All the “tough-guy" talk from law enforcement about DWI's in Dallas and Collin Counties in Texas has created a lot of confusion. Most are relieved to hear a first arrest is a Class B misdemeanor and a second is a Class A. But when do DWI's become felonies?
Several ways. What makes the identical act of driving a motor vehicle in a public place while intoxicated (which is normally a misdemeanor) a felony is generally additional or surrounding factors.
It is important to note that every jail term I describe below may be probated in certain circumstances.
DWI with a minor 15 years-old or younger is a State Jail Felony punishable between 180 days and 2 years jail and/or a fine not to exceed $10,000.
If you've been convicted of DWI two times before, then the third DWI is a 3rd degree felony carrying a possible prison sentence between 2 and 10 years and/or a fine not to exceed $10,000. Additional convictions pile-up like bricks with the enhancements getting progressively harsher. For details on specific enhancements for a 4th DWI or greater, consult an attorney.
Intoxication assault is typically a non-fatal accident where someone is seriously hurt or disfigured and is a 3rd degree felony. The prosecution must prove not only that the defendant caused the accident, but the accident was caused by the intoxication -- and that a person suffered "serious bodily injury."
Intoxication manslaughter is the same as intoxication assault, except that the accident causes someone to die. It is a second degree felony carrying a sentence between 2 and 20 years prison and a fine not to exceed $10,000.
The Texas Legislature has allowed for the "stacking" of punishments for intoxication assault and/or manslaughter. What this means is that if there is more than one victim (hence multiple counts), those punishments can be added together whereas most felony punishments run concurrently (or together).
Enhancements for felony punishment can be complex in Texas, so it's essential to discuss the specifics with an attorney.
Jeremy F. Rosenthal, Esq.
*Jeremy F. Rosenthal is an attorney licensed to practice in Texas. Nothing in this article is intended to be legal advice. For legal advice, please consult an attorney.