Icy weather conditions obviously make driving worse. The driving hazards that an ice storm presents are greater in warmer regions like Houston, Austin, and Southeast Texas, where vehicles may lack the all-weather tires, drivers may lack the all-weather driving skills, and transportation departments may lack the salt, sand, and road-clearing equipment one finds in northern climes.
Yet icy weather further compounds the driving issues that intoxicated drivers face. The visual-impairment, impaired attention, and slowed reaction times typical of intoxicated drivers make even more difficult the already-difficult icy driving conditions. And even if the intoxicated driver is adequately skilled and attentive, other unskilled or poorly equipped drivers may contribute to an accident, leading to the intoxicated driver's discovery and DWI charge.
An Illustrating Accident
One Austin-area report of a February 2021 fatal accident illustrates the peculiar snow-and-ice hazard facing intoxicated drivers. The story reports a driver's crash into a retaining wall on a West 290 overpass due to severe icing. Icing tends to be greater on overpasses because of the cooler roadbed temperatures. Unfortunately, when the driver exited his vehicle to check for damage, another vehicle driven by an allegedly intoxicated driver slid toward the first driver, causing the first driver to fall over the overpass to his death below.
The report indicates a driving-while-intoxicated charge against the second driver who allegedly forced the first driver over the retaining wall of the overpass. If the overpass had been free of icing, the accident doubtless never would have happened. The first vehicle would likely not have hit the retaining wall, and even if it had, the second vehicle likely would have navigated safely around the accident scene. The report does not indicate an intoxication-manslaughter charge against the allegedly intoxicated driver, perhaps because of those causation issues.
Defending DWI-Related Charges in Icy Conditions
Premier Texas DWI attorney Doug Murphy typically defends DWI charges on grounds involving lack of probable cause for a stop, mishandling of evidence, the unreliability of the blood-alcohol testing, and other evidentiary and constitutional grounds. Yet when icy or other bad-weather conditions cause DWI-involved accidents, those weather conditions can create opportunities for defending DWI-related charges.
Of course, it's better not to drink and drive, especially in bad-weather conditions. But when those weather conditions cause the accident, instead of the intoxication, then a DWI-related charge like intoxication manslaughter under Texas Penal Code 49.08 should not stand. Manslaughter, Texas Penal Code 19.04 tells us, is recklessly causing death, while Texas Penal Code 6.03(c) defines recklessness as “aware of but consciously disregard[ing] a substantial and unjustifiable risk” in “a gross deviation” from ordinary care. When the defense presents evidence of the intoxicated driver's reasonable care, the prosecution must prove those recklessness elements, not just the intoxicated driving.
The above fatal accident is an example. The first driver had already crashed because of icing conditions. The report gives no indication that the first driver was intoxicated. Conditions were instead bad enough to cause sober drivers substantial difficulty navigating the overpass. The second driver's intoxication may have had nothing to do with the subsequent fatal accident.
Get Expert Representation
Read more here about how Board Certified DWI Specialist Doug Murphy successfully defends DWI charges. Texas DWI attorney Doug Murphy has earned national recognition defending DWI charges, including in bad-weather and fatal-accident cases. As the 2021 Houston DWI Lawyer of the Year, attorney Doug Murphy has proven that he has the knowledge, skill, and experience to turn back prosecutorial overreaches and to help clients stand successfully on every constitutional and procedural right. As your aggressive advocate, Doug Murphy is one of only two Texas lawyers holding both DWI Board Certification and Criminal Law Certification. Contact Doug Murphy Law Firm online or at (713) 229-8333 to discuss your case today. Trust Texas DWI attorney Doug Murphy with your defense.