Texas Third DWI Charges Raise the Stakes
Under any circumstance, a conviction on a Texas driving while intoxicated (DWI) charge is a serious matter. Even a first-time offender risks jail, fines, and loss of driving privileges. But the consequences become far more severe on conviction of a third DWI. A third DWI conviction is a felony crime under Texas law. Felony convictions can lead to extended prison time. A host of serious collateral consequences like loss of child custody, loss of a business or professional license, and loss of a career can follow you for the rest of your life.
Retain a Premier Texas DWI Specialist Defense
The good news is that defendants do prevail against third-offense DWI charges. And the best thing you can do to prevail is to retain the best available DWI Specialist attorney. Hiring the right Houston DWI Specialist attorney can mean the difference between going to prison or remaining free. Houston DWI attorney Doug Murphy has had years of successful results defending his clients at trial in Harris County and surrounding area county courtrooms. Call (713) 229-8333 or go online now to retain Houston's premier Texas DWI Specialist attorney Doug Murphy for the best possible outcome to your third-offense DWI charge.
What Is a Texas Third-Offense DWI?
Texas law leaves little ambiguity about a third-offense DWI. If you have already suffered two DWI convictions in Texas or elsewhere, Texas law raises a third DWI conviction to a felony offense. Texas Penal Code Section 49.09(b) provides that a DWI offense becomes "a felony of the third degree if it is shown on the trial of the offense that the person has previously been convicted … two times of any other offense relating to the operating of a motor vehicle while intoxicated, operating an aircraft while intoxicated, operating a watercraft while intoxicated, or operating or assembling an amusement ride while intoxicated."
Texas Has No Look-Back Limitation for a Third-Offense DWI
Some states have what lawyers call a "look back" period where a prior DWI conviction will only count toward a third-offense DWI if the prior offense happened relatively recently. Texas has no look-back limitation. If prosecutors convicted you of two prior DWIs, no matter how long ago, your third DWI conviction will be a felony despite the long time between convictions.
Punishment for a Texas Third-Offense DWI
The penalties for a third-offense DWI are of the same nature as misdemeanor convictions but far more severe. On a third-offense felony DWI charge, you will be at risk for prison time rather than a stint in the county jail. Prison generally means a sentence of more than one year. Prison also means serving time in a different location other than the local county jail, among inmates convicted of more serious crimes. Other penalties beyond prison time are also harsher than if prosecutors had convicted you of a misdemeanor.
Prison Time for a Texas Third-Offense DWI
Texas law has five degrees of felony, each more severe in punishment: state jail felonies; third-degree felonies; second-degree felonies; first-degree felonies; and capital felonies. Texas Penal Code Section 49.09(b) makes a third-offense DWI a third-degree felony, one of the lower felony offense levels. While first-time offenders are often treated with leniency and a level of understanding, the severe penalties for a third-degree felony reflect how seriously Texas lawmakers take repeat DWI offenses. Texas Penal Code Section 12.34 makes a third-degree felony punishable by imprisonment "of not more than 10 years or less than 2 years."
Probating Prison Time for a Texas Third-Offense Texas DWI
The minimum of two years can be misleading, as it is possible for the court to probate the majority of that sentence. Probation means that if you comply with a program of supervised release and stay out of trouble, you will be able to avoid serving most of that sentence. Ultimately, the sentence is up to the judge in your case. Note, though, that even with a plea bargain probating the sentence, you must still serve a minimum of ten days in jail as part of any plea deal. The judge cannot waive or probate this minimum ten-day sentence. The court may, on the other hand, credit you for time served at your arrest.
If you qualify for probation, the prosecutor must offer it to you as part of a plea bargain. Any plea bargain will also require approval from the judge in your case. To complete probation, you may be required to complete up to 600 hours of community service, attend substance abuse counseling or classes, and take part in DWI intervention programs.
Fines for a Texas Third-Offense DWI
In addition to jail time, you may also face stiff fines upon your conviction of a third-offense DWI. Texas Penal Code Section 12.34 makes a third-degree felony punishable not just by imprisonment of two to ten years but also by a fine of up to $10,000. While the maximum fine in your third-offense DWI case is up to $10,000, the judge is not required to fine you the full amount. But also note that the $10,000 figure or lower fine the judge imposes is only for the fine itself. You may also have to pay court costs, counseling fees, interlock-device costs, and other expenses. The total monetary costs of a third-offense DWI conviction can be staggering.
