When compared with other traffic infractions, driving while intoxicated (DWI) allegations are among the most serious violations possible. However, when compared with Texas criminal charges that may lead to incarceration and a record, a DWI might not seem as serious as a violent infraction.

Some people arrested for impaired driving offenses make the mistake of assuming that they will face minimal consequences for a guilty plea or conviction simply because they haven’t committed a violent offense. While it is true that DWI charges are often classified as misdemeanor offenses, sometimes the state pursues felony charges and enhanced penalties in a DWI case. Any of the three factors below might heighten the potential consequences of a DWI offense, if a defendant is convicted.

Multiple prior charges

Those who have a record of driving after drinking will face worse consequences when they get arrested again. First and second DWI charges will usually be misdemeanor offenses, although the second offense will carry more penalties than the first charge. Third and subsequent DWI charges in Texas are often felony offenses that will carry far more serious penalties for the person accused.

Causing injury or death

One of the reasons the state penalizes DWI charges harshly is their known association with the worst crashes that occur. Therefore, the state may pursue felony charges in cases where someone causes a crash that either injures or kills someone else while under the influence of alcohol. Felony charges related to vehicular assault or manslaughter will usually lead to worse consequences than a standard DWI.

Having a minor in the vehicle

Adults know when someone else is under the influence for the most part and have the ability to say no when someone asks them to get in a vehicle. Children do not always have those same abilities. If someone gets arrested for a DWI while they have a passenger who is 14 years of age or younger in their vehicle, the state may very well pursue felony charges against them for endangering a young person in addition to driving well impaired.

Learning more about how prosecutors handle DWI charges and when they become more aggressive in their pursuit may benefit those recently arrested for impairment at the wheel in Texas to make more informed decisions when constructing a defense strategy.