If a “driving while intoxicated” (DWI) accident involves injury, that can result in increased penalties, but what happens if the DWI results in an injury to a police officer? That is the scenario posed by a recent incident in the Sunnyside area of Houston. According to an ABC13 news report, a driver allegedly failed to yield while making a right turn, striking a southbound police cruiser. The officer driving the cruiser was said to have been taken to the hospital for treatment of minor injuries. The police were reportedly investigating the crash as a DWI.
How does an officer's injury impact a DWI charge?
If DWI results in serious bodily injury, that can be charged as an intoxication assault. While that is usually a third-degree felony, if the injured person is a police officer, then it's enhanced to a first-degree felony, with possible penalties of a 5-99 year prison sentence and a fine of up to $10,000.
If the prosecutor alleges that the suspect intentionally injured a police officer, then they could alternatively charge the suspect with assault. Once again, assault is typically a Class A misdemeanor; however, if the victim is a public servant acting in the course of their duties (e.g., police officer at work), then the charge is escalated to a third-degree felony. However, if the charge is for aggravated assault—because of more serious injuries—then we're once more back to a first-degree felony.
Moreover, as of 2017, if there is evidence that the police officer was intentionally targeted, then the assault can also be charged as a hate crime.
When preparing for defense in these cases, counsel must be mindful that the prosecutors may overcharge in cases relating to police as victims. It's essential to address the facts that relate to every element in the statute, such as the severity of the officer's injury.
While any arrest for an injury-related accident is very serious, a charge is not a conviction, and people can, and do, win a DWI defense. And while people are entitled to the same quality of vigorous defense, regardless of who is involved in the case, the reality is that having a DWI Specialist for the defense attorney is even more crucial if there is a police officer involved as a victim. It will be important to mount an aggressive defense to combat aggressive prosecution.
Houston attorney Doug Murphy is one of only two attorneys in the state of Texas who is Board Certified in both Criminal Law and DWI Defense. With an AV Rating of “Preeminent,” Murphy is a national expert on DWI litigation, and, year-after-year, he is cited as a Texas Super Lawyer and one of US News & World Report's Best Lawyers in America. Murphy currently serves as the Dean of the National College for DUI Defense conducted at Harvard Law School. He served two terms on the board of directors and as co-chair of the DWI Committee with the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association.
If you are facing charges involving an injury-related DWI accident in Texas, contact Doug Murphy’s office today.