Driver's License Suspension for a Texas Third-Offense DWI
If convicted of a Texas third-offense DWI, you can count on suspension of your driving privileges. Like with jail sentences, the administrative penalties for a DWI increase with each additional conviction. A first-offense DWI may result in a six-month license suspension or less, depending on the circumstances. A second-offense DWI may result in a license suspension of around one year, again depending on the circumstances. A conviction for a third-offense DWI, though, can lead to a two-year suspension of your driver's license.
To get your license back, the court will likely require that you install an ignition interlock device (IID). An IID is a device installed in your vehicle that requires you to blow into it before your vehicle can start. If the IID detects any alcohol on your breath, the vehicle will not be able to start. A license suspension is also costly. You will face fees in order to have your license reinstated, as well as a licensing fee surcharge of $2,000 per year for three years. Don't overlook at your DWI arrest that you and your retained DWI Specialist may invoke an Administrative License Revocation (ALR) hearing to preserve your driving privileges while your DWI charges are pending.
Additional Consequences for a Texas Third-Offense DWI
With a conviction for your third DWI, you will face additional collateral consequences other than the above formal punishments the Texas Penal Code lists. These collateral consequences can affect everything from your ability to get a job to your right to own a firearm. Collateral consequences can, especially if not properly managed, cause more harm than formal criminal punishments. Some of these consequences can include:
- loss of child custody. A family court in a divorce, paternity, or other child custody proceeding may construe a felony DWI charge or conviction as a risk to children and restrict or deny child custody accordingly;
- job loss. An employer may construe a felony DWI charge or conviction as an indication of unfitness for employment, especially if that employment requires driving;
- loss of professional licenses such as for medicine, nursing, teaching, or pharmacy practice, among many other licensed professions;
- difficulty finding housing, especially rental housing, if the property owner or manager construes a felony DWI charge as an indication of financial, safety, and security risks;
- losing your right to vote. Texas law prohibits those convicted of felony crimes from voting until having completed their sentence;
- loss of your firearms license. Under Texas Penal Code Section 46.04, a person convicted of a felony must generally wait for five years after completing the felony sentence before regaining a firearms license;
- loss of government benefits. Federal, state, and local government benefits programs, whether for food, housing, supplemental income, or other goods and services, may bar individuals convicted of a felony from access to those benefits; and
- negative impact on your reputation. Don't underestimate the impact of reputational harm from a felony DWI charge or conviction. You may depend on your good reputation for important mentor relationships, volunteer opportunities, and scholarships, honors, and awards.
Fighting a Texas Third-Offense DWI Charge
The potential punishment for and collateral consequences of a Texas third-offense DWI are plainly severe. Life as a convicted felon can be difficult. Many individuals charged with a third-offense DWI thus have little practical choice other than to fight the charge in court. After all, if the court acquits you of the third-offense DWI charge, you won't face the punishments and collateral consequences of a felony conviction. It is possible to successfully defend a Houston-area third-offense DWI case. Defendants facing Texas third-offense DWI charges have beaten the charge.
DWI Specialist Attorney Certification
Beating a Texas third-offense DWI charge begins with hiring the best available DWI Specialist attorney. The National College for DUI Defense board certifies DWI Specialists. The National College is the only DUI defense certifying body the American Bar Association (ABA) recognizes. Texas recognizes board certifications following ABA approval. Board certification as a DWI Specialist requires an elaborate application, thirty-six hours of relevant continuing legal education within a limited time before certification, and passing the challenging certifying exam. Relatively few lawyers seek DWI Specialist certification because of the special knowledge and skills candidates must possess. DWI Specialist certification proves not only the knowledge and skills but also the candidate's dedication to the field.
Hiring the Best Houston DWI Specialist Attorney
Attorney Doug Murphy is Houston's best DWI Specialist attorney for you, especially if you are the kind of person who needs and wants to fight a felony third-offense DWI charge. Doug Murphy is an experienced trial attorney whom other attorneys throughout the United States seek to teach effective DWI defense strategies. Doug Murphy prepares every case as though it will end in a jury trial. Doug Murphy is not only a DWI Specialist but also Board Certified in criminal defense law. In fact, Doug Murphy is one of only two attorneys in Texas who can claim that distinction. Doug Murphy understands how a conviction for a third-offense DWI can affect your life and is ready to help you build the strongest defense possible.
Raising Defenses to Texas Third-Offense DWI Charges
Preparing every case as if it will go to trial is the key to the best possible defense. Even if your case will likely resolve by plea bargain, often the way to get the best plea bargain is often to prepare the most-aggressive defense. Some of the defenses DWI Specialist attorney Doug Murphy may investigate, raise, and advocate for your defense of Texas third-offense DWI charges include:
- that the police had no reasonable suspicion of a crime, to require you to stop your vehicle;
- that the police had no probable cause to test you for intoxication after your stop;
- that you were not operating the vehicle at the time of your DWI arrest as the law requires for the DWI charge;
- that your operation of the vehicle was not in a public place as the law requires to support the DWI charge;
- that your blood test results do not show an alcohol level exceeding the legal limit;
- that police made no other reliable observation indicating that you were intoxicated when arrested;
- that the police violated your constitutional rights, such that the court should suppress the incriminating evidence;
- that the police may not have properly calibrated their testing equipment, leaving the test results inadmissible or unreliable; and
- that the police and prosecution may not have maintained a reliable chain of custody for the allegedly incriminating evidence.
Pursuing Every Strategy to Defeat Texas Third-Offense DWI Charges
While raising specific defenses to a felony third-offense DWI charge may prove to be the winning move, strategies surrounding the contested elements of the alleged felony DWI crime can be just as important to a successful felony defense. Some of the strategies that DWI Specialist attorney Doug Murphy may pursue for your best outcome include:
- to negotiate reasonable bail terms so that you can get out of jail and remain out of jail to care for your family, work, care for yourself, and lead a normal life while working with attorney Murphy to aid in your DWI defense;
- enter the necessary not-guilty plea at your arraignment so as to preserve all of your procedural and constitutional rights to a fair proceeding, including an effective defense;
- move for early dismissal of the felony DWI charge if the preliminary examination shows that the prosecution lacks admissible evidence on each element of the felony DWI charge;
- invoke an Administrative License Revocation (ALR) hearing to preserve your driver's license so that you can care for your family, work, and participate effectively in your felony DWI defense;
- plea bargain with the prosecutor for voluntary dismissal or charge reduction to your best advantage, based on thorough preparation of your defense, including mitigating evidence;
- draft, file, and argue motions to suppress evidence for each violation of your constitutional rights to prevent the prosecution from presenting incriminating evidence gained by violating your rights;
- retain expert toxicology witnesses to help challenge at trial any incriminating field sobriety, breathalyzer, and blood test results, based on the latest science;
- retain and call other expert witnesses and identify and call lay witnesses making observations helpful to your defense;
- prepare and execute thorough cross-examination of all prosecution witnesses at trial, showing reasonable doubt in the truthfulness and accuracy of their testimony;
- move for and obtain dismissal of the prosecution's case at trial for lack of proof on any of the elements of the felony DWI charge;
- draft, file, and argue post-trial motions and appeals challenging all errors and irregularities in the proceedings while showing how they affected the outcome; and
- when prevailing in defense of the felony DWI charges, help you pursue your right to the expunction of arrest records to keep your record clear of any indication of criminal wrongdoing.
Premier Texas DWI Specialist for Felony DWI Defense
Premier Houston DWI Specialist Attorney Doug Murphy knows what you face with felony third-offense DWI charges. Attorney Murphy is available for your skilled, experienced, and aggressive defense of felony third-offense DWI charges. Attorney Murphy is so widely recognized as a DWI expert that lawyers and judges invite him to lecture nationwide on DWI defense. Attorney Murphy is also one of only two Texas attorneys Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and in DWI Defense by the ABA-recognized National College for DUI Defense. Houston area lawyers voted attorney Murphy the 2021 and 2023 Best Lawyers in America Houston Lawyer of the Year for DWI Defense. Call (713) 229-8333 or go online now for the best available felony DWI defense representation.