Interviewer: What are the factors that would turn a normal DWI into an aggravated or enhanced charge?
Gary: The first factor that raises the charge level is if your blood alcohol content is above 1.5. That increases the penalty from a Class B, which carries six months in jail, and a $2,000 fine to up to a year in jail and a $4,000 fine. So, it raises the bar quite a bit.
A second DWI becomes a Class A Misdemeanor 2, which means up to a year in jail and a $4,000 fine. There’s also mandatory interlock installation on your vehicle. An Ignition Interlock is a device that you put on your vehicle that in order to start your vehicle you have to blow into it. If you have any alcohol in your system it will give you a failure warning and it will not allow you to start your vehicle, and if you’re on probation or pretrial release and you fail an interlock blow, you could have a warrant issued for your arrest and be marched off to jail.
Then we move up into the felonies. In Texas if you are driving while intoxicated with a minor in the vehicle, under the age of 15, it is a felony. As an example, if first time DWI mother who never had problems in her life, goes out with the girls, has a couple glasses of wine at lunch then picks up her kids from school and gets pulled over. If she is convicted, she’s now a convicted felon.
Individuals with more than two previous DWI convictions will also be charged with felony DWI. The third charge is a felony.
We have intoxication assault which is a DWI involving serious bodily injury to somebody. In other words, having an accident or hitting a pedestrian. That is a third degree felony. Then we have intoxication manslaughter, which becomes a second degree felony and carries up to 20 years in prison. That charge is applied if a driver kills somebody with an automobile while they are drunk.
Interviewer: What about if you get into an accident, let’s say you hit a tree, or you just run yourself off the road?
Gary: If no one’s hurt, it’s a DWI accident. The judge may slap you some more community service, or not let you plea to obstruction of highway, but it doesn’t affect you. As long as no one’s hurt or no individual is hurt besides yourself they’re not going to charge you with anything more than a DWI.
Of course, if you damage public property then they could charge you with an offense for damaging a utility or something like that, but usually don’t, especially if your insurance pays the bill.