In the state of Texas, the legal system uses “enhancements” for multiple convictions of certain types of crimes, including DWI. This means that if someone has a second DWI offense in Texas, it is considered a class A misdemeanor rather than at class B, which is the charge for a first offense. With additional arrests for DWI, the severity of the conviction increases. A third arrest would become a felony charge, for example.
However, when someone moves to Texas and has a prior DWI conviction in another state, things can get quite a bit more confusing.
Why Is There Confusion With Out of State Convictions?
Different states have different names and different rules for what constitutes a DWI. In some cases, it is called a DUI, for driving under the influence. In other states, it might be called DWAI, or driving while ability impaired. Since the definition of these laws is not identical across the country, it can change how a conviction from another state will affect the enhancement in Texas.
To use a prior conviction for enhancement, there will generally need to be a “substantial similarity” between the original state’s conviction and that of Texas. The courts will often look for similarities in the intent requirement of the law to see whether they are close enough that they can use it for enhancement purposes.
How Could This Affect You?
Understanding the way that out of state convictions could affect you is simple. If the state of Texas recognizes the conviction in another state, it could increase the level of punishment you are facing. For example, if you have a DWI conviction in another state and Texas recognizes that conviction, it means that the first DWI arrest in Texas would be charged at a higher penalty, the class A misdemeanor mentioned earlier.
However, if they do not recognize the conviction, even though it would technically be your second offense, they will only charge you with a class B misdemeanor. This could mean a much lower fine and fewer potential legal problems. When you have more convictions, if they don’t recognize the ones from out of state, it means that you could possibly avoid time in prison.
If you are in this situation, you will want to learn how Texas deals with prior convictions from your particular state. This is more easily accomplished when you are working with an attorney who specializes in DWI cases. The attorney will be able to let you know how the courts view convictions in other states and how they will affect your case.
In addition, the attorneys can help you to create a defense for your current DWI, so you can hopefully receive a lesser punishment or have the case dismissed. Trying to understand the laws on your own can be very difficult, especially in cases where you have to understand the laws of more than one state. Working with an attorney can simplify things for you greatly.