In late October 2020, Houston’s ABC13 reported on a recent fatal car accident that occurred on the East Freeway. According to the news report, a driver was alleged to have been “driving while intoxicated” (DWI). He purportedly was going at a high rate of speed when his car hit a second car, then flipped over and hit the freeway dividing wall. The driver's passenger was said to have died due to the collision. (The second car's driver was not seriously injured.) Following the driver's arrest, the Harris County District Attorney's Office announced that the driver had already had two previous DWI convictions. The DA was charging the driver with felony murder.
DWI-related accidents relating to bodily harm are typically charged as intoxication manslaughter or intoxication assault. However, a DA may choose to charge some fatal-accidents as felony murder if the DA believes that a felony would have still occurred, even without the fatality. In this case, the previous two DWI convictions could have been the basis for a felony charge, regardless of the other events that took place during the accident. A prosecutor might also charge a defendant with criminal mischief for any property damage that might have occurred during the accident.
In preparing a defense for a fatality-involved accident, defense lawyers will want to, first and foremost, confirm that the driver's actions caused the accident or if any intervening factors were truly responsible for the outcome. It's also possible to challenge the efficacy of a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) test. It's essential to make sure that the driver's Constitutional rights were preserved: Evidence can be excluded if the police made any mistakes, erred in the arrest procedure, and so on.
Significantly, in a case involving a defendant who has had a previous history of DWIs, defense attorneys may also want to review the facts of the earlier convictions. The facts relating to the other offenses (e.g., how many years ago did they occur, what were the penalties—fines or incarceration) can also impact the current charges. They can also have a more immediate effect in terms of eligibility for bail and what additional conditions may be set for a defendant's release.
While a fatal accident such as these is a traumatic event, remember that a charge is not a conviction: It does not mean that you are guilty. You are entitled to a thorough defense, and people can succeed in a DWI case. However, if you have a DWI with factors that could result in an escalated felony charge, it is essential to get a DWI Specialist for your representation.
One of the best DWI lawyers in Houston, and one of only two attorneys in the state of Texas who is Board Certified in both Criminal Law and DWI Defense, Doug Murphy brings 20 years of experience in the courtroom in DUI defense. One of the Best Lawyers in America by US News & World Report, with an AV Rating of “Preeminent,” Murphy currently serves as the Dean of the National College for DUI Defense conducted at Harvard Law School.
Contact Doug Murphy’s office today to discuss your case and begin working on your defense.