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DWI Punishments

Court Ordered Punishments for DWI Convictions in Texas Courts.

Drunk driving is a serious criminal offense in Texas. The direct and collateral consequences of conviction are severe and long-lasting.  Even a first time DWI conviction carries serious consequences, and the system is designed to increase the punishment with subsequent offense, or if certain aggravating circumstances exist.

First DWI Charges

In Texas, a first time DWI charge  can either be a Class B or a Class A Misdemeanor.
A Class B misdemeanor is less serious than a Class A Misdemeanor but each has significant possible punishments.

If convicted of a Class B Misdemeanor DWI, the sentence could be:

  • From 72 hours to 180 days in jail, and
  • up to a $2,000 fine.

If convicted of a Class A Misdemeanor, the sentence could be:

  • Up to 1 year in jail, and
  • up to a $4,000 fine

Instead of straight jail time, a court can order probation or a combination of jail time and probation.

First time DWI-Class A or Class B?

The Texas legislature has increased the punishment for high BAC DWI cases.  If the State can prove a high blood alcohol level they can enhance the punishment for a first time DWI to a class “A” misdemeanor.

Important : if the police do not obtain a sample of your breath or your blood, they can only charge you with with a Class B Misdemeanor for a first-time DWI.

If your breath or blood sample is tested at a BAC concentration below 0.150, then the charge is a class B Misdemeanor; if either the breath or blood sample shows a concentration of 0.150 or higher, then you'll be charged with a Class A Misdemeanor.

The police always take two breath samples–the lower sample level should always be used, but it is not uncommon for the higher sample to result in a higher charge.

Example : breath test results are .149 and .152, so the case should be a class B Misdemeanor, right?  Not necessarily.  The police can charge this person with a class A Misdemeanor DWI and make them or their lawyer sort it out after the arrest!

Second DWI Charges-Class A

If you have one prior conviction for DWI, then the next DWI charge will be a Class A Misdemeanor.

If you are convicted of a Class A Misdemeanor, you could be sentenced to:

  • Up to 1 year in jail, and
  • up to a $4,000 fine.

In addition to probation , the court is supposed to order the probationer to serve jail time for a Second DWI charge:

  • A minimum of 72 hours in jail as a condition of probation, or
  • if the 2nd DWI was committed within five years of the 1st DWI, at least five days in jail as a condition of probation.

Third DWI-Third Degree Felony

If you have two prior convictions for DWI, then your third DWI charge will be a 3rd Degree Felony

If you are convicted of a 3rd Degree Felony, your sentence could be:

  • From 2 years to 10 years in prison, and
  • up to a $10,000 fine.

In addition to probation , if probation is imposed, then you would have to serve a minimum of 10 days in jail as a condition of probation.  Most courts give no credit for time already served toward this ten days.

DWI-Child Passenger-State Jail Felony

If a person is arrested for DWI and has passengers in the vehicle who are younger than 15 years of age, then they can be charged with a State Jail Felony.

A “State Jail Felony” (SJF) is a felony that is in between the class “A” Misdemeanor and the 3rd degree Felony in severity.  People who are convicted of a SJF can receive probation or can be sent to either the State jail or the County jail.  The State jail is a prison for low-level, non-violent felony offenses.  The punishment range for a State Jail Felony is:

  • From 180 days to 2 years in a State Jail Facility,
  • or up to one year in the County jail, and
  • up to a $10,000 fine.

Intoxication Assault-3rd Degree Felony

If a person is DWI, and because of their intoxication causes serious bodily injury to another person, they can be charged with the felony offense of “Intoxication Assault,” which is a 3rd Degree Felony.

Serious bodily injury means an injury that creates a substantial risk of death or that causes serious permanent disfigurement or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ.

If convicted of a 3rd Degree Felony, your sentence could be:

  • From 2 years to 10 years in prison,
  • or up to 10 years probation, and
  • up to a $10,000 fine
  • In addition to restitution for any harm caused.

In addition to probation , if probation is given, you would have to serve a minimum of 30 days in jail .

Intoxication Manslaughter-2nd Degree Felony

If a person is DWI, and because of their intoxication someone is killed, they can be charged with the felony offense of “Intoxication Manslaughter,” which is a 2nd Degree Felony.

If convicted of a 2nd Degree Felony, your sentence could be:

  • From 2 years to 20 years in prison,
  • or up to 10 years on probation, and
  • up to a $10,000 fine
  • in addition to restitution for any harm caused.

Felony Murder by DWI

If a person is committing a felony offense, and does an act “clearly dangerous to human life” that causes the death of someone, Felony Murder can be charged.  This has been enforced in the DWI context where a person is committing a felony DWI, then has an accident causing a death.  Rather than charging this person with Intoxication Manslaughter which is a 2nd Degree Felony, the person can be charged with Murder which is a 1st Degree Felony.

If convicted of a 1st Degree Felony, your sentence could be:

  • From 5 to 99 years or Life in prison, and
  • up to a $10,000 fine.

Subsequent Felony DWI Charges

Texas criminal law is designed to increase punishments depending on a person's prior criminal convictions.  DWI charges follow this general pattern.  If a person has been to state prison one time and after release gets another felony charge, the charge is “enhanced” to the next highest offense level.  In the case of the person having been to State prison two times and then being arrested for another felony, their punishment range is “habitual.”

If convicted of an “enhanced” Felony DWI , the punishment range is that of a 2nd degree felony as discussed above.

If convicted of an “enhanced” intoxication assault, the punishment range is that of a 1st Degree Felony as discussed above.

If convicted of an “enhanced” Felony Murder, the punishment range would be:

  • From 15 to 99 years or Life in prison, and
  • up to a $10,000 fine.

If convicted of a “habitual” Felony DWI , the punishment range is:

  • From 25 years to 99 years or life in prison, and
  • up to a $10,000 fine.

Deadly Weapons in DWI charges

One final but very important factor to keep in mind in felony DWI charges is the possible use of a “deadly weapon” enhancement.  If an intoxicated driver endangered or injured another person, it is very likely that the police or prosecutor will add a “deadly weapon” enhancement to the charges.  It might seem counter-intuitive to say that a car is a “deadly weapon” unless the driver specifically tried to run someone over, but the law has been written very broadly so that it applies in a lot of unexpected circumstances.

A “deadly weapon” is defined as anything that in it's use, or intended use, is capable of causing serious bodily injury or death.

If convicted of a DWI, intoxication assault or intoxication manslaughter with a “deadly weapon” finding some additional punishments are imposed:

  • Probation cannot be ordered by the judge, and
  • You must serve one-half of the prison sentence,
    • no less than two calendar years,
    • day-for-day,
    • with no time off for good time,
    • before becoming eligible for release on parole.

The costs and consequences of a DWI conviction are severe and expensive.  If you have been charged with driving while intoxicated, it is extremely important that you have the right lawyer handle your case. Call today or send the  contact form to arrange your FREE consultation with Board Certified Criminal Lawyer Russ Hunt Jr.

You Are Not Alone

Russ knows that dealing with a criminal charge is an unpleasant experience. He is here for each of his clients through every step of the process, and will make sure that you receive the best representation possible. You will always be able to reach Russ when you have questions about your case. You can be assured that he will fight to obtain the best possible outcome.

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