DWI: Misdemeanor vs. Felony
When is a First Time DWI a Felony?
This blog entry will attempt to help people who have been arrested for a Driving While Intoxicated understand the nature of their charges. A first time DWI might be a misdemeanor or a felony. If it is a misdemeanor it can be a Class A or B. Understanding your legal situation is key to getting your case resolved in your favor.
Usually, your first Driving While Intoxicated arrest is a misdemeanor offense. If someone is arrested for a DWI and their blood alcohol result is below a .15 they are charged with a Class B misdemeanor. Class B misdemeanors are the least serious arrestable offense in the State of Texas. Still, because the State can put you in jail for up to six months (and a minimum of three days) this needs to be taken seriously.In Bexar County, most people who go to jail for more than three days have violated the terms of their probation. If the charge is an extreme DWI (listed as .15 or higher) or a second DWI, the DWI will be filed as a Class A misdemeanor.
When people are released from the Bexar County Jail after their arrest, they, sometimes, don’t know the exact nature of their offense or what type of DWI has been filed against them. They do not know if their case is a Class B misdemeanor or a Class A misdemeanor or if they have been accused of a felony or a misdemeanor. If your case is filed in a County Court, your case is a misdemeanor. If your case has been filed in District Court, it is a felony.
There are three categories of felony DWI.
Third or More DWI
If the accused has two prior DWI convictions their case will be filed as a felony charge. Felony DWIs, referred to as third or more DWIs, are third degree felonies. Third degree felonies allow the State to ask for between two to ten years in prison. We know what judges are looking for in Bexar County and surrounding counties. During your initial consultation we will come up with a plan to keep you out of prison. We will examine all of the evidence and look for ways to get your case dismissed.
Child Endangerment DWI
If the accused is arrested while driving a vehicle with a passenger who is under the age of 15 the DWI will be a DWI with Child or a Child Endangerment DWI. This is a State Jail Felony which is very serious. State Jail Felonies carry a range of punishment between six months and two years in a State Jail Facility. The jail time is served in the State Jail is usually day for day meaning that the accused cannot get out early unless they qualify for a special 80/20 designation. Day for day State Jail sentences are unlike other prison sentences because the accused cannot be released early on parole.
When someone is arrested for a DWI with Child or DWI/Child Endangerment there are also sometimes CPS consequences. CPS is more likely to become involved if the passenger is very young or the actual child of the driver. Child Endangerment DWI is taken very seriously in Bexar County and surrounding counties and requires aggressive representation. We have dealt with dozens of these cases and we know how to address the prosecutor’s concerns so that our clients can avoid a permanent felony record for a first time offense.
Intoxication Assault/ Intoxication Manslaughter
The final way that a DWI becomes a felony is if someone is seriously hurt or killed in an accident caused by a DWI. The victim might be the passenger of the accused’s car or the driver of the other vehicle. These cases are filed as second degree felonies and carry punishments of two to twenty years in prison. These cases are complex.Not only does the State have to prove that the person driving was intoxicated but also has to prove that the accident would not have occurred if the driver was not intoxicated. This means that the State has to do additional investigation and accident reconstruction. This gives an experienced criminal defense attorney the opportunity to pick apart the State’s investigation or perform their own investigation so that the State or jury can be convinced that it is not appropriate to file the case as a felony.
In the past twelve months, the attorneys at The Locke Law Group have handled hundreds of DWIs. We know how to spot the issues that will give you your best possible result. We have had cases dismissed or reduced after we have examined the evidence that the State has presented. If we can’t get the result that our clients want we set their cases for trial. Some of these cases have been felony DWI’s.
We have handled DWI and felony DWI cases in Hays County, Bexar County, Guadalupe County, and Comal County. We know how the judges in these jurisdictions approach these cases and we can help defend against these accusations. We have had success getting the charges reduced or dismissed completely. When we cannot achieve our client’s goals through negotiation we set the case for trial.
When you are accused of DWI you feel like your whole life is over. With our help we can make it the first day of the rest of your life as we work to get you the best possible result. DWI’s are complicated cases that require an attorney with specialized knowledge. Most people accused of a DWI have no criminal record. Our number one goal is to help get you back to that position. If your case is handled by the wrong attorney, the consequences can be felt for the rest of your life. We work hard so that our clients don’t end up in that position. Call us at The Locke Law Group today! (210) 229-8300