Driving under the influence in most US states is charged as a misdemeanor. However, this is only true until the second time the offense happens; after that, it is seen as a felony DWI, and the charges turn more serious.
The defendant should proceed with extreme caution when this happens, as the judge is most likely determined to incarcerate them due to the recurrent offenses. In addition, it should be kept in mind that although the litigant manages to not end up in jail, they are going to suffer drastic consequences due to repeated DWI offenses.
To try to lessen these consequences as much as possible, the best thing to do is to hire a criminal defense lawyer who can adequately study the case and perform all the needed investigations. Another good thing to do is to read this article, as it teaches everything a person with a fourth DWI offense should know.
What Is a Fourth DWI Offense?
A fourth DWI offense is considered a second-degree felony. Although Texas law doesn't specify a severer punishment after the third DWI offense, the prosecutor isn't going to be as easy to deal with as it was the last time. This means that the defendant is much more likely to serve time in prison due to a 4th offense.
Either way, a fourth-time offender should anticipate stricter penalties and longer sentences of the same punishments usually used for other DWI offenses.
Difference Between a Third Degree Felony and a Second Degree Felony
The difference between these two terms relies on the severity of the punishments. While third-degree felony charges can translate into $5,000 fines and five years in jail, second-degree felony charges translate to fines of $10,000 and 15 years in jail.
However, this is going to depend on the state and whether the prosecutor wants to charge the driver with one or another based on the case's aggravators.
Is a Felony Charge Always Needed?
No, the prosecutor is free to charge the litigant with a misdemeanor if they see it fit. However, after a 4th DWI offense, it is doubtful they would agree to that. The best the litigant can expect is to reduce the charges to a third-degree felony.
Nonetheless, a misdemeanor case is possible with the correct proof and an excellent lawyer.
What Is a Habitual Traffic Offender?
This is a title that's given to people with recurrent and severe traffic violations. In DWI offenses, it could mean revocation of the driver's license, several fines, and even incarceration if they happen to repeat a crime.
Habitual traffic offenders are going to have a hard time getting their driver's license back, but the right lawyer can help them make this easier.
Fourth DWI Conviction Consequences
Even though repeat offenders may face the same penalties as they did for their third offense, the Texas penal code establishes that they are going to encounter much more strict penalties in their fourth DUI. The judge may be much less merciful and isn't going to hesitate to get the litigant behind bars.
Facing a prison sentence is the most feared consequence most repeat offenders have. The minimum time for a fourth DWI in Texas is 16 months in jail. However, this could go up to three years if the prosecutors find any aggravating circumstance in the case.
Complete Driver's License Suspension
After a fourth offense and a third-degree felony charge, the driver's license is likely going to get revoked entirely for at least five years before they have the opportunity to ask for a new one. Moreover, it isn't going to be easy to get a new driver's license, as the habitual traffic offender title may cause some trouble.
In some cases, the only option is to get an ignition interlock device, which works as a portable breathalyzer and isn't going to let them drive if it perceives any amount of alcohol on their breath.
What Is the Difference Between Getting the License Suspended and Revoked?
When a license gets suspended, it is going to be automatically released as soon as the time of the suspension has passed. However, when it gets revoked, it means that the person can't drive for an undetermined amount of time, and when they finally are allowed to do it, they must get a new one.
Several other natural consequences happen when a person becomes a fourth-time offender, which are the following:
Losing the right to vote
Difficulty when finding housing or a job
Some countries may not let them in
Facing rehab and DWI school
Constant alcohol and drug checks
What Is a Penalty Enhancement?
This term refers to adding extra penalties to a case when certain factors line up and make it necessary. A penalty enhancement could be done to a DWI in Texas if it is a repeat offender or if the case has enough aggravates that require stiffer penalties.
The best thing a lawyer can do is negotiate a plea deal where the defendant pleads guilty as long as the charges don't get aggravated.
Fourth DWI Offense Aggravating Factors
Being the fourth offense is an aggravator itself, but most factors that could make a fourth DWI an enhanced felony are the same as those indicated in the Texas penal code for a third offense. The following are:
Refusing to take a breath or blood test
Having passengers of 15 years old or less
Reckless driving or excessive speed
Causing injuries or death
Fourth DWI Offense Procedure & Evidences
Some certain steps and procedures must be done specifically for the felony charge to be valid in court. This is something to consider when creating the defense. Some of them are:
Probable cause, which means that the arresting officer should have enough evidence to stop the car
All field sobriety tests should be done according to law regulations
The breath instruments should be in perfect conditions and correctly calibrated
A blood test must be done in a regulated laboratory
There should be proof that the litigant was driving
Keep in mind the possibility of rising blood alcohol during the time of the arrest
Fighting a Fourth DWI Offense
Only an experienced DWI lawyer in Fort Worth TX can create a good defense that lowers the risk of facing a jail sentence or at least diminishes the consequences of a fourth DWI offense. Therefore, it is a terrible idea to try and defend themselves in court.
Some of the most robust defenses tend to point towards a significant failure in the process during the arrest. The criminal defense lawyer investigates the previously mentioned evidence and finds any loopholes that can save their clients.
Another good defense could be to blame the client's health condition and ask for a reduction of the punishment. This usually ends in mandatory rehab, probation, community service, or house arrest, which is much better than serving jail time. It is also highly possible to be required to attend DUI classes which will be subject to fees.
What Happens After a 5th DWI Offense?
There is no increase in the maximum penalties after the third offense. However, as this is an enhanced felony, the driver should expect a higher sentence than the one they had for their previous DWI charges. Nonetheless, the best thing to do to be entirely sure of the DWI consequences is to find an attorney and ask for a free consultation on a specific case.
What Lawyer Is Best?
It is known that any lawyer is better than no lawyer, but no one wants to put their future in the hands of someone who they don't trust. Therefore it is vital to find an adequate attorney with enough experience and many won cases to ensure the best results at court.
The driver is going to automatically get assigned a public defender if they can't afford a private lawyer. However, this could cost them their liberty, as public defenders tend to be extraordinarily overworked and don't have the time to meet up and do thorough research for each of their cases. This usually ends up in clients accepting a bad deal just because the public defender is hurrying to close the case.
On the other hand, private counsels are the way to go. These law firms are filled with fantastic DUI attorneys who have all the time and resources needed to do a proper investigation and learn all the ins and outs of their client's DWIs.
In addition, the prosecutors tend to respect more private law firms and are more willing to offer good deals to the litigant.
DUIs are a very touchy subject, but it becomes a lot easier with the right lawyers. Sparks Law Firm is the best law firm in Texas and has top-notch professionals who are more than ready to fight for their clients' rights and liberty.
Hopefully, this article sheds some light on the essential aspects that must be considered when facing a fourth DWI and all the steps that must be taken to avoid facing terrible consequences. For other concerns such as how to beat a DUI refusal, they can also help.