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Driving Consequences: Is a DWI a Felony in Texas?

The Law Firm of Andrea M. Kolski

Driving while intoxicated (DWI) is a serious charge. The penalties can include fines, community service, and even jail time. But which ones you will face depends on many different factors, including where you live.

You may be wondering, “Is a DWI a felony in Texas?” This short answer is it depends. Several factors determine the level of charges and DWI penalties. These include prior convictions and the circumstances surrounding the offense, among others.

If you or someone you know has been arrested for a DWI in Texas, keep reading to find out what consequences they could be facing. The information below also provides some insights into how to best deal with charges. Regardless of their severity, it is important to do everything possible to ensure the best possible outcome for your case.

Is a DWI a Felony in Texas?

In Texas, intoxication, as it relates to DWI, is operating a motor vehicle while having a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 or higher. Note that minors (anyone under the age of 21) in Texas cannot drive a vehicle with any amount of intoxication. For first-time offenses, you may face fines, probation, loss of your right to drive, and other possible penalties.

If you are an adult driving with a BAC above 0.08, you will be facing at least a Class B misdemeanor. Other factors can increase the charges and penalties. Here are the major ones to consider.

Level of Intoxication

One of the main things that impact DWI charges in Texas is your BAC. If it is lower than 0.15, you will likely face a Class A misdemeanor.

This means you could have fines as high as $2,000 and up to 180 days in jail–the mandatory minimum is three days. You could lose your driver’s license for up to a year. The judge may also mandate an ignition interlock device on your car or for you to attend a substance abuse intervention program.

Regardless of whether it is a first-time offense, if your BAC is at or above 0.15, that gets bumped up to a Class A misdemeanor. The fine may be up to $4,000, and you could serve from one month up to a year in jail. You will also receive a two-year suspension of your driver’s license.

Number of Offenses

One of the main things to look at when deciding “Is a DWI a felony in Texas,” is the number of offenses. Having multiple DWIs will impact the charges, and associated penalties, against you as well. Note that “priors” only include convictions, not arrests.

As mentioned, a first-time offense with a BAC below 0.15 is a Class B misdemeanor. For a second offense, regardless of BAC, the penalties increase to a Class A misdemeanor.

A third DWI conviction in Texas is a felony. If convicted, you will lose your driver’s license for up to two years.

The other penalties are much more severe. A third-degree felony carries at least a two-year prison sentence, but it could be up to 10 years.

Also, you could face up to $10,000 in fines. This does not include state fines of another $3,000 to $6,000 assessed at the time of sentencing.

Non-DWI Priors

Previous DWI convictions are not the only thing that can impact charges and penalties. While prior felony convictions will likely not influence misdemeanor DWI (unless they are substance-abuse related) they can affect felony penalties for a third DWI.

For instance, a prior state felony conviction will likely get a third DWI bumped up to a second-degree felony. This is punishable by up to 20 years in prison, with a two-year minimum. Fines also can be upwards of $10,000, along with a two-year license suspension.

Texas has a “three strikes” law that applies to all felonies, regardless of the nature of the crime. If you have two previous state felony charges and get a third DWI, you will likely face enhanced felony punishment. Besides fines, this can include 25 years to life in prison.


The final major factor that could impact DWI charges in Texas is whether someone was injured as a result of the offense. Regardless of the level of intoxication or the number of prior offenses, “serious bodily injury” almost always gets the charges increased to a third-degree felony. If someone dies as a result of the DWI, that will likely entail at least second-degree felony charges.

Other Factors

If there is an open container of alcohol in your vehicle, the penalties also will likely increase. Much like with an elevated BAC, it automatically gets bumped up to a Class B misdemeanor, regardless of other circumstances. This offense alone will not elevate charges to a felony.

If you drive under the influence with a child under the age of 15 in the car, you could be charged with “child endangerment.” The penalties for this offense alone involve fines of up to $10,000 and up to two years in jail. In combination with a DWI, driving with a child passenger could elevate charges to a third- or second-degree felony.

Find DWI Defense Near You

Now that you have some information that helps you answer, “Is a DWI a felony in Texas,” you can determine what penalties you might face. The best way to be certain you understand the nuances and severities of any DWI charges is to seek the help of an experienced lawyer. They will be able to walk you through every step of the legal process and help you make the best decisions about your case.

Andrea M. Kolski is a trained, experienced defense attorney that has a proven track record of getting justice for her clients and helping them navigate the complex legal system. In addition to more than a decade of defense work, she has served as a prosecutor, so she understands both sides of the courtroom. Reach out to us today to discuss your case and find out how our firm can help you.

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