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When is DWI a Serious Felony?

The driving while intoxicated (DWI) or driving under the influence (DUI) statutes vary from state-to-state, but typically a third or fourth DWI is a felony offense depending on the state. Here in Texas, if you have been convicted of DWI on two occasions, the third DWI would be prosecuted as a felony.

Generally, DWI is a Class A misdemeanor but upon a third conviction, it becomes a felony. Under Section 49.09 of the Texas Penal Code, “enhanced penalties” are tacked on to a DWI case, elevating it to a
third-degree felonywhen the defendant was previously convicted of the following:

  • One offense of intoxication manslaughter under Sec. 49.08 or a similar offense under the laws of a different state.
  • Two offenses involving DWI, or operating a boat or aircraft while intoxicated, or assembling an amusement park ride while intoxicated.

First or Second Degree Felony DWI

In some instances, a DWI will be prosecuted as a felony of the second or first degree under the Texas Penal Code. Though rare, this does happen on occasion.

  • A DWI can be charged as a felony of the second degree when the offender caused serious bodily injury to some firefighter or emergency medical services personnel while they were discharging their official duties.
  • A DWI can be charged as a felony of the first degree if the offender causes serious bodily injury to a peace officer or judge while he or she is officially discharging their duties.

For example, if you were drunk driving on a freeway and you came up to an accident on the side of the highway and you struck a fireman while he was helping accident victims and you seriously injured him, you’d likely face second-degree felony charges.

On the other hand, if you were speeding in a 45mph zone after having drinks at a bar and you drove into a cop while he was writing a traffic ticket and you seriously injured him, you could be slapped with first-degree felony charges.

We hope this post cleared up any questions you had on felony DWI charges in Texas. If you’re accused of DWI, contact our Plano DWI defense firm today.

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