleged offender’s vehicle, court costs and fees. The charges and the penalties can be complex.