Texas police officers are constantly on the lookout for those who are driving while intoxicated (DWI). If an officer notices someone swerving or showing signs of impairment, they will likely initiate a traffic stop. During that traffic stop, they will screen the driver for signs of chemical impairment. If they have probable cause to suspect impairment, they will arrest that driver. Someone who admits to prior alcohol consumption at the scene of a crash will also likely face arrest.
If someone gets arrested for drunk driving, the penalties range from license suspension to jail time. Some people facing DWI charges will face more serious penalties than others, especially if the state brings felony charges against them. When might an impaired driving offense lead to a felony charge in Texas?
When you hurt or kill someone
The reason there are laws against drunk driving is to protect the public from the increased crash risk that comes with intoxication. If someone drives after drinking and causes a crash, the consequences of that wreck will be more serious than the consequences for a DWI traffic stop.
Texas law immediately upgrades DWI charges to felony offenses if someone gets hurt because of a drunk driver. The penalties for causing a crash that hurts or kills someone will range from two to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
When there is a child in the vehicle
Sometimes, older teenagers drink and drive with their younger friends in the car. Other times, parents and other adults knowingly get behind the wheel after having too much to drink while their children are in the vehicle with them. A DWI charge will increase to a felony related to child endangerment if there are children under the age of 15 in the vehicle, even if a crash does not occur.
When a driver has multiple prior DWI charges
Recidivism is a real issue for those convicted of drunk driving. The state applies more serious penalties to each following conviction to deter people from making the same mistakes multiple times. Repeat offenders can face not just more serious penalties but also more serious charges. After two prior DWI convictions, a driver may face felony charges for any subsequent arrest.
Understanding the various elements that impact Texas DWI charges can help you better respond to your recent arrest.