The consequences for a DWI-involved accident can be severe. But if the DWI in question is your third DWI arrest, you are facing felony charges with a potential prison sentence. If that isn't enough, you could face additional penalties if a person is injured or killed due to an accident you caused while you were intoxicated.
Driving While Intoxicated in Texas
The Texas Penal Code makes it illegal to operate a motor vehicle while you are intoxicated. Under Texas law, intoxication is defined as:
- Having a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) above the legal limit; or
- Lacking the normal use of mental or physical faculties from consuming drugs or alcohol.
This dual definition of intoxication gives prosecutors two separate potential theories for a DWI charge. This allows them to charge a DWI even when there is no BAC result above the legal limit. This is especially useful in cases where drugs or a combination of drugs and alcohol are suspected to be the cause of the intoxication.
Third DWI in Harris County, Texas
While your first and second DWIs were likely misdemeanors, a third DWI in Texas is classified as a felony. A conviction for a third DWI can have stiff criminal and administrative consequences.
Criminal Consequences of a Texas Third DWI Conviction
Because a third DWI is a third-degree felony, you can expect a much harsher sentence than for previous misdemeanor convictions. You are far less likely to receive leniency for a third offense, as courts will view your repeated arrests as indifference to the risks of drunken driving.
Each conviction carries a prison term of no less than two and no more than 10 years. While some of that term may be suspended, you will be required to spend at least 10 days in jail pursuant to any plea bargain. You may also be assessed a fine of up to $10,000. In addition, you could be required to pay all court costs and counseling fees associated with your case.
Administrative Penalties for a Texas Third DWI Arrest
Like other DWI charges, there are administrative penalties on top of criminal consequences. These administrative penalties can lead to you losing your ability to drive for months or even years.
At the time of the arrest, your driver's license will be confiscated. You will be given a temporary paper license that allows you to drive while you take the steps to request a hearing on your license. You will face a driver's license suspension of up to 2 years for each conviction of a 3rd-degree DWI. The consequences don't go away when your suspension is up. The court may require that you keep an interlock device and submit to testing for years after you get your license back. For each year you are monitored after your suspension, you will have to pay $2,000 to the State of Texas to help cover the costs.
Third DWI Involving an Accident in Houston TX
The consequences described above can be compounded greatly if you cause an accident while driving under the influence. There are a number of other criminal charges that can be added to your DWI case if you injured a person or damaged any property while driving drunk.
Third DWI Causing Property Damage in Houston TX
You could be charged with reckless damage or criminal mischief if, during the course of the accident, you damaged the real or personal property of another person. These charges include reckless damage and criminal mischief.
Under Texas law, the reckless damage is the act of recklessly damaging or destroying property belonging to another person without their consent. A prosecutor would have to prove to a jury that when you chose to drive under the influence you did so knowing the risks and consciously disregarded them. Reckless damage is a Class C misdemeanor. It carries no jail time and a maximum fine of $500.
Criminal mischief is “intentionally or knowingly damaging or destroying tangible property” belong to another without their consent. Intentionally means the end result was your conscious objective. "Knowingly" means the damage occurred while you were aware of what you were doing and were “reasonably certain” of the results.
Criminal mischief can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony in Texas. A felony charge is typically reserved for cases with large amounts of damage or defendants with a criminal record. If this is your third DWI, there is a good chance a criminal mischief charge stemming from a DWI-related accident would be charged as a felony.
Third DWI Causing Bodily Harm in Harris County TX
Did another person get injured in your DWI-related accident? If so, you could be charged with a second felony: intoxication assault. Intoxication assault charges are not warranted in every case involving injury; only in cases that involve “serious bodily injury.” Serious bodily injury is defined as injuries that:
- Create a substantial risk of death
- Cause permanent disfigurement, or
- Cause the loss or impairment of a bodily member or organ.
In Texas, a charge of intoxication assault is a third-degree felony. If convicted, you could face a prison term between two and 10 years. A conviction also carries a maximum fine of $10,000. With a record that includes two prior DWIs, you can expect prosecutors to seek the maximum penalties available.
DWI Accident Causing Death in Harris County TX
If your third DWI lead to an accident that caused the death of another person, you could be charged with intoxication manslaughter. It doesn't matter how the deceased was involved in the accident; you can be charged in the death of a driver of another car, a pedestrian, or even your own passenger. Intoxication manslaughter is charged as a second-degree felony in Texas, and carries a prison sentence between two and 20 years in prison. Additionally, it carries a maximum fine of $10,000. With two prior DWI convictions, prosecutors would likely seek the maximum sentence for an intoxication manslaughter charge.
Aggressive, Smart, Board Certified DWI Defense in Houston TX
If you have been charged with a DWI in the Houston area, Doug Murphy is ready to be your advocate. One of only two Board Certified experts in both criminal defense law and DWI defense law, Doug Murphy has the experience needed to assist you in developing a strong defense. Contact the Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C. today for a free consultation.