The state of Texas takes driving while intoxicated seriously. While there are programs available designed to prevent a first DWI from becoming a repeat offense, the government does crack down hard on second and third offenses.
In Texas, you may be charged with a DWI when you have a blood or breath alcohol concentration of .08 or higher – or if you are impaired by the use of alcohol or other substances. You don’t need to look or feel drunk to be over the legal limit.
Are you facing a DWI in Texas, 3rd offense? Here’s what you need to know as you prepare your defense.
What Are the Penalties for a DWI in Texas, 3rd Offense?
DWIs in Texas are a misdemeanor offense until you reach the third offense.
Once you have two convictions, a 3rd DWI in Texas is immediately a third-degree felony conviction. Felony convictions come with much steeper punishments, including more state jail time and steeper fines.
The punishment for a 3rd DWI in Texas is:
- Fine of up to $10,00
- Two to ten years in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice
- License suspension from 180 days to 2 years
These are the punishments if your record solely contains two previous DWI convictions.
If you are on your third DWI and you have a prior state prison sentence, then the state can charge you with a second-degree felony and jail time of two to 20 years.
The charges grow again with two prior felony convictions. Then, you face Enhanced Felony punishment with 25 years to life in state jail.
Unfortunately, the right combination of a series of DWIs with other convictions can see you sent to jail for the rest of your life.
What if It’s Been Decades Since Your Last DWI Conviction?
In some states, you get leniency if your past DWIs were far in the distant past. Texas doesn’t offer that leniency to DWI charges.
Texas counts all your DWIs when deciding whether to use felony charges. So it doesn’t matter if you got two DWIs 20 or 30 years ago; a third offense after a few decades is still a felony offense.
How Much Time Do You Spend in Jail?
A third DWI in Texas comes with two years in the state jail sentence. However, sentencing law isn’t as black-and-white as the statute.
If tried and convinced of a third DWI, your full sentence may vary. Some of the ways sentences become shorter include:
- Suspended sentences
- Credits for good behavior
- Jail-alternative work programs
Usually, it is smart to be careful and well behaved from the moment of your arrest, and then let legal counsel do all the talking.
Are There Additional Consequences After a 3rd DWI in Texas?
It’s common to focus on the jail time and fines associated with a 3rd DWI in Texas. But in reality, it’s more important to focus on the charge and conviction itself.
Once you become a felon in Texas, you face a long list of additional consequences, even after you pay your fines and finish your sentence.
Many people with felony convictions face issues like:
- Loss of employment
- Difficulty finding new employment
- Issues finding housing
- Rejection from some government benefits
- Loss of a right to vote
- Damage to their reputation
In many professions, you can lose your right to practice or hold a license.
There are other personal consequences. For example, you will drive with an ignition interlock device. The court may also tell you to stop drinking alcohol or using controlled substances and need to face random testing to prove compliance.
Starting over after a felony conviction isn’t easy. The best way to avoid this life is to fight the charges in court.
Can You Avoid a DWI Felony Conviction?
Fighting a felony conviction isn’t easy, but it is possible. It is also worthwhile because DWI cases aren’t always as open-and-shut as the state makes them look.
When you face a DWI felony conviction, the state must first prove that you have two previous DWI convictions. If you received those convictions outside the state of Texas, then you may be able to argue based on the other states’ definition of a DUI. Different DUI requirements in another state may not translate into Texas law.
Additionally, you can fight a DWI felony conviction based on the same evidence collected for your first two DWI convictions. A DWI attorney may look for issues with:
- The field sobriety test
- Mistakes made in providing the test
- Errors in urine or blood tests
- Loss of chain of custody in providing tests
- Inconsistencies in the police report
- Reasons for interacting with the driver in the first place (no probable cause)
If an attorney can find inconsistencies or violations in the police work, then they can usually work these into a defense.
Regardless, the bias associated with third DWI charges needs to be taken seriously. It is crucial to retain legal counsel as soon as possible to avoid missing any opportunities for lower charges or to see the case dismissed.
Are You Facing a 3rd DWI in Texas?
The state of Texas takes DWIs very seriously. Every DWI conviction counts towards your record. Once you reach your third DWI, you face felony charges that make life very challenging.
The best way to avoid a DWI conviction is to never get behind the wheel of a vehicle while under the influence. However, it’s important to remember that you have the right to a fair trial and a defense – no matter what your history is.
Are you looking for a felony DWI defense in Austin? Get in touch to learn what options are available to you.