An arrest for driving while intoxicated can be scary and stressful. You may not know what you should do or say, and you're undoubtedly worried about the possible consequences of a DWI conviction in Texas. If an accident led to your DWI arrest, you might also have to deal with the fallout from damaging someone else's property, including the insurance ramifications and possible additional charges. The police can charge you with additional crimes if a DWI leads to property damage.
That's what a woman discovered on March 21, 2021, when Harris County Sherriff's deputies responded to a call at Gears Road and TJ Jester Boulevard at about 10 pm. A woman crashed into a family's home, driving first through a fence and then into the backyard before hitting the house. The Harris County Sherriff's office didn't have any immediate information on whether the driver or homeowners were injured during the incident. The cause of the crash is under investigation, although Captain J. Nanny's tweet about the call referred to the woman as a “possible intoxicated driver.”
Property Damage with a DWI
In addition to the penalties associated with a DWI, if a driver damages property while intoxicated, they can face additional charges. A first-time DWI is typically a Class B misdemeanor, but if a drunk driver damages property, this can result in reckless damage or criminal mischief charges. Reckless damage is a misdemeanor charge, but criminal mischief can be either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the circumstances.
If an intoxicated driver strikes another vehicle, they must stop, remain at the scene, and render aid if needed. See Tex. Transp. Code § 550.022 (2005). They also have to provide information, including their name and address, the vehicle's registration information, and insurance information. The driver must also show their driver's license to anyone in the other vehicle if requested. See id. at § 550.023.
If the driver strikes a “structure, fixture, or highway landscaping” and leaves the scene without notifying the owner, they can face an additional charge. Texas law states:
(a) The operator of a vehicle involved in an accident resulting only in damage to a structure adjacent to a highway or a fixture or landscaping legally on or adjacent to a highway shall:
(1) take reasonable steps to locate and notify the owner or person in charge of the property of the accident and of the operator's name and address and the registration number of the vehicle the operator was driving; and
(2) if requested and available, show the operator's driver's license to the owner or person in charge of the property.
Tex. Transp. Code § 550.025 (2017). If the driver fails to do so, the penalties are the same as failing to stop when damaging another vehicle – a Class C misdemeanor if the damage is under $200 and a Class B misdemeanor if the damage is $200 or over.
If you are involved in an accident, whether you've been drinking or not, you have a legal duty to remain at the scene and render aid if needed and provide your information. If you leave the scene, the legal ramifications will only become more serious.
Hire an Experienced DWI Attorney
If you're facing a DWI arrest and charges related to property damage, you need an experienced Texas DWI attorney right away. A DWI expert can assess your legal options provide advice on how to proceed. Attorney Doug Murphy is Board Certified in both DWI defense and criminal law. Doug has a long track record of defending complex DWI cases, including those with aggravating circumstances like accidents and injuries. Call the Doug Murphy Law Firm at 713-229-8333 today to set up a consultation.