Being charged with a felony DWI in Texas can definitely mean jail time if convicted, but could you possibly get probation in lieu of jail time? Many motorists in the Houston metropolitan area ask this question when charged with a felony DWI. Unfortunately, there is no simple or easy answer to it. Here's what you should know about probation and felony DWIs in Harris County, Texas.
Then, if you still have questions and want to move forward with the best defense available to you, contact Board Certified DWI and criminal defense lawyer Doug Murphy for a free initial consultation.
What constitutes a felony DWI in Texas?
In the State of Texas, there are four ways you could find yourself charged with a felony DWI:
- Third or subsequent DWI. The most common felony DWI is when someone already has two prior convictions, and so a third charge becomes a felony.
- DWI with Child Passenger. When a person is pulled over for a traffic stop that becomes a DWI investigation and if that person (1) has a child who is 15 years or younger as a passenger in the vehicle; and (2) is ultimately arrested for a DWI, it will be a DWI with Child Passenger, a state jail felony offense.
- Intoxicated Assault. When a motorist allegedly (1) causes an accident that leads to serious bodily injury to another person; and (2) is also believed to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol, then the offense will likely be Intoxicated Assault, which starts as a third-degree felony but can be enhanced, depending on the circumstances, to a second- or third-degree felony.
- Intoxicated Manslaughter. When a motorist allegedly (1) causes an accident that leads to the death of another person; and (2) is also believed to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol, then the offense will likely be Intoxicated Manslaughter, which is a second-degree felony.
When do Houstonians convicted of DWI get probation?
DWI probation is meant as a means for a person suspected of DWI to receive guidance and rehabilitation via supervision for a certain period of time. It is expected that at the end of probation, the person will return safely to driving without risking his or her life or anyone else's lives. Probation in felony DWI cases may be an option -- it depends on the situation, circumstances, and facts of the case.
You should keep in mind:
- If it is a felony DWI because it is your third DWI charge, the State of Texas loses confidence that it was just a mistake or that you are able to be rehabilitated via probation. The prosecutor may require something more rigorous and strict, like mandatory treatment, classes, or drug court.
- On the other hand, if it is a DWI with a child passenger, then probation may be offered, especially if it is your first DWI.
- Offenses involving a car accident and injuries or death, however, are quite serious, and as such, it is unlikely probation will be offered or given.
Thus, whether or not you are offered probation for a felony DWI as part of a plea deal or as part of your sentencing, it really depends on the facts and what happens in your case.
That said, many people believe that probation is punishment in place of incarceration. It's not. Even if you get probation, you will likely still be sentenced to some time in a state jail or prison.
Is probation the best answer for you and your Harris County DWI charge?
Suspects of felony DWIs want probation because they think they won't get prison time. That's false, as above-mentioned. But worse, if you violate your probation in any way, you could be looking at more prison time than what you originally anticipated.
Probation requires strict adherence to its terms and conditions. It also requires payment of monthly fees. Those fees can be upwards toward $100 a month. So, not only are you looking at the need to obey the terms of probation, but you must also pay a considerable amount each month. All of it adds up, both in terms of money and time. Any violation could mean serious consequences.
For some people, they prefer just to go to prison and do their time. But for other people, they don't want probation or prison; they want their freedom: freedom from bars and freedom from a criminal record. The former affects their immediate quality of life while the latter affects their future quality of life.
After you pay back your debt to society, a felony on your record can still negatively affect your life. For instance, you may not be able to (or will have difficulty to):
- Get or keep a job
- Get or keep security clearance
- Get or keep a professional license (e.g., medical license, nursing license, real estate license, teaching license, CPA license, pilot's license)
- Go to higher education
- Retain joint custody of any children
- Obtain a loan (e.g., mortgage, education, personal)
- Obtain housing
- Use or own a firearm, among many other things.
Many felony DWI suspects choose to fight the charge and forego a plea deal that most often than not is not in their best interests. They want to maintain or improve their lifestyle, not make it worse. So, they find and hire one of Houston's best DWI defense attorneys.
What can a Board Certified DWI & Board Certified criminal defense lawyer do for you and your felony DWI in Houston?
Board certification in the legal field indicates an attorney can ethically and legally call him or herself an expert in a certain practice area. Board certification is not something you get by simply passing a rigorous examination -- even though the latter is part of it. Board certification requires proven experience alongside references or recommendations by other legal professionals in the field, including fellow attorneys and judges.
So, you can pass a board exam with flying colors and possess the requisite experience but unless other professionals can vouch for your skills, you don't get certified. Likewise, your peers can attest to your capabilities but you may lack adequate experience. In either scenario, you will not be awarded certification.
Board certification, therefore, is a key indicator that the attorney you hire has the skills you need for your case, no matter how big or small your case is. If it's your best chance at getting the charges dismissed or getting an acquittal at trial, look for board certification.
In Texas, for persons charged with DWI, you should know there are only two lawyers in the whole state who are Board Certified in both DWI defense by the National College for DUI Defense and criminal law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. This matters. And fortunately for you, Doug Murphy is one of the two, and he is conveniently located in Houston, Texas. He is committed to DWI and criminal defense. In furtherance of this commitment, he often accepts speaking engagements throughout Texas and beyond to inform and instruct other attorneys on the skills and insight he has acquired.
But most importantly, he is dedicated to you: his client. It is his passion to devise a defense strategy that will produce the best possible outcome for you, and the best outcome is neither jail nor probation. Rather, the best possible outcome is dismissal or acquittal. He will hold the State accountable to the principle you are innocent unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. In the meantime, he will put forth a strategy that questions your guilt and/or demonstrates your innocence.
If you have been charged with a felony DWI in Houston, Texas, contact Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C. today.