In August 2020, in Midland, Texas, a woman was arrested and charged with a DWI after she'd allegedly hit another vehicle and then, after veering off the road, crashed into the back patio of someone's home. While Car versus House is fortunately not an everyday DWI case, DWIs frequently involve accidents that result in some form of property damage. Compared to a DWI that resulted from a traffic stop, property-related accidents can be much more serious, with criminal and civil liability. Given what's at stake, it is important to retain an attorney who specializes in DWI defense as quickly as possible.
Increased Penalties for DWI Involving Property
According to Texas Penal Code Chapter 49, the penalty for a first-time DWI conviction is a Class B misdemeanor subject to a jail sentence of up to 180 days and a fine of up to $3,000, as well as 72 hours of initial jail confinement and a mandatory driver's license suspension. Punishment increases for subsequent offenses.
However, if property damage that occurs as a result of a driver's intoxication, this may result in additional charges beyond the DWI, such as reckless damage (a misdemeanor) or criminal mischief (a felony). The charge will ultimately depend on the property you've damaged.
You may also face penalties that include potential jail time, probation, driver's license suspension, mandatory DWI classes, fines, court costs and a ignition interlock device you must breath into before your car will start.
Paying for the Damage
All of the above penalties relate to fines that would be due the court; however, a DWI conviction can also require that you pay restitution—pay an amount that makes the property owner whole.
While insurers are required to pay for property damage in an accident, they are only required to do so to the limit of your policy, and—depending on the severity of the accident—this may not cover all of your potential liability.
For example, in some cases, you may also have to pay additional funds to make up for the loss of the property's value. For example, if the driver alleged to be at fault in the Midland case had crashed into a business, rather than a home, then the driver might also have had to pay any lost revenue that the business was not able to earn, while damaged from the accident. Depending on the seriousness of the accident, these damages could exceed your insurer's required payout.
Furthermore, even a resolution in a criminal court does not necessarily preclude a property owner from also suing for damages in civil court. And, importantly, a criminal conviction for the accident can be used as evidence against you in a subsequent civil trial.
Given the ramifications of a DWI charge involving property damage, you need a lawyer who understands all the issues involved—someone with a proven track record of experience to help you through this. Annually heralded as one of the Best Lawyers in America by US News & World Report, Doug Murphy is a Certified Specialist in criminal law and DWI defense, one of only two attorneys in the entire state of Texas to hold both credentials. Contact Doug today to begin to minimize and repair the damage—to your future.