A DWI charge may be elevated from the typical misdemeanor to a felony offense in Texas if any of certain aggravating factors occur.
Most of the time, the offense of Driving While Intoxicated (DWI, also known as Driving Under the Influence [DUI] or Drunk Driving) is a misdemeanor, but a third or subsequent DWI after two previous DWI convictions, DWI with a Child Passenger, and DWI resulting in Serious Bodily Injury or Death are all charged as felonies.
Any DWI charge is serious, but the consequences of a felony DWI conviction in Collin County, Texas, can adversely affect an offender far into the future. In addition to prison and heavy fines, a felony DWI conviction may result in the loss of the right to vote or own a gun. A felony DWI conviction may also close the door on some educational and professional opportunities.
In addition, anyone convicted of felony DUI must attend alcohol education classes, submit to an alcohol evaluation and agree to treatment, if indicated. Felony DUI offenders are also usually required to install an ignition interlock device (IID) and obtain expensive SR-22 insurance.
If you are facing a Felony DWI charge in Collin County, Texas, you should consider contacting a criminal defense attorney experienced in Felony DWI cases as soon as possible.
Important deadlines occur soon after a felony DWI arrest. You only have 15 days to request an administrative driver's license suspension hearing to retain your driving privileges if you either failed or refused to submit to a chemical test for alcohol.
Law Offices of Richard C. McConathy represents Felony DUI clients in Collin County, including the cities of Plano, Garland, Carrollton, McKinney, Allen, Frisco, and Richardson, as well as Grayson and Rockwall counties. Call us today at (972) 805-8855 to schedule an appointment for a time to consult with one of our skilled DWI attorneys.
According to the Texas Penal Code Ann., Title 10, Chapter 49.04, a person commits an offense of Driving While Intoxicated "if the person is intoxicated while operating a motor vehicle in a public place."
While a "typical" DWI is a misdemeanor, a DWI often will be elevated to a felony charge if there are aggravating factors, such as:
Note: In determining a person's level of intoxication, the Plano Police, Collin County Sheriff's deputies, or the Texas Highway Patrol officers may conduct field sobriety tests or chemical tests, including breath tests, blood tests and urine tests. A person may refuse to take a DUI test, however a test refusal will result in an automatic administrative driver's license suspension, which may be appealed.
(Results of blood, breath or urine tests that are properly conducted may be admissible as evidence if a DWI case goes to trial, but field sobriety tests are usually not admissible.)
Several terms related to Felony DWI are defined in the Texas statutes, including intoxicated, alcohol concentration, motor vehicle, watercraft and amusement ride.
Under Texas P.C. § 49.01(2), "Intoxicated" means:
Under Texas P.C. § 49.01(1), "alcohol concentration" (also known as blood-alcohol concentration, or BAC) means the number of grams of alcohol per:
"Motor vehicle" is defined as "a device in, on, or by which a person is or may be transported or drawn on a highway, except a device used exclusively on stationary rails or tracks" (Texas P.C. §§ 32.34(a) and 49.01(3)).
"Watercraft" means "a vessel, one or more water skis, an aquaplane, or another device used for transporting or carrying a person on water, other than a device propelled only by the current of water (Texas P.C. § 49.01(4)).
"Amusement ride" means "a mechanical device that carries passengers along, around, or over a fixed or restricted course or within a defined area for the purpose of giving the passengers amusement, pleasure, or excitement," although certain rides are excluded (See Texas Occupational Code, Title 13, Subtitle D, § 2151.002).
Felony DWI convictions regularly result in prison or jail time, along with expensive fines. Depending on the specific charge and a person's prior criminal history, these penalties may include:
A person convicted of felony DWI will also face a driver's license suspension, or restrictions if and when an essential needs license or occupational license is granted. Additional penalties for felony DWI include completion of a felony DWI school, drug and alcohol education and/or counseling, probation, and the installation of an ignition interlock device (IID). An IID prevents a driver from operating a vehicle until he or she submits to a breath test for alcohol.
The backlog of DWI cases and the stiff penalties for Felony DWI inspired the creation of the 366th Judicial District Felony DWI/Drug Court Program, in which Collin County participates.
A program participant must admit that he or she has a drug or alcohol problem to be admitted to the intensive one-year program, and then completely abstain from drug and alcohol use. The program involves frequent court appearances, strong judicial supervision, random drug testing, frequent, unscheduled home visits by members of the drug court team or police officers, and group and individual drug and alcohol treatment, among other conditions.
Benefits of the program include:
The potential prison sentence and the steep fines and loss of rights that often result from a felony DWI conviction are always accompanied by other civil (administrative) penalties imposed by the state.
These consequences may include a driver's license suspension, DWI classes and expensive annual DWI surcharges in order to maintain a driver's license after a DWI suspension is lifted. Insurance companies also charge higher rates for drivers with a felony DWI conviction.
An automatic driver's license suspension will occur after a Felony DWI arrest. The suspension may be appealed, but only within 15 days of the arrest, so it is very important that you consult with an attorney right away after a DWI arrest, who can help schedule and represent you at an administrative license revocation (ALR) hearing in your effort to retain your driving privileges.
Some of the driver’s license suspension periods for felony DWI offense convictions include:
Texas assesses a mandatory annual DWI surcharge for anyone who is granted a driver's license after a Felony DWI conviction. The surcharge is paid to the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS). For anyone convicted of felony DWI, these surcharges are $2,000 per year for three years (a total of $6,000), the highest rate allowed under the law.
Texas Constitution and Statutes, Penal Code Ann., Title 10, Chapter 49 — Read the Texas statutes related to the state’s intoxication laws and penalties that can result from a conviction, including felony driving while intoxicated offenses in Texas and the potential penalties for a felony DWI conviction.
The 366th Judicial District Felony DWI/Drug Court Program — Collin County's one-year program for Felony DWI offenders provides a way to avoid prison or jail and reduce some fines and other fees while adopting a sober lifestyle.
If you are facing a Felony DWI charge in Plano, Texas, or anywhere in Collin County, Texas, you should seek the counsel of a skilled DWI attorney as soon as possible.
The experienced DWI attorneys at Law Offices of Richard C. McConathy will be able to analyze your case and help you build a strong defense. We will be able to recommend ways to lessen the adverse consequences of a felony DWI arrest and work to help you avoid the severe penalties that are often administered for a felony DWI conviction.
Law Offices of Richard C. McConathy serves clients throughout Collin County, Texas, including Plano, Garland, McKinney, Frisco, Carrollton, Allen and Richardson, as well as Grayson and Rockwall counties.
We are aggressive advocates for our clients. We may be able to find holes in the prosecution's case, flaws with the DUI tests that were conducted, or with the arrest itself, which may result in a reduction or dismissal of charges. Alternately, we may be able to help you secure a spot in Collin County's Felony DWI/Drug Court Program, which could help you rebuild your life.
With any DWI charge — especially a Felony DWI charge — time is of the essence, so contact Law Offices of Richard C. McConathy today at (972) 805-8855 to schedule an appointment to discuss your case.