In theory, at least, laws are supposed to reflect the interests, concerns, and views of the people behind them. In a representative democracy like the one we have in the U.S., that should mean that the laws we have on our books – especially the criminal laws – reflect what we think is important in life.
So it is interesting to see that the laws in Texas that prohibit intoxication assault and intoxication manslaughter carry the exact same penalties if the victim of the crash caused by driving while intoxicated (DWI) dies from their injuries or was put into a permanent vegetative state.
Criminal Laws are a Reflection of Our Worries and Fears
It is probably the most fascinating aspect of criminal law: The things and the actions that we condemn as criminal are also the things that we fear the most. Differences between sets of criminal laws – especially those from different cultures – highlight the concerns that people have and what kind of government they live in. For example, Saudi Arabia is a theocratic government where alcohol is entirely prohibited by their religious law. DWI offenses, therefore, can result in huge fines, up to ten years in jail, and even lashes in public.
Intoxication Assault and Manslaughter in Texas
It is fascinating, then, that intoxication assault and intoxication manslaughter can both be second-degree felonies in Texas when drunk or drugged driving causes an accident that hurts or kills someone else.
For intoxication manslaughter under Texas Penal Code § 49.08, the default classification is a second-degree felony, which carries up to 20 years in jail and a fine of up to $10,000. Meanwhile, for intoxication assault under Texas Penal Code § 49.07, the default classification is a third-degree felony. However, intoxication assault becomes a second-degree felony under Texas Penal Code § 49.09(b-4) if the victim suffers a condition “in the nature of a traumatic brain injury that results in a persistent vegetative state.”
The penalties, then, of driving while intoxicated and causing a crash that kills someone are the same as driving while intoxicated and causing a crash that puts someone in a “persistent vegetative state.” This indicates that lawmakers and, in theory, at least, the voters in Texas who put those lawmakers into the state legislature, think that people should be punished equally for causing a wreck that kills someone else and for causing a wreck that puts someone else in a coma. In their eyes, making both of these outcomes the same crime classification suggests that we think there is no difference between the two.
DWI Defense in Houston with Doug Murphy
Doug Murphy is a DWI defense lawyer who represents drivers who have been arrested and charged with DWI offenses in the Houston area. With decades in jail and thousands of dollars of fines on the line – not to mention the license suspension and other penalties of a conviction – hiring the best DWI defense lawyer you can find can be the best move you make. Call Doug Murphy for legal representation at (713) 229-8333 or contact him online.