• Justin Sparks

What is 4th Degree DWI Indicative of? Should You Be Worried About Penalties?

A DWI may appear to be a straightforward concept with a straightforward punishment but it gets more layered than drivers realize. The penalties you face can vary depending on any prior DWI conviction.


Your first DWI offense, for example, is going to be treated a lot differently from your fourth DWI offense. There is also the question of if any aggravating factors are at play, which can be indicative of the degree of the DWI charges. A first-time offender committing a fourth-degree DWI is undoubtedly going to face more leniency than a first-degree defendant with prior DWI convictions.


DWI Charge Types

DWI Charge Types


4th Degree DWI - No Aggravating Factors Present

Misdemeanor careless driving charges tend to be treated less harshly than their gross misdemeanor counterparts. This kind of DWI falls under the umbrella of the former and tends to be characterized by the lack of any aggravating factor. Additionally, alcohol concentration would need to be below the legal limit of 0.08%.


Therefore, there are no mandatory penalties, and the offender is still allowed to operate a motor vehicle afterward since there's no license revocation. Note, however, that you may find different jurisdictions handling this matter differently.


Still, with a good lawyer on your side, you can usually avoid a DWI plea. Instead, there may be a stay of disposition, community work service, or something else less severe.


3rd Degree DWI - Gross Misdemeanor Offense

A 3rd degree DWI is where you begin to cross over into gross misdemeanor territory. Unlike the 4th degree counterpart where there are no aggravating factors, there is one aggravating factor present here. Alternatively, the defendant may have refused a DWI test, which constitutes a violation under the implied consent rule drivers are subject to.


A DWI arrest in this case tends to come with mandatory penalties. Additionally, this kind of DWI violation may mean being subject to long-term monitoring. If this is a second offense, third offense, or fourth offense, for example, expect a license plate revocation. However, if the refusal comes as a part of a first-time offense, you can likely avoid the maximum penalties.

Adequate legal representation from an expert law firm may see you have your criminal charges here dropped to the 4th-degree level, which is a victorious outcome.


2nd Degree DWI - Gross Misdemeanor Offense

A second-degree DWI is yet another gross misdemeanor offense for driving conduct violating DWI law. Here, beyond the alcohol concentration level, there are multiple aggravating factors. Alternatively, there was a refusal to submit to a DWI chemical test with one aggravating factor present.


License plates are revoked here, mandatory penalties apply, as does long-term monitoring. Vehicle forfeiture is also typically on the table. Note that license plate restrictions may apply in the form of "whiskey plates."


Criminal defense for such a DWI charge is often very difficult since only 2nd-degree charges allow for the vehicle forfeiture.


1st Degree DWI - Felony Offense

This is where you get into the territory of a serious criminal case. This one may also be called a first-degree felony as this falls under the umbrella of felonies. Aggravating factors are not the bases for these kinds of criminal cases.


Instead, any of the following could result in first degree charges:


  • If the current offense is in addition to three or more prior qualified DWI incidents within the past ten years.

  • Any previous DWI conviction

  • Any felony conviction during vehicle operation since these act as enhancing factors for future DWI charges


As far as these kinds of charges go, someone convicted as a felon permanently remains a felon. Plate impoundment is the least of your worries here unlike second and third-degree offenses. The maximum penalty here includes jail time and steep fines.


State Penalties and Child Endangerment


In Texas, a driver who is guilty of a DWI with a child in the mix faces three mandatory penalties and one potential one. The mandatory ones are a child endangerment charge, a fine of up to $10,000, and a 180-day driver's license suspension. Optionally, the crime may lead to up to two years of jail time.


Retain a Competent Ft. Worth, TX DWI Defense Attorney if You've Been Accused of a DWI

Retain a Competent Ft. Worth, TX DWI Defense Attorney if You've Been Accused of a DWI


When you have a DWI charge fighting, you need a DWI law firm in Fort Worth TX standing behind you as leveraging your attorney-client relationship is essential if you want to avoid being sentenced to the harshest possible penalties in court. Before this happens, it is imperative to learn how to prepare for a DUI court hearing.


Sparks Law Firm plays the role of that law office in Fort Worth, Texas, and offers a free consultation to those needing criminal defense in this regard. Call (817) 381-7496 to schedule your free consultation today to speak to a top-tier attorney with extensive experience in this field. For police officers that have committed the same offense, learn what happens if a police officer gets a DUI.


The discussion reviews the parameters of your case, advises you of your situation, and even gives you a preview of what the action plan may look like for any of the four degrees highlighted above.


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)


What Does Vehicle Forfeiture Mean?

After a gross misdemeanor charge occurs, the arresting authority can seize and forfeit the vehicle that was a part of the incident. The owner does have the ability to recover the vehicle. However, if this is not done, it can be sold for profit.


Is There a Difference Between a DUI and a DWI in Texas?

The public often uses the terms DUI and DWI interchangeably, however, they don't mean the same thing to the court system as they differ under Texas law.


DWIs are more serious than DUI offenses and involve any person who is an adult being proven to be intoxicated as a motor vehicle is being operated in a public space. The intoxication may be determined through a chemical test result or an inability to use mental or physical faculties normally.


DUIs occur when minors (those under the age of 21 years old) have alcohol in their system and are operating a vehicle. Penalties here are less steep.


Can a DWI Charge Be Dismissed?

With proper criminal defense, you may not be convicted and could even avoid a license revocation. Your attorney may also get your third-degree charge dropped to a fourth-degree one. That's why you should reach out to an attorney as soon as possible when facing DWI charges.