A recent two-car crash in Harris County demonstrates how tragic car accidents can be. The September 11, 2020, crash near Greenhouse and Morton roads sent four people to the hospital, including two children. Three of the injured were life-flighted to nearby hospitals, and police suspect one of the drivers was intoxicated.
We all know that driving while intoxicated is wrong, but if you're arrested on suspicion of driving while intoxicated (DWI) with injuries to others, don't panic. A tragic accident doesn't mean that an arrest means you will be automatically convicted of DWI, but you should be aware of the possible consequences.
Driving While Intoxicated
A driver is considered intoxicated in Texas if their blood alcohol content (BAC) is .08% or higher. Or, if the driver is impaired by drugs or alcohol, regardless of their BAC. See Tex. Penal Code § 49.01, et seq. (2001). A driver is “impaired” if they don't have normal use of their physical or mental faculties.
While a first DWI offense is a Class B misdemeanor, multiple offenses and aggravating factors increase the penalties. DWI penalties range from confinement in jail for 72 hours to a year and fines up to $10,000, depending on the offense's class. A DWI conviction can also result in the suspension of your license for up to one year. If you are involved in an accident while intoxicated and cause “serious bodily injury” to another person, you could face additional charges, including intoxication assault.
Intoxication assault is a separate offense from DWI, charged when a driver is intoxicated and causes “serious bodily injury” to another person. See Tex. Penal Code § 49.07 (2001). “Serious bodily injury” means an injury that creates a substantial risk of death or that causes serious permanent disfigurement or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ. See id. Intoxication assault is a third-degree felony, punishable by a fine of up to $10,000, a prison sentence of two to 20 years, community service, and a license suspension of up to two years.
Intoxication assault becomes a more serious crime under certain circumstances:
- 2nd Degree Felony:
Intoxication assault becomes a second-degree felony if you cause “serious bodily injury to a firefighter or emergency medical services personnel while in the actual discharge of an official duty.” Tex. Penal Code § 49.09 (b-1)(1). The offense can also become a second-degree felony if the crash causes a traumatic brain injury to another person resulting in a “persistent vegetative state.” This second-degree felony is punishable with fines up to $10,000, a prison sentence of two to 20 years, community service, and a license suspension of up to two years.
- 1st Degree Felony:
Intoxication assault becomes a first-degree felony if you cause “serious bodily injury to a peace officer or judge while the officer or judge was in the actual discharge of an official duty.” Tex. Penal Code § 49.09 (b-1)(2). Penalties for this offense can range from five to 99 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.
If you're facing a DWI or Intoxication Assault charge, it's important to remember that no court has found you guilty yet. You are still innocent until proven guilty, and you have rights. Attorney Doug Murphy is a Board Certified DWI Specialist and Criminal Law and a leader in criminal defense in the Houston area. He can help protect your rights and protect your freedom are during this stressful time. You need the best advice when charged with a DWI in Houston. Contact Doug Murphy online or at 713-229-8333 today to discuss your legal options.