A serious car crash in Houston could have been caused by driving while intoxicated (DWI). The case, however, highlights how unfair Texas' laws of intoxication assault and intoxication manslaughter can be.
Child in Serious Condition After Suspected DWI Crash
The crash happened just before midnight on Thursday, April 11.
According to the initial reports, an SUV with two children in the vehicle – one aged 12, the other 3 – slowed down on Highway 249 near Beltway 8. A trailing car with two young women in their 20s slammed into the back of the SUV.
The 12-year-old, who was in the front seat and was not wearing a seatbelt, was rushed to the hospital in serious condition.
Police said that the driver of the trailing vehicle showed signs of intoxication.
Felony Charges of Intoxication Assault and Intoxication Manslaughter
If the driver of the trailing vehicle is found to have been under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the crash, she will not just face DWI charges. She will also face additional charges for intoxication assault or intoxication manslaughter, depending on whether the boy survives the crash or not.
Intoxication assault is a charge reserved for DWI-related crashes that cause a “serious bodily injury.” A conviction comes with between two and ten years in jail and a fine of up to $10,000.
Intoxication manslaughter is a charge reserved for DWI-related crashes that end with a fatality. Convictions on these charges come with a fine of up to $10,000 and a jail sentence of between two and twenty years.
The difference in penalties between intoxication assault and intoxication manslaughter can be quite serious – there are ten more years in jail on the table when intoxication manslaughter is charged. Meanwhile, the only difference between the two charges is if the victim was seriously hurt or died – something that a defendant can do little to control.
What Happens When the Victim Was Not Wearing a Seatbelt?
Sometimes, the person who can most control the severity of the injuries sustained in a crash is the victim. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), by buckling your seatbelt, you can reduce your risk of a fatal injury in a car accident by 45% and of a serious bodily injury by 50%.
Personal injury law in Texas recognizes that the injuries suffered in car accidents by people who were unrestrained are partly their own fault and reduces the compensation that they can recover, accordingly. Under Texas' comparative negligence rules, the victim's percentage of fault reduces the amount of the verdict he or she can recover and completely bars recovery if the victim was found to be more than half at fault.
DWI Defense Lawyer Doug Murphy Represents the Accused in Houston
The fact that DWI defendants can face an extra decade in jail through something that they could not control speaks to the unfairness of DWI law in Texas.
Doug Murphy is a DWI defense lawyer who represents people accused of DWI – including felony DWIs like intoxication assault and intoxication manslaughter – in Houston. Contact him online or call his Houston law office at (713) 229-8333.