Have you or a loved one been arrested for intoxication assault after being involved in an accident? It can easily happen to anyone who has a few drinks with friends, drives home, and gets into an accident. Imagine a common scenario. You go out with friends and have a few drinks; you begin your drive home, a car pulls in front of you too quickly, an accident happens, and someone is seriously injured. When the police arrive, they ask if you've been drinking, and when you answer honestly that you've had a few, they ask you to take a field sobriety test. Because someone was seriously injured, what might have been suspected of driving while intoxicated can now become a felony charge: intoxication assault.
If you are reading this for a friend or family member just arrested for intoxication assault, you need to know the prosecution is already working on building their case against them. As part of their defense, you may need an accident reconstruction team on the scene immediately to preserve favorable evidence. That's why you need to retain an experienced and skilled Board Certified DWI lawyer like Doug Murphy right away. Doug has a proven track record in intoxication assault cases, and can help you too. Call the Doug Murphy Law Firm today at 713-229-8333.
Texas takes prosecuting drinking and driving offenses seriously, and so should you. But remember that you are innocent until proven guilty. You can mount a good defense with an expert in DWI defense, especially if:
- You were not legally intoxicated;
- There were issues with the traffic stop and subsequent police investigation, including field sobriety tests or breath and blood tests; or,
- You did not cause the accident.
It is important to contact a reputable DWI lawyer who can identify mitigating factors and defenses in your case, build a strategic defense, and tirelessly advocate on your behalf with the prosecution or in court.
DWI v. INTOXICATION ASSAULT
Driving while intoxicated and intoxication assault are two separate charges that carry serious penalties. The police can charge you with DWI if you operate a motor vehicle in a public place while intoxicated. If you're driving while intoxicated and involved in an accident that seriously injures someone, you can also face an intoxication assault charge.
Intoxication Assault, like a DWI, can involve an accident with just your car if someone else is injured in the crash, like a passenger or pedestrian. Like a DWI, the police will ask you to submit to a field sobriety test and then a breath or blood test. If you fail, the police will immediately confiscate your license. You'll then have just 15 days to request an administrative hearing before the state suspends your driver's license.
INTOXICATION ASSAULT: THE OFFENSE
Texas Penal Code § 49.07 states that intoxication assault happens when an individual operating a motor vehicle on a public road, because of their impairment, causes an accident that results in serious bodily injury to another person. It does not matter if the injuries were caused by accident or mistake or with intent. Texas law defines “serious bodily injury” as an injury that “creates a substantial risk of death or that causes serious permanent disfigurement or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ.”
Intoxication assault is a third-degree felony. However, you can face enhanced penalties depending on the nature of the injury and who was injured. The offense becomes a second-degree felony if:
- The injury results in a vegetative state.
- The injury happens to a peace officer, firefighter, or emergency medical personnel in the line of duty.
You can also face charges for intoxication assault for boating while intoxicated, flying while intoxicated, operating an amusement ride while intoxicated, or assembling a mobile amusement ride while intoxicated, if you cause an accident that seriously injures someone else.
CAUSATION IN INTOXICATION ASSAULT CASES
To prove intoxication assault, the state must show a causal link between your intoxicated driving and injuries to another person. According to case law, a jury can only convict you of intoxication assault if they believe the evidence shows a direct link between intoxication and the injuries. In other words, injuries in a crash not directly linked to your DWI cannot be grounds for an intoxication assault conviction. So, if someone else caused the accident that resulted in someone's serious injury, the state can't make a case against you.
The court typically instructs a jury to consider whether the injuries would have occurred “but for” the defendant's acts. State law takes this a step further, allowing a conviction when the defendant's actions alone are enough to have caused the injury or when these actions are only one factor responsible for the accident. However, if an outside factor other than your DWI is strong enough to have caused the injuries on its own, an experienced DWI defense attorney can make the case that you were not responsible for intoxication assault. However, courts often find evidence of a defendant's erratic driving before a crash enough to meet this burden.
In other cases, the courts have found a causal link if a driver causes an accident that was avoidable had the defendant not been intoxicated. This includes cases where an intoxicated driver swerved to avoid a motorcycle in their path, only to strike and injure another motorist. If the jury feels that the sum of the evidence shows the defendant's intoxication caused the injuries, a conviction for intoxication assault is appropriate.
CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS AND INTOXICATION ASSAULT
You still have constitutional rights if you're injured in a DWI crash. The police may handle your case differently if the police suspect you of DWI or intoxication assault. Still, you retain your right to speak to a lawyer, to defend yourself at trial, and your protections against unlawful search and seizure. However, needing immediate medical attention and hospitalization can complicate your case.
First, officers on an accident scene must render aid. Even if they suspect you of a crime, they must ensure you receive medical treatment after an accident. Their failure to do so could seriously affect your health and the state's ability to prosecute you.
Second, you still have the right to refuse a blood alcohol test. The police cannot force you to give a blood sample without a warrant. However, the hospital might require one for medical purposes. Texas courts have held you have a right to privacy regarding medical issues. Instructing the hospital not to test your blood is enough to prevent the police from seizing and testing it themselves. That said, if you allow the hospital to test your blood, the police can seek a subpoena from a judge to obtain your medical records.
INTOXICATION ASSAULT: THE DEFENSE
There are a number of defenses that can be used in Intoxication Assault cases. Your defense strategy will be based primarily on the facts, the evidence, and the interpretation of the law. To prove intoxication assault, the burden is solely on the prosecution to show each element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. That means the prosecution must prove you were intoxicated and that you caused the accident. An expert in DWI defense, like Doug Murphy, understands how to attack the state's evidence and arguments. A good defense is a multi-faceted defense that may include:
CONSTITUTIONAL CHALLENGES TO INTOXICATION ASSAULT
Your lawyer will assess your case, looking at your arrest, any warrants obtained, and the time you spent in police custody for potential constitutional violations. For example, if the police failed to give you a “Miranda warning,” advising you of your rights, and then questioned you, any information or evidence you gave the police may be inadmissible. If the police took a blood sample for BAC testing without your consent or a warrant, that may be an improper search and seizure, and the results may be inadmissible.
CHALLENGES FOR IMPROPER BAC TESTING
As part of a DWI or intoxication arrest, the police will typically ask you to consent to BAC testing or obtain a warrant for a blood test. A good criminal defense lawyer will employ an expert to analyze the results carefully. Through this independent analysis, the expert can identify flaws in the testing, whether it is a flaw associated with the procedures or flaws related to the results of the chemical tests. Your lawyer should be able to skillfully use this information with the intent to have the tests excluded as evidence.
FILING MOTIONS TO SUPPRESS, EXCLUDE OR DISMISS
Depending on the circumstances of each case, your lawyer may attempt to dismiss the case or exclude evidence before trial. The motions can be used strategically to induce the state into negotiations or to dismiss the case. The investigation of an intoxication assault case takes more specialized training and expertise for a police officer. Most police officers do not have this specialized training or have not utilized the training for so long that they don't follow proper investigative procedures.
PROVING THE ELEMENTS OF INTOXICATION ASSAULT
There are five elements of intoxication assault that the state must prove at trial, including intoxication and causation. These can often be challenging and an opportunity to build a strong defense in your case.
- Intoxication. There are three ways you can be deemed intoxicated: (1) if you have a BAC at or above 0.08%; (2) if you no longer have the normal use of your physical faculties; or (3) if you no longer have the normal use of your mental faculties. Your lawyer will likely attack the administration and/or results of a breath or blood test.
- Cause of Accident. Were you indeed the cause of the accident that caused injury to another person? Your lawyer may employ an expert to reconstruct the scene of the accident. Any number of things could have caused the accident, from human error to vehicle defect, to poor road conditions. As for the human error, the other driver may have been solely or partially at fault. Your lawyer will identify and analyze the circumstances surrounding the accident in a manner that builds your defense and weakens the State's arguments.
The effect of your defense is largely contingent on the quality and experience of your criminal defense or DWI attorney. Doug Murphy is a Board-Certified expert DWI and Criminal Defense attorney, and he will approach your defense from many angles to ensure the best outcome for your case. His experience, knowledge, and capabilities are well-known in the Houston, Texas, area. In fact, when he's not defending your rights and winning cases, he's helping other DWI lawyers learn more about the law and increase their skills.
PENALTIES FOR INTOXICATION ASSAULT
If you have been charged with intoxication assault, the odds are -- if you did not qualify for a public defender -- you have hired a criminal defense lawyer to represent you. As you learned above, your defense is key to a successful outcome of your case, and your defense is dependent on your legal representative and advocate. With an intoxication assault charge, you cannot risk hiring a lawyer simply because they're the cheapest or the first attorney you found. The stakes are too high.
With a conviction, intoxication assault can result in a prison sentence between two and ten years and a fine of up to $10,000. If the offense became a second-degree felony because a peace officer, firefighter, or emergency medical personnel was injured, you could receive a prison sentence of two to 20 years and a fine of up to $10,000.
In addition to incarceration and fines, a first offense of intoxication assault can result in a driver's license suspension from 90 days to one year. If you receive a second or subsequent intoxication assault conviction within five years of the previous offense, the state can suspend your license for 90 days to two years. If you have any earlier DWI offense, including boating while intoxicated, flying while intoxicated, or assembling/operating an amusement ride with intoxicated, within five years, the state can suspend your license for one to two years.
Additionally, if convicted, you could receive any of the following:
- Community service up to 1,000 hours;
- Installation of an interlock device;
- Participation in an approved alcohol or drug education program; an
- Court costs and fees.
CONTACT DOUG MURPHY LAW FIRM IN HOUSTON, TX
If you or someone you know has been charged with intoxication assault, you need the best DWI lawyer possible. Doug Murphy is a Board-Certified DWI and criminal defense lawyer, a distinction held by only one other lawyer in the state of Texas. The sooner you get an expert in DWI defense involved in your case, the sooner they can begin investigating and strategizing for you.
At the Doug Murphy Law Firm, we devote our resources and capabilities to DWI cases. We have decades of proven experience and a reputation earned in the courtroom for successful results. Attorney Doug Murphy is dedicated to his DWI practice so much that when he is not fighting to protect the rights of his clients, he is giving back to the legal community to teach other attorneys how to do the same. U.S. News and World Report's Best Lawyers in America also recently named Doug a “Lawyer of the Year” for Houston DWI defense. Find out what he can do for you. Contact Doug Murphy today to discuss the circumstances of your case, or call the firm at 713-229-8333.