A famous actor has been charged with driving while intoxicated (DWI) after crashing his car into a utility pole. The news is all over the tabloids and contains an interesting detail that may confuse lots of people in Houston, Texas: He faces multiple charges for a single incident.
DWI defense lawyer Doug Murphy explains how this can happen.
Actor Crashes Car, Charged With DWI
The actor is Michael Madsen, most famous for his roles in Quentin Tarantino movies, like his portrayal of Budd in the Kill Bill movies and Mr. Blonde in Reservoir Dogs.
The incident took place in California, when, back on March 24, Mr. Madsen crashed his Land Rover into a pole in Malibu. No one was hurt in the crash, and Mr. Madsen's vehicle was the only one involved. Police apparently conducted a test for his blood alcohol content (BAC) and found him over the legal limit.
On April 24, the district attorney's office in Los Angeles County announced that they were charging him for two counts of DWI, each of which to be enhanced by Mr. Madsen's earlier DWI conviction.
The decision to pursue multiple DWI charges came as a surprise to anyone reading the story outside California.
How There Can Be Multiple Charges for a Single DWI Incident
California's prosecutors have adopted a strange way of pursuing DWI charges, thanks in part to how the DWI statute in the state is written.
The DWI statute in California is Vehicle Code Section 23152. However, this statute is divided into two subsections. One of those subsections prohibits driving a vehicle while “under the influence of any alcoholic beverage.” The other prohibits people who have a BAC of 0.08% or more from driving a vehicle.
Prosecutors in California have adopted the practice of filing charges under both of those subsections. Doing so allows them to continue with a case even if BAC evidence gets excluded from the trial because it was obtained in violation of a suspect's rights. Rather than losing the whole case, they can still pursue the charge filed under the subjective standard – the one that prohibits driving while “under the influence” – and rely on officer testimony rather than the results of the BAC test.
Multiple Charges Do Not Happen in Texas
In Texas, prosecutors cannot file multiple DWI charges for one incident because there are not separate sections that prohibit driving while intoxicated and driving with a high BAC. Instead, Texas Penal Code § 49.04 prohibits driving while being “intoxicated,” and relies on the definition of “intoxicated” in § 49.01 to describe what that means.
Houston DWI Defense Lawyer Doug Murphy
Doug Murphy is a DWI defense lawyer serving the accused in Houston. Whether the evidence against you is officer testimony that you were “under the influence” or a BAC test that said you were over the legal limit, he can challenge the evidence and fight for your rights in court.
Contact him online or call his Houston law office at (713) 229-8333 for the legal representation you need at this difficult time.
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