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Having a felony conviction in the state of Texas is a very serious issue which can have a significant impact on your life for a very long time to come—beyond the criminal penalties assessed for the offense itself. While a first or second DWI in Texas are misdemeanor offenses, there are instances in the state when a DWI can be a felony. The instances when a DWI offense is a felony in the state include:
- A third or subsequent DWI offense;
- A DWI with a child under the age of 15 in the vehicle at the time of the arrest;
- Intoxication Assault, or
- Intoxication Manslaughter.
Penalties for a Third DWI Offense
If you are convicted of third DWI in Texas, you will face a third-degree felony, with a maximum fine of up to $10,000, from 2-10 years in prison and a driver’s license suspension from six months to two years. If you are facing a third DWI and you have one prior state prison sentence, you will be punished for a second-degree felony, with a maximum fine up to $10,000, from 2-10 years in prison and a driver’s license suspension of up to two years. If you are facing a third DWI and you have two prior state prison sentences, you will face an enhanced felony punishment with a maximum fine up to $10,000, from 25 years to life in prison, and a driver’s license suspension of up to two years.
Penalties for a DWI with a Minor in the Vehicle
If you are charged with DWI with a minor under the age of 15 in the vehicle at the time, you can expect both civil and criminal penalties. The offense is a state jail felony, punishable by from 180 days to two years in state jail. Your driver’s license will automatically be suspended for up to 180 days, and you will face criminal fines as large as $10,000. You will pay surcharge fees to retain your driver’s license once you regain the license: at least $1,000 per year, but not more than $2,000 per year for a period of three years. You will be required to have an ignition interlock device installed on your vehicle, and you may be required to undergo alcohol treatment or enter a rehabilitation program. You may also face a civil Child Protective Services case which could result in losing custody of your children and could affect any joint custody you currently have.
Intoxication Assault occurs when a person who is driving while impaired is involved in a non-fatal accident in which another person is seriously hurt or disfigured. Intoxication Assault is a third-degree felony, regardless of whether it is your first DWI, second DWI, third DWI or subsequent DWI. The penalties for Intoxication Assault include:
- A fine as large as $10,000;
- Between two years and 10 years in the Texas Department of Corrections;
- A driver’s license suspension from 180 days to 2 years;
- An annual surcharge fee of $1,000-$2,000 per year for three years;
- A 30-day jail sentence if you are granted probation, and
- Mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device.
If it is judged that your vehicle was driven in a manner which makes it a “deadly weapon,” then you could face an additional penalty which prohibits good time in prison from being considered for early release until half of the sentence has been satisfied. If the “deadly weapon” requirement is met, it can also limit your ability to receive probation.
Intoxication Manslaughter occurs when an accident in which a person is driving while intoxicated occurs, and the accident results in a death. Intoxication Manslaughter is a second-degree felony. Since operating a motor vehicle in a public place while intoxicated presumes that the act itself is reckless, prosecutors do not need to show reckless driving. The state must, however, prove that your intoxication was the cause of the other person’s death—in other words, simply because you were intoxicated and were involved in an accident which resulted in a death does not automatically mean your intoxication caused the death.
If you are convicted of Intoxication Manslaughter, you could be sentenced to from 2-20 years in prison, and assessed a fine as large as $10,000. However, if more than one person is killed in the accident, your penalties can be “stacked,” so that you could end up spending from 4-40 years in prison. Like Intoxication Assault, if it is judged that you used your vehicle in a way that made it a deadly weapon, your penalties could be enhanced.
Consequences of Felony DWI Offenses
Like any felony conviction, if you are convicted of a felony DWI in Texas offense, not only will you face harsh penalties from the court, you will continue to deal with a number of adverse consequences, long after your court penalties have been satisfied. You may find it extremely difficult to obtain employment, may be unable to obtain a professional license, could find it difficult to rent an apartment or home, may become ineligible to own a firearm, and could be prohibited from securing a federal student loan to attend college. A Harris County criminal record can follow you for many, many years, altering the entire course of your life. Being sentenced to Harris County jail or Texas state prison can also alter your life in many, many ways.
How a Sullo & Sullo Houston DWI Attorney Can Help
When you call Sullo & Sullo we are not judging you or the situation you currently find yourself in. We are here to help you get through this difficult time in your life with the best outcome possible. We understand that a felony DWI in Texas can have a major impact on your life far beyond the criminal penalties you will face—although those penalties can be very severe. While defending a felony-level DWI in Texas can be difficult, we will work aggressively on your behalf to defend your rights and your future.
If you have been charged with a felony-level DWI in Texas, it is imperative that you have a highly experienced Houston criminal defense attorney by your side who will work to prevent you from spending time in Harris County jail or state prison and will do everything possible to minimize the impact on your Harris County criminal record. Contact a knowledgeable Sullo & Sullo Houston DWI lawyer today for exemplary legal representation for your felony DWI charges.