In Houston, blessed with sun most of the year, amusement parks are a popular attraction. From the small to the large, from Ferris wheels to roller coasters, Houston has a ride for you and/or your children. Amusement parks make for a great day and for memories that last a lifetime. People are cheery and happy at amusement parks, and sometimes alcohol is consumed by adults as part of the festivities. For customers, alcohol consumption is fine (so long as there is a designated driver), but for employed personnel carrying out their job by either operating a ride or assembling a mobile one, alcohol is strictly forbidden.
Amusement park rides are fun. But they are also dangerous, even with no interference or mechanical errors. In fact, thousands of kids a year are injured without the suspicion that tortious or criminal acts were involved. If you include adults in the statistics, then -- at least in 2006 -- there were/are 8,000 emergency room visits throughout the U.S. as a result of amusement park ride accidents and injuries. So, things can go wrong, and if you add alcohol into the mix, in theory, serious things can go wrong. Fortunately, incidents where operators or assemblers have been charged with an intoxication offense but no accident, injury or death occurred as a result of that suspected intoxication simply do not happen. You'd have to go all the way back to 2011 to find a Texan who was arrested for operating an amusement park while intoxicated, and even then, no one was injured. Though the dangers may be real, the commission of assembling or operating an amusement ride while intoxicated rarely happens, or at least it is rare someone is arrested and charged. But that doesn't mean it could happen.
If you have been arrested and charged with an assembling or operating an amusement ride while intoxicated charge, you should not take the matter lightly. It is a real crime with real consequences. You should contact the best that Houston has to offer: Doug Murphy, reputable, Board certified DWI lawyer in the greater Houston metropolitan area. He takes intoxication charges seriously and aggressively advocates on your behalf so that you don't have to worry about the penalties and collateral damage that accompany intoxication convictions. Contact Doug Murphy today for a consultation.
Assembling or Operating an Amusement Ride While Intoxicated
According to Texas Penal Code § 49.065, you commit an offense if you are “intoxicated while operating an amusement ride or while assembling a mobile amusement ride.” To win a conviction, the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that:
- You were intoxicated; and
- You were operating an amusement ride at the time you were intoxicated.
Proving these two elements beyond a reasonable doubt may sound like a cut-and-dry task, but there is much more to it. Intoxication is a complex term, and understanding and applying it to each unique case is important to build an excellent defense. An experienced DWI lawyer knows how to break down the meaning of intoxication into variables that can be used in a successful defense.
The Meaning of “Intoxicated”
Under Texas law, you are legally “intoxicated” if you were under the influence of alcohol, an illegal drug, a prescription or other drug known to cause intoxication, or a combination of two or all three of these, and as a result of that intoxication and at the time the offense was allegedly committed, you:
- had a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of at least 0.08 percent; or
- lacked the normal use of your mental and physical faculties.
The definition of intoxicated is complicated because you do not necessarily have to have a BAC of 0.08 percent or more. You can still be charged with an intoxication offense, i.e., Assembling or Operating an Amusement Ride While Intoxicated, even if you had a 0.06% BAC but were acting as if you were drunk. But remember, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you were intoxicated.
Problems with Determining Intoxication
Though other problems could be relevant, there are two primary issues with the meaning of “intoxicated.”
1. A BAC of 0.08 percent may be a clear indication of intoxication, but there are multiple problems that could transpire with breathalyzers and blood tests.
2. The second indicator of intoxication is vague; who decides what it means to lack “normal” use of your mental or physical facilities? Normal is not defined. There are personality issues, medical and health issues that could affect your “normal” use of mental and physical faculties.
Penalties for Assembling or Operating an Amusement Ride While Intoxicated
If you are convicted of Assembling or Operating an Amusement Ride While Intoxicated, it is a Class B misdemeanor in Texas. The penalty ranges as a Class B misdemeanor is as follows:
- Imprisonment for a minimum of 72 hours and up to 180 days; and/or
- A fine of up to $2,000.
These penalties are already quite serious, but the possibility of additional penalties exists.
Complications with a First Offense
There are many things that could complicate your first offense of an intoxication-related charge, but below are two important ones:
- If, when you were charged with an Assembling or Operating an Amusement Ride While Intoxicated offense, there were also open containers of alcohol, then you were likely also charged with an open container offense. If convicted, the latter offense could increase the minimum days in jail from 3 - 6 days.
- If, when you were charged with an Assembling or Operating an Amusement Ride while Intoxicated offense, an accident occurred and someone was injured or killed, then you are facing additional charges, i.e., intoxication assault or intoxication manslaughter, that could result in multiple years to decades spent in prison, steep fines, and civil liability. If more than one person is injured or killed, each presents itself as a separate offense.
- Depending on the circumstances and any prior convictions, you could also have your driver's license suspended.
A conviction of an Assembling or Operating an Amusement Ride offense will act as a prior conviction for any other “while intoxicated” offense, including driving while intoxicated (BWI), boating while intoxicated (BWI), or flying while intoxicated (FWI). Therefore, if you are charged and convicted first of an Operating an Amusement Ride while Intoxicated and then a DWI a year later, your first DWI, you are still looking at a Class A misdemeanor because the DWI is your “second” offense.
A second offense, a Class A misdemeanor, carries with it a penalty range of 30 - 365 days in prison and a fine up to $4,000. A third or subsequent offenses is a third degree felony that has a penalty of 2 - 20 years in prison and a fine up to $10,000.
Collateral Consequences of a First Offense
The above penalties are all quite serious, but what some might find more serious is the collateral damage that accompanies a first offense. The collateral consequences are a direct result of having a criminal record.
- If you seek employment, your application could be denied after a criminal background check. Some companies believe that persons with a criminal record, especially one involved doing something while intoxicated by alcohol or drugs, problematic. They see it as a liability.
- If you have higher education aspirations, you may find some academic institutions will not accept you, while others will deny you housing or financial assistance, including loans and/or scholarships.
- If you seek new housing where you rent an apartment or house, you may find some property managers have a strict policy against anyone with a criminal record.
- If you enjoy good, reputable status in your community, you may find the public opinion of you has changed, and thus your reputation will suffer.
Depending on where you are at in your professional, academic and/or personal life and where you want to be, a criminal record can pose as a big roadblock in your endeavors.
The Stakes are High: Retain a DWI Lawyer
When the stakes are so high for a crime you may not have even realized was a crime, you need an experienced lawyer. Doug Murphy is Board certified in both DWI and criminal defense, a distinction shared by only one other person in Texas. He knows how to defend against intoxication charges that include driving while intoxicated, boating while intoxicated, flying while intoxicated, and operating or assembling an amusement ride while intoxicated. Doug Murphy will use, when appropriate - multiple defenses that could include:
- Improper Arrest. The officer may have lacked probable cause to stop and arrest you.
- Improper Administration of a Field Sobriety Test. The officer may have made you conduct a Field Sobriety Test, and many times they are improperly administered or, alternatively, the tests produce inaccurate results. The horizontal gaze nystagmus test is often faulty; the test detects eye movements.
- Improper Administration of Portable Breathalyzer Tests. The officer may not have been properly trained, the equipment itself may not have been properly maintained, or there may have been interfering factors (e.g., indigestion) that could have produced inaccurate results.
- Improper Administration of Blood Test. If a blood sample was taken, the sample goes through a chain of custody, and through this process, the sample or results can be mishandled or tampered.
- Rising Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC). Your blood alcohol content may have been below the legal limit while you were operating or assembling the amusement ride, and then when you were not operating the ride but at the time you were stopped and questioned by the officer, your BAC increased; this happens when recently consumed alcohol has not yet fully absorbed until a breath or blood test was taken later.
Contact a DWI Defense Attorney
Being charged with Assembling or Operating an Amusement Ride while Intoxicated is a serious, albeit rare, charge. If you have been charged with this offense, you should contact an experienced attorney to help you defend the charge. At 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 a board certified DWI lawyer who not only fights on behalf of his clients but constantly gives back to the legal community to teach other attorneys how to do the same. Contact Doug Murphy today to discuss the circumstances of your case.