We all know that Texas courts are tough on DWI, but when is drunk driving a felony, and when is it a misdemeanor? Whether or not your DWI is a felony depends on the circumstances of your DWI. Namely, whether there were any aggravating factors present, and how many DWIs you already have. Being charged with a felony DWI comes with more serious consequences including potential jail time and hefty fines. How many DWIs is a felony in Texas? Keep reading to find out.

DWI first offense in Texas

One of the most common questions we get about DWI in Texas is, is a first DWI a felony in Texas? Fortunately, the answer is: usually not. A first offense DWI in Texas is typically charged as a Class B misdemeanor but this is, regrettably, where the good news ends.

There are a few factors that can increase the severity of any DWI charge, upgrading a DWI in Texas first offense from a misdemeanor to a felony. Some aggravating factors that can make any DWI charge more severe include:

  • High blood alcohol content (BAC, 0.15 or above)
  • Presence of a minor in the car 
  • An already suspended or revoked driver’s license
  • Excessive speeding 
  • Severe bodily injury or death resulting from the accident (usually charged as intoxication manslaughter or intoxication assault)

If none of these aggravating factors pertain to your case, you’re likely looking at a Class B misdemeanor for a first DWI in Texas, penalties for which may include:

  • Between 3 and 180 days in jail
  • Up to $2,000 fine
  • Up to 1 years of driver’s license suspension
  • DWI education programs
  • Installation of an ignition interlock device

Another question we are frequently asked is “is it possible to get your first DWI dismissed in Texas?” Getting your first DWI in Texas dismissed is possible, but like any other favorable outcome in a DWI case, you’re going to need a very good lawyer to pull it off. It is also important to note that if you are unable to get your first DWI dismissed, you may still qualify for the record to be sealed after a conviction. 

DWI second offense in Texas

If you are found driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol a second time in Texas, the courts are much less likely to be lenient. 

Although second DWIs in Texas do not automatically mean felony charges and are typically charged as Class A misdemeanors, the aggravating factors mentioned above can upgrade them to felonies. Penalties for a 2nd DWI in Texas without any aggravating factors may include:

  • Between 3 days and 1 year in jail
  • A $2,000 to $4,000 fine
  • Up to 2 years of probation
  • DWI education programs
  • Installation of an ignition interlock device

Penalties for a second DWI look similar to those for a first DWI offense in Texas, although your second DWI — if you are convicted — is not eligible for court sealing, and will therefore remain on your record forever. Judges are also much more likely to give maximum sentences for a second DWI than a first, and your chances of incurring secondary punishments go up.

DWI third offense in Texas

A third DWI offense is automatically a third-degree felony in Texas. It doesn’t matter if the second DWI occurred fifty years ago, if you receive a third strike, you can expect to spend some time in prison. Penalties for a 3rd DWI in Texas may include:

  • Between 2 and 10 years in prison
  • A fine of up to $10,000 dollars, and thousands more in administrative fines
  • DWI education programs
  • Installation of an ignition interlock device

One of the steepest aspects of DWI cost in Texas for third or fourth DWIs is the reduction of life opportunities that felons face in America. Once a person has been branded a convicted felon, they have a harder time finding work, lose government benefits, and lose their rights to vote and own firearms. If you are facing felony charges for a DWI in Texas your attorney is your lifeline, and hiring the wrong attorney is a mistake you can’t afford to make. 

Misdemeanor or felony, you need an experienced DWI lawyer

Is drunk driving a felony in Texas? Not always for a first or second DWI, but if it’s your third or fourth offense, you can expect felony charges and possible prison time if you’re convicted. This is why getting an aggressive, experienced DWI lawyer to defend your case could not be more important. Your DWI defense attorney could be the only thing standing between you and a “Guilty” verdict. 

Mark Thiessen is not only Board Certified in Criminal Law and passionate about justice, but he is an ACS-CHAL Forensic Lawyer-Scientist. This means that he knows the ins and outs of not only the laws behind DWI but the science behind it as well. He can show the judge and the jury the ways in which law enforcement didn’t follow the book and can debunk bad science. 

Whether you’re on the hook for a first DWI offense or intoxication manslaughter, Mark Thiessen can help. Call Thiessen Law Firm at (713) 864-9000 or contact us online for a free consultation today.

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Thiessen Law Firm

Mark Thiessen is an aggressive trial lawyer best known for his devotion to justice for his clients and high rank as a DWI Super Lawyer in Texas.