You'd think an accident's severity, whether rolling a vehicle over, colliding with another vehicle at an intersection, going the wrong way down a one-way highway, or hitting a street sign, utility pole, or building, wouldn't matter to a DWI charge. Intoxicated driving should be intoxicated driving, depending on blood-alcohol level, driver identification, vehicle operation, and similar objective elements of the legal case. But a DWI charge differs from a conviction and can indeed depend on other factors.
An accident's severity and notoriety, meaning whether it catches public attention or not, often appears to influence a DWI charge. When an accident requires a roadside response not just from the investigating officer but also fire and other emergency-safety personnel, medical personnel, and multiple tow trucks, it tends to get greater investigative attention, too. And when it mimics an action movie's car-chase scene and maybe also involves a public figure, it gets greater prosecutorial attention, especially when making headline news. Fair or not, if you are the driver in a single-vehicle rollover accident, you'd better not have been drinking and driving.
The Example Case
One recent February 2021 story proves the point that extreme accidents get extreme attention. The story recounts a Wichita County commissioner's admission that he had been drinking before sliding his vehicle off Texas Highway 25 into a ditch, striking a pole, and leaving the vehicle on its side. First responders reportedly had to brave dangerously wintry road conditions to aid the driver. Hospital transport and observation confirmed the driver's minor injuries. The story reported the driver's arrest on DWI charges, even though investigating officers still await results from a blood draw obtained by warrant.
In a simple slide-off event with no injuries, the lone officer arriving at the scene might not have noticed probable cause to suspect the driver's intoxication. Even if the officer did suspect something, the officer might not have gone to the trouble of seeking a warrant for a blood draw. But the driver's requiring medical attention from the vehicle's roll, and emergency personnel swarming the scene, bound the event to greater attention and investigation. When the driver's public-figure status signaled media attention, investigating officials seemed sure to follow protocol to avoid any appearance of special privilege.
Defending DWI Charges from Notorious Accidents
A rollover accident and media attention, though, do not mean a sure DWI conviction. The dramatic nature of an accident is generally not an element of the DWI crime or an aggravating circumstance unless the charge involves an element of recklessness, as with intoxication manslaughter under Texas Penal Code 49.08. A firm and aggressive defense to the DWI charge may defeat the charge, even if the defendant driver was in a slam-bang accident. Courts do not try DWI charges in the media or court of public opinion. Courts instead require prosecutors to produce evidence proving each element of the charge beyond a reasonable doubt, where dramatic crashes have no bearing.
Retain the Best Available Representation
Board Certified DWI Specialist Doug Murphy knows how to skillfully turn undue attention away from dramatic but irrelevant crash details and to the material evidence, to successfully defend notorious DWI charges. Attorney Doug Murphy built his national reputation by defending DWI charges in cases involving bad crashes, unfortunate fatalities, and well-known figures. Attorney Murphy earned recognition as the 2021 Houston DWI Lawyer of the Year by helping clients rely on their constitutional and procedural rights to defeat false and exaggerated DWI charges. He 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.