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  • Writer's pictureJustin Sparks

What Is a Felony DUI, And Why Does It Matter?

A misdemeanor is a crime that is less serious than a felony. The misdemeanor is usually punishable by up to one year in county jail or another slight penalty. A felony, on the other hand, is typically punishable by up to five years or more in state prison.

Furthermore, a felony DUI charge under California law generally refers to operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs and with an alcohol blood concentration (BAC) of .08 percent or higher.

The penalties for a felony DUI conviction are much steeper than for a misdemeanor DUI conviction. Although, other factors can make their DUI charge a felony instead of a misdemeanor.

Overall, the driver can read on to learn more about what makes a driver's DUI charge either a misdemeanor or a felony. Included are suggestions for lowering the chances of being charged with a felony DUI rather than a minor DUI.

There are also several ways to reduce their exposure to the risk of felony DUI convictions.

Can Operating a Vehicle While Intoxicated Be a Misdemeanor?

Someone operating a vehicle while driving under the influence can be a misdemeanor. However, the severity of the charge will depend on several factors, including the blood alcohol content (BAC) of the driver, the driver's criminal history, and the circumstances surrounding the incident that led to the initial traffic stop.

If the driver's BAC is less than 0.08 percent, the driver will likely get accused of "driving while intoxicated" (DWI) rather than DUI. A DWI is a mere civil infraction, carrying only a small fine. Even if a driver's BAC is over 0.08 percent, they may still receive a DWI charge if there are no aggravating factors since it can come to intoxication assault.

Reduce Risk Of Felony Charges

Tips for Reducing the Risk of Committing Felony Charges

Here are some tips for drivers to reduce the risk of committing a felony DUI:

  • The person shouldn't drive under the influence of alcohol.

  • A responsible driver should keep the car keys away from friends who have been drinking.

  • They can be a designated driver, especially if they are at an alcohol-serving party.

  • If a driver is pulled over for a suspected DUI, they must be respectful and cooperative. They may seek legal counsel if they are facing a felony DUI charge.

What Constitutes a Third-degree Felony DUI in Texas?

The exact circumstances that constitute a felony DUI in Texas vary from one county to another. However, two scenarios exist where drivers can be charged with a felony even though their BAC does not exceed the 0.08 percent legal limit.

  • Aggravated BAC over 0.15 percent - if a driver gets charged with aggravated BAC, they will also get penalized with "endangering a child" and driving while intoxicated. If the police detect that a driver has a BAC of at least 0.15 percent, this has sufficient grounds for a felony charge.

  • Aggravated DWI - when a driver has a BAC of at least 0.15 percent and gets convicted of DWI within the past ten years, the driver can get charged with a felony. Besides aggravated DWI, there is also aggravated DUIs.

Penalties for a Conviction of a Texas Felony DUI

A conviction for felony DUI in Texas can result in the following penalties:

  • The driver could take up to 10 years in prison.

  • They can receive up to $10,000 in fines.

  • The driver may get a suspension on their driver's license for up to two years.

  • The mandatory ignition interlock device prevents the vehicle from being started if the driver has drunk.

  • A conviction for a felony DUI can also result in a criminal record that will stay with them for the rest of their life.

  • It can make it challenging to find a job, get a job promotion, buy or lease a home, or secure a loan.

  • May result in losing their right to vote or serve on a jury.

  • Felony convictions usually require an individual to complete a state-approved "aftercare" program in person or online.

  • This conviction can result in more severe penalties if convicted of multiple DUIs.

  • It may increase the money they need to obtain an insurance policy.

Charging Options for Felony DUIs

Law enforcement officials will likely charge a driver with a felony DUI if their BAC exceeds 0.15 percent. A driver sometimes gets accused of a "super drunk" offense in such cases, which might result in a felony conviction.

If a driver gets charged with a felony DUI, the arresting police officer will typically recommend what should bring criminal charges against the driver. The prosecutor will consider this recommendation and decide whether or not to pursue charges and what type to file.

Felony-level DWI Offenses and Penalties in Texas

There are several ways for a driver to get charged with a felony-level DWI:

  • If they were driving and seriously injured or killed someone, they could get charged with a felony DWI.

  • While a person was driving while intoxicated and involved in a car crash or other incident that caused a large amount of property damage, they can get accused of a felony-level DWI.

  • When they were driving while intoxicated and on probation for another felony-level conduct, they might face felony DUI charges.

Is a DUI a Felony?

A felony is a crime punishable by more than one year as a state jail felony. However, even a misdemeanor DUI can carry severe penalties, including fines, jail time, a suspended driver's license, mandatory completion of a DWI education course, and an alcohol treatment program.

If they have prior DUI offenses, the current DUI penalties will be more severe, and they may face felony charges.

Misdemeanor and Felony DUI Penalties

In Texas, a DUI is considered a misdemeanor if it's a first offense and the driver's blood alcohol content (BAC) is below .15. If their BAC is .15 or above, or if they have a prior DUI on their record, their DUI will be considered a felony. When driving, it is always best to know your rights at a DUI checkpoint.

The penalties for misdemeanor offenses in Texas include the following:

  • $2,000 fine.

  • 180 days in jail.

  • Driver's license suspension.

The penalties for a felony DUI in Texas are much more severe and can include the following:

  • a fine of up to $10,000,

  • up to 2 years in prison,

  • and a driver's license suspension of up to 2 years.

If you are convicted of a felony DUI in Texas, you will also be required to install an ignition interlock device on your vehicle.

Factors Can Make A DUI A Felony

Aggravating Factors Can Make a DUI a Felony

When drivers get charged with a felony-level DWI, they should speak with a criminal defense attorney at a Tarrant County DWI law firm as soon as possible. An experienced attorney can help drivers understand their situation and charges and the best way to proceed.

Certain factors can make a DUI a felony:

  • A driver may get felony charges if they get accused of another DUI after having one previously.

  • If a driver has a child under 16 in the car while being arrested for a DUI.

  • If a person is driving with a suspended or revoked driver's license when arrested for a DUI.

  • Blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.15 or higher.


A felony DUI conviction will stay with a person for the rest of their life, remain on criminal record, and result in significantly higher insurance rates.

On the other hand, a misdemeanor DUI conviction is something they can overcome, and it will not affect them as a felony DUI will.

The driver should remember that the best way to avoid a felony conviction is to refrain from driving after consuming alcohol. They can call a taxi or use an app for ride-share service if they need transportation.


Here are some frequently asked questions regarding felony DUI and DWI in other states.

What Is a Felony DWI in Texas?

In Texas, a person is guilty of a misdemeanor conviction of DWI or "Driving While Intoxicated" if their blood alcohol concentration is above 0.15.

A blood alcohol concentration above 0.15 is considered a "per se" DWI, which means that it is provable by the fact that the driver's BAC is at or above 0.15 without needing to present any other evidence. The Texas felony offense DWI is punishable by two to 10 years in prison and a fine of $10,000.

What Is the Texas Alcohol Limit for Driving?

The State of Texas can verify a person was driving while drunk by demonstrating that they were operating an automobile with a blood alcohol level (BAC) of .08 or higher. The concentration of alcohol assessed will be different depending on whether a sample is blood, breath, or urine. The Texas Penal Code depicts alcohol concentration as the number of alcohol grams per:

  • 100 milliliters of blood;

  • 210 liters of breath;

  • 67 milliliters of urine.

They will be charged with DWI if their BAC test results are in .08 or above while being arrested for DWI.

Can a First DWI in Texas Also Be a Felony?

Normally, no. While a first-time DWI gets punished as a misdemeanor, there still are three scenarios in which a first DWI arrest could result in felony charges.

Under Texas law, intoxicated assault is a third-degree felony. The first possibility is that someone inflicts non-fatal harm in an accident when driving under the influence. They may be prosecuted for intoxication assault if the driver is seriously hurt or permanently injured due to their intoxicated driving.

The second potential is that a driver murders someone while driving drunk. If the incident they caused while drunk driving results in the death of another person, they will be prosecuted with intoxication manslaughter, a second-degree crime.

Their third option is that someone drives drunk while carrying a child. If a passenger in the car is under the age of 15, the driver will be charged with a state jail charge for driving under alcohol with a kid passenger.

When Someone in Texas Gets a DWI, How Long Does That Stay on Their Record?

Previous DWI convictions are fundamental. They can mean the difference between avoiding prison and receiving a prison sentence. In many places, not every DWI criminal offense gets treated equally.

These states use a "look-back period," which is a period after which any DWI charges are not taken into account when law enforcement decides what to charge someone. Arkansas, for example, has a five-year look-back time.

This implies that, even though they have a dozen DWI offenses on their record, as long as they are at a minimum of five years old, they will be prosecuted with a first-time DWI.


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