When certain aggravating factors are present at the time of a driving while intoxicated (DWI) offense, it increases the severity of the crime. It is important to understand the differences between a standard and aggravated DWI to avoid finding yourself facing higher charges.
Standard vs. Aggravated DWI
A standard DWI occurs when a driver is over the legal limit of 0.08% blood alcohol content (BAC). A first DWI is usually considered a misdemeanor offense.
Typical penalties for a first time DWI conviction include:
- Fines up to $2,000
- Up to 180 days in jail
- License suspension for up to one year
An aggravated DWI occurs when certain circumstances at the time of the DWI elevate the severity of the crime. Aggravated DWI can be charged as a misdemeanor or even a felony.
Next, let’s discuss some of the distinguishing factors.
A DWI charge is upgraded when one or multiple of the following factors are present at the time of the arrest.
A Child In The Car
In Texas, having a child under 15 years old in the car will automatically make your DWI a state jail felony. In this case, you will be sentenced to a minimum of 180 days in jail and given a fine of up to $10,000.
Being Significantly Over The Legal Limit
If the driver is given a breath test and blows over a 0.15% BAC, they will likely be charged with aggravated DWI. This will increase the offense from a Class B to a Class A misdemeanor.
Having An Open Container
Open bottles or cans of alcohol in the vehicle at the time of arrest is an aggravating factor for DWI.
An open container is described as:
- An open-top
- A broken seal on the bottle
- Some liquid removed from the bottle
Even if no one is driving, an open container in a car is a charge in and of itself. The presence of the open container brings a mandatory six-day jail sentence.
Having an open container in the car will ultimately hurt the driver’s defense because it becomes more difficult to argue that the driver was not drinking when there is open alcohol in the same vehicle.
If the arresting officer sees there is a prior DWI conviction on the driver’s record, the driver will likely be charged with an aggravated DWI.
If there are two prior DWI convictions, the third DWI will be considered a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
If someone is injured as a result of an individual driving while intoxicated, the driver will be charged with intoxication assault. This is a felony DWI charge that results in up to 10 years in prison and $10,000 in fines.
The most severe aggravated DWI charge is intoxication manslaughter. This occurs when someone loses their life as a result of the driver’s intoxication. This is a second-degree felony and the driver at fault can spend up to 20 years in prison.
Can An Aggravated DWI Charge Be Reduced?
It is possible to have your aggravated charge reduced to a standard DWI or even reckless driving. Having an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side is crucial if you want to fight aggravated charges.
All DWI cases are considered incredibly serious because of their dangerous nature. Aggravated DWI cases are even more severe, and it is unlikely that prosecutors will “go easy” on people facing aggravated charges.
A criminal defense attorney can help go through your options such as accepting a plea bargain or requesting a trial. You will need someone in your corner to fight this serious charge.
Can Aggravated DWI Be Expunged?
If you are convicted of any DWI offense in Texas, it is ineligible for expungement. This means that the aggravated DWI offense will be on your criminal record forever.
Dallas DWI Lawyers
Facing aggravated DWI charges is scary. Not only are the initial penalties harsh, but so are the long-lasting effects of having a conviction on your record. At Deandra Grant Law, we have over two decades of experience successfully handling DWI cases. Contact us today to get started building your defense.