How Bad Is It? What Makes a DWI a Felony in Texas?

By | April 30, 2014

Driving while intoxicated (DWI) cases in Texas are common, but that does not mean that their resolution is simple.

Not all DWIs are alike.

For startersTexas-felony-DWI, actions that constitute DWI depend on different factors. Drivers age 21 and older violate Texas drunk-driving laws when they drive while their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is 0.08% or more. For commercial drivers, the BAC limit is lowered to 0.04%, and any amount of alcohol in an under-aged driver’s system will land them with an automatic DWI charge.

The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) provides general guidelines as to the amount a person can drink to reach these limits. But don’t rely on them for accuracy. Also, don’t forget that a driver can get a DWI for more than just driving a car or riding a motorcycle. Flying and boating are taken into account under DWI laws.

The penalties for DWI offenses vary depending on your specific situation. In many cases, a “first offense” simple DWI charge is a misdemeanor. Yet, Texas law identifies a number of circumstances where such a crime can quickly become a felony. I know first-hand the effect that these more serious penalties have on the lives of entire families. No criminal charges should be taken lightly, least of all a felony.


In general, a DWI may be increased to a felony when extra factors are present that the state deems “worse” than a regular DWI. A few of the most common scenarios include:

DWI with a Minor: If you are arrested for DWI with someone under the age of 15 in the car, you will be charged with a State Jail Felony. Punishment can increase if the indictment alleges that you used your car as a deadly weapon or the driver is third time repeat offender.

Intoxication Assault: If your drunk driving causes someone serious bodily injury, you may be prosecuted for a 3rd degree felony. Causing serious bodily injury means that there was a substantial risk of death or serious permanent disfigurement. In other words, a minor accident that doesn’t cause serious outward injuries may not qualify.

Intoxication Manslaughter: As you would expect, if anyone dies in connection with your drunk driving, you will face a felony charge under Texas law. This is a 2nd degree felony.

Harming EMS personnel, Firefighters, or Peace Officers: Those convicted of a DWI who harm a police officer, EM personnel, or a firefighter in the course of their duty may face felony charges. For example, instead of a 3rd degree felony for harming one of these individuals, an offender is charged with a 2nd degree felony. Or if you, by way of an intoxication manslaughter, kill these emergency responders, then you would be charged with a 1st degree felony.

Repeat Offenders: Most notably, felony charges can be levied as a result of repeated DWI activity. Under Texas law, a DWI can be charged as a felony if it is shown that the person has 2 prior convictions of any other offense relating to DWI. In other words, if a driver is convicted of misdemeanor DWI twice, a third offense will be charged as a felony.

Get Legal Help

So what should you do if you find yourself on the wrong end of these charges? While it is impossible to go back in time and act differently, it is important to realize that any driver is innocent until proven guilty.

In my view, that is why retaining competent and qualified legal help is essential in assuring that your rights are protected. An attorney can help you fight charges, minimize damages, and ultimately come out of these situations better than you would alone. When serious charges like these are at your door, do not hesitate. Feel free to contact my office today to see how I can help. 512-451-5885