Police have cleared two bars in Houston of wrongdoing related to a fatal accident involving a driver who was driving while intoxicated (DWI). While the driver is facing felony DWI charges including intoxication manslaughter and intoxication assault, no charges have been filed under the state's dram shop laws.
Fatal DWI Crash in Houston
The situation all began on March 1, 2019. According to reports, the driver of a Dodge pickup truck ran into the back of a Mazda pickup truck stopped at a red light at the intersection of Galveston Road and Pineloch Drive in Houston. The crash pushed the Mazda pickup truck into another car, a Lyft vehicle.
The backseat passenger in the Lyft vehicle was killed in the crash, while the Lyft driver was critically injured.
The driver of the Dodge pickup truck was found to have a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .216. He was arrested for DWI and charged with intoxication manslaughter for the Lyft passenger killed in the crash. He was also charged with intoxication assault for the injured Lyft driver, though the penalties on that charge could be identical to the manslaughter charge because the Lyft driver is still in a coma.
Criminal Charges Under Texas' Dram Shop Laws
Texas has a dram shop law, contained in Alcoholic Beverage Code § 2.02. Dram shop laws like these hold bars and other businesses accountable for injuries suffered because of someone else's intoxication when that bar served them too much alcohol.
Typically, though, dram shop laws are reserved for personal injury or wrongful death claims – civil lawsuits – brought by the victims of the DWIs against the bars that served the driver who caused the accident. In Texas, though, prosecutors and law enforcement have been using dram shop laws to criminally charge bar owners and bartenders for over-serving people that appear to be intoxicated. Serving alcohol to “a habitual drunkard or an intoxicated or insane person” is a violation of Alcoholic Beverage Code § 101.63 – a misdemeanor that carries up to a year in jail and a fine of between $500 and $1,000.
No Charges for Two Bars Suspected of Over-Serving
That was why police pursued two bars in the area near the fatal accident with the Lyft vehicle. However, investigations into those bars – Bombshells and Studio 80 – found no evidence that either establishment served the driver involved in the crash that night: His ID was not scanned, his credit card was not used, and surveillance video from both places did not record the driver on the premises that night.
Undeterred, police have expanded their investigation into two other bars in the area.
Houston Board Certified DWI Defense Lawyer Doug Murphy
If you have been arrested and charged with DWI, especially a felony DWI offense, you need legal representation to defend against the allegations. They are serious and can alter the course of your future.