In Texas, several situations can enhance a DUI conviction and cause the defendant to face additional penalties. When aggravating factors are present, a DUI can become a Class A misdemeanor or a felony offense depending on the circumstances and the defendant’s criminal history.
When a DUI can become a Class A misdemeanor
A first-offense DUI conviction in Texas is normally a Class B misdemeanor that carries a minimum jail sentence of 72 hours and other penalties. However, if the prosecutor can present evidence showing that the defendant had a previous conviction of driving, boating or flying while intoxicated, the second offense will be a Class A misdemeanor, assigning a minimum mandatory 30 days in jail.
When a DUI can become a felony offense
Several aggravating factors can make a DUI a felony offense. If a defendant is convicted of operating a vehicle while intoxicated with a child passenger in the vehicle who is younger than 15 years of age, it is a state felony even for a first offense. A DUI conviction will be a third-degree felony if the prosecutor can show that the defendant has two previous DUI convictions or one prior vehicular manslaughter conviction. It will be a second-degree felony if the person caused serious bodily injuries to emergency responders or a first-degree felony if the person seriously injured a judge or peace officer while he or she was doing his or her job. Finally, a DUI in which someone was killed can be classified as a vehicular homicide case when the person who died was an emergency responder, peace officer or judge who was performing his or her official duties is a first-degree felony.
DUI charges are treated seriously in Texas. When one or more aggravating factors are present, a conviction can result in even harsher penalties. People who are facing drunk driving charges may benefit from meeting with an experienced criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible after they have been charged. An attorney may identify potential defenses and work to negotiate a more favorable outcome on his or her client’s behalf